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Press Release                                 October 15, 1999

People Hold Government Guilty of Violation of Laws and Constitution, Demand Punishment

The four month long Satyagraha in the Narmada valley was concluded in Domkhedi and Jalsindhi on October 12 (Tuesday), with a call for confronting the dam waters if the submergence is imposed again on the people in the Narmada valley. At the same time, the Satyagraha also has paved the way for the renewed commitment and programmes for the reconstruction (Nav-Nirman) activity in the villages on the valley. The village leaders emphasised that it was the government which was guilty of violating the laws and the rights of the people and be punished accordingly.

The people in the Narmada valley have shown that they faced the submergence waters, staked their lives but, did not leave their land and villages. The villagers and activists were in the neck deep waters for hours daring the submergence. If the government tried to impose the submergence on the people in the valley, the samarpit dal (Dedicated squad) of the satyagrahis would be sacrificing their lives for the sake of the life of the valley, said Devrambhai Kanera, Medha Patkar and others at the time of the conclusion of the Satyagraha in Domkhedi.

The colourful concluding ceremony of the Satyagraha against the unjust submergence and displacement was held with fervour in Domkhedi on Tuesday, followed next day by a programme in Jalsindhi, the two villages on both the banks of Narmada where the Satyagraha was simultaneously held. The main village leaders and activists from Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat asserted the determination of continuing the fight against the dam and displacement. Keshav Vasave, Bawa Muhariya, Dadlaya Karbhari, Devrambhai, Noorji Padvi, Pervibai, Dedlibai, Luwariyabhai, Chittaroopa Palit, Alok Agrawal, Ashish Mandloi stressed the need for a renewed struggle to safeguard the life, rights and resources of the tribals and peasants of this country against the destruction and destitution in the name of development.

As the concluding programme of the Satyagraha was being held on the World Day of Indigenous People, the villagers expressed the solidarity with the ongoing struggle of the Uwe community in Colombia, in South America, against the mining activities by the multinational companies on their land. The activists made it clear that the struggle against the Narmada project incorporates and is a part of the larger struggle against the exploitation, inequality and capitalistic centralisation. Sergio Oceransky of the People's Global Action (PGA) against the World Trade Organisation and free trade was present both in Domkhedi and Jalsindhi to extend the solidarity of the groups all over the world fighting against the globalisation and exploitation.

Apart from hundreds of adivasis from villages in Akrani, Akkalkua tehsils of Maharashtra, Alirajpur tehsil of M.P., peasants from Nimad area, the oustees of canal, colony and the dam from Gujarat, supporters from Kerala, Karnataka, Delhi and other parts were present on the occasion braving the heavy rains as a mark of solidarity. The Domkhedi programme, festooned with flags, banners of the Andolan, was preceded by a colourful dance by the adivasi men and women. A poster exhibition of the number of major events during the Satyagraha period was held there.

Unique Action

This time, the Satyagraha in the Narmada valley has been unique. The villagers of Domkhedi, Pipalchop, Sikka, Jalsindhi dared the submergence for three times, on August 10-11, September 18 and September 21-22. The last submergence was the most dangerous and at the time Medha Patkar, Sitarambhai, Devrambhai and other satyagrahis were daring the dam and submergence in the neck-deep waters. "The truth and values, the life of the entire valley... these things we are defending even at the cost of our lives, as a collective decision made by the people" said Devrambhai, while he was daring submergence in Pipalchop on September 18. The samarpit dal of the Satyagrahis remained unmoved despite the swirling water rising upto their waist, chest and even upto their necks. The youths and women in the tribal and non-tribal villages were standing in the increasing backwaters for 15 to 48 hours.

Scores of young activists - both men and women - came out of the villages in the valley to become activists in the Andolan. They started the campaign of Youths of Rewa (Rewa ke Yuva). The village leaders took on the responsibility to sustain the Satyagraha for four months. There were youth camps, the camps of the villagers about the Nav-Nirman (constructive activity) in which number of experienced activists from other parts participated. The Satyagraha at Domkhedi was an experience in itself, as it involved equal sharing of work, meetings and discussions among the villagers and with the participating comrades from other parts of the country. These discussions were not only confined to the Narmada issue, but also included the issues of equality and development. Seven satyagrahis also observed an eight day fast from July 4 to 11. On July 11, Medha Patkar and other members of Samarpit Dal had announced that they would commit Jal Samarpan (sacrifice in water), if the government proceeds with the unjust construction and further submergence of the valley disregarding the need for a comprehensive review of the project through a new tribunal and with a public hearing.

The Satyagraha has attracted hundreds of villagers from all parts of valley, Gujarat and the resettlement sites in Gujarat and Maharashtra, along with social, political activists, youths from all over India, particularly from Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Bengal, Delhi, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh. Prominent persons like senior Sarvodayi leader Siddharaj Dhadda, veteran Socialist thinker Kishan Patnayak along with trade unionists, tribals leaders, youth organisations - Chhatrabharati, Rashtriya Yuva Sangathan - and organisations related with Rashtra Seva Dal, National Alliance of People's Movement (NAPM) participated in the Satyagraha. A Narmada Solidarity March was taken out from Kanyakumari, Bangalore and Chennai to Delhi by the supporting organisations of the NBA. They met the President of India and asked him to intervene to protect the rights of the tribals and peasants in the valley.

During the Satyagraha period, the Rally for the Valley, initiated by the Booker Prize winner writer, Ms. Arundhati Roy visited the Narmada valley, from Maheshwar to Jalsindhi. Hundreds of youths, intellectuals and artists from different parts of the country participated in it and got the first-hand feel of the valley, its villages, life of the people and the struggle. Ms. Roy also had also participated in Satyagraha later again, apart from making common cause with the people's struggle. The fact finding missions from All India People's Resistance Forum (AIPRF), PUDR and human rights organisations visited the valley and the resettlement sites. Over 25 young activists from various organisations and groups from Europe, North and South America, belonging to the PGA participated in Satyagraha and many of them were present at the time of submergence.