NBA Press Note

October 23, 2000

Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

B-13, Shivam Flats, Ellora Park, Baroda, Gujarat.
Telefax: 0265-382232
58, M.G.Road, Badwani, M.P.
Tel: 07290-22464

Massive Rally Condemning the Judgment of Supreme Court in Badwani;
Thousands reaffirm their determination to fight against injustice and protect the Narmada Valley

Medha Patkar and few others have declared protest fast at Bhopal from 25th of October onwards, against the anti people judgment pronounced by Jst.Anand and Jst.Kripal in the case of NBA Vs states of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh and others. Over 3500 men, women and children from the West Nimad, a region in Madhya Pradesh to be affected by Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) thronged the streets of district headquarters of Badwani (Madhya Pradesh) today to condemn and challenge the Supreme Court verdict allowing the dam-construction to proceed.

Black flags symbolising the shock and anger on the one hand and blue ones of Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), symbolising sheer determination on the other, was glaring at the rally.

Noted litterateur Arundhati Roy, senior Advocate and human rights campaigner Nirmal Kumar Sooryavanshi, Sarvodaya leader Mahendrabhai Jain, Sculptor Dasaniji, freedom fighters, academicians, social activists, educationalists and others from Dhule, Malegaon, Pune (Maharashtra), Indore (Madhya Pradesh), Delhi, Kozhikode (Kerala), Baroda (Gujarat), representatives from Maheshwar dam affected and Adivasi Mukti Sangathan, Madhya Pradesh and others too participated in the rally and public meeting.

This was the first public response of the people from the valley to the judgment. Expressing their shock and anger at the betrayal of justice by the Apex Court, the people locked the local Rehabilitation office of the NVDA. When there is no land, no Master Plan for rehabilitation even after 20 years, on what basis did the Court order to chalk out a plan for rehabilitation and land acquisition in the next 4 weeks?

Later, infront of the Sessions Court, they buried the Judgment by Jst.Anand and Jst.Kirpal, describing it as most illogical, atrocious, anti-democratic and anti-people verdict ever in the history of the Supreme Court. The protest action was participated by all political parties and organisations of traders in Badwani and Anjad towns, by not only extending full support but also have submitted memorandums of protest to the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh and Prime Minister through the District Collector. Many of the shops in the town of Badwani was 'decorated' with black flags, 'mourning' at the death of democracy.

Medha Patkar, while declaring fast along with her comrades said, "like convicting the innocents, the judgment has been proved to be the most inhuman crime. The fast is against the conspiracy of the State and all its arms to destroy the age old Narmada Valley, its culture, tradition and even life". She added that the people are now compelled to be in the path of struggle for ever. They will rise as one, with hundreds of people's movements from within the country and across the boundaries to take justice, which is rightfully theirs.

Arundhati Roy, in her hard hitting speech said, "The 'majority judgement' of the Supreme Court will go down in history as an event in which the highest Court I the country actually condones and encourages the violation of the human rights of Indian Citizens. The Judges out to be made accountable". Senior Advocate, Nirmal Kumar Sooryavanshi curbed the judgement as "illogical and self-contradictory". He added, "We cannot agree with the displacement of the tribals. The judgement is in violation of fundamental rights".

Dalsukbhai, one of the oustees of SSP, said that the judgement is a big blow to all people, who are denied justice by the state governments. "For them, Court was the last resort now, with this betrayal, people know that they are hand-in-glow with the State", he added. Rugminibhai, who braved all State repressions, fighting the destructive project said, "The Court too has betrayed us but we will not succumb to this. Till today we were fighting against all governments, now we will fight against the judgement too".

One may recall that on October 18th, the Supreme Court in its majority judgement in Narmada Bachao Andolan's Public Interest Litigation against the SSP, has not taken cognisance of the serious issues regarding the incomplete studies, displacement and rehabilitation, non-fulfillment of environmental and other conditions which were put before the court. It has refused to go into the issues of legal, constitutional violations by the State, rather gave a go ahead to the project till 90 mts immediately and further construction on the fulfillment of rehabilitational conditions of the oustees according to the Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal Award.

It becomes clear from some of the observations contained in the dissenting judgement by the third judge on the bench Justice S.P. Bharucha that these issues were raised during the hearing by the NBA. While delivering the dissenting judgment, he ordered no further construction of the dam at this stage on the grounds that there is no clearance for the project. He observed that the Environmental Clearance was granted without completing the studies and that has lapsed; and ordered to apply for fresh environment clearance.

The court, thus, has betrayed the tribal and peasant communities in the country at large and specifically, those in the Narmada Valley.

The majority judgment, written by Jst.Kirpal has refused to take any cognisance of serious issues like the cost-benefit, environmental aspects of the project along with the larger displacement problem. Not even the sworn affidavits of Government of Madhya Pradesh was taken with full seriousness and honesty. It, in clear terms, admits non-availability of cultivable land to resettle the people who are affected by the already built dam. It is clear that the dam is not going to benefit the drought prone areas like Kutch and Saurashtra, in whose name the dam is being pushed ahead. The decision of the court has done a great damage for sustainable and equitable planning for water management in these areas. Thus it has played with the future of the drought prone areas too.

The judgment, which in itself is a pile of contradictions, thus have only helped the common man to erode the faith of our democratic system - its ability to deliver justice.

People from different parts of the country and abroad have decided to observe October 23rd as Black Day. Protest actions have already been held in Bangalore, Thiruvananthapuram, Mumbai and many other places. The protest rally which was in a shower of songs and slogans, have showed the determination not to leave their houses and lands for the ill-conceived project like SSP, even at this present adverse situation, where the highest institution, which is considered to be the custodian of justice in the country, have betrayed them. They summed up their determination in the slogan:

"Narmada Ghati Par Haq Hamara, Chahe Jo Kahe Kanoon Tumhara"
(We don't care what your law says, Narmada Valley is ours)

Alok Agrawal
Joe Athialy