Medha Patkar and others begin fast;
Appeal to Civil Society to Stand by Justice
As a symbolic gesture of protest in the denial
of justice, the beginning of a new phase of the struggle Medha Patkar and
7 others have started a 5-day fast today in Bhopal which is also as an
appeal to the civil society to stand by justice and deny injustice.
Medha Patkar will also be observing maun (silence)
through out the day, with a two hour period in the evening for talking.
Young activist Mamata Rajesigh (Vill. Ekalwara), Manorama Patel (vill.
Balgao), Gita bahen and Mahadev Patidar (vill. Badada), Kamala Patidar
(Vill. Pathrad, Mahesshwar dam affected), Leela bahen (Vill. Nisarpur)
and Mohan Kumar (supporter of the Andolan from Kerala) are others who are
on the 5 day fast.
Addressing the few hundred representatives from Nimad and tribal areas
affected by Sardar Sarovar Project, representatives of Maheshwar and
Bargi affected people along with supporters from different parts of the
country, Kamla Patidar said that the recent judgement of the Supreme
Court, allowing to raise the dam is not acceptable to the people of the
Narmada Valley and numerous people who are affected by the cascade of
dams here. All of them will join hands to oppose injustice and will fight
to save the valley from devastation=94. Raniya bhai, a senior
representative from Mukhadi (Maharashtra) said =93We, the tribals will not
succumb to the designs of the state. We have faced many betrayals in the
past. Even at this present juncture we will gather more strength and
A statement was released by the people observing fast which is attached
below. More and more organizations from Madhya Pradesh and other parts of
the country will join the struggle and have sent solidarity messages.
Statement by people on fast
Narmada ghati kare saval, jeene ka haq ya maut ka jaal? (The
Narmada Valley asks; right to life or trap of death?) was the slogan that
rose in 1990, but it has acquired a deeper meaning for the struggle
today. The future of adivasi, farmers, fish-workers and
farm labourers living on the banks of the Narmada river for generations,
will now be decided. Despite the "final" decision of the highest court
over the land, the right to life is with the people.
During the first 10 years of struggle, people had to go to different
courts at several times. But it was in 1994, people decided to go to the
judiciary demanding a comprehensive review of Sardar Sarovar Project - to
expose the horrifying human and environmental impacts, blatant violation
of fundamental rights granted by the Constitution and the process of
"developmental planning" which excludes people at every stage of planning
and implementation. But instead what we got through the Court is complete
neglect of complex reality, non-recognition of the rights and illogical,
self-contradictory judgment that hail large dams without sound reasoning!
We cannot accept this.
We, who respect justice, judicial system, and who want to strengthen the
judiciary, consider this verdict as a big setback. Natural resource based
communities have always been at the receiving end for the prevalent model
of development. The capitalist forces are making all attempts to crush
people=92s movements, who aspire for bringing true democracy, through the
participation and power of farmers, labourers, adivasis and others,
belonging to the oppressed and down trodden classes. This court verdict
has only enhanced promotion of flawed water policy of large dams that
proceeds at the cost of destroying people and the nature. Nor did they
ensure safe drinking water to the millions in the last 50 years.
Allowing the height of Sardar Sarovar Project to be raised from 88mts to
90 mts. is complete violation of the Narmada Tribunal Award. State
governments which have been able to relocate just 20 to 25 % affected
people in 20 years (1979-2000) are themselves saying that they do not
even have enough land to rehabilitate people affected at the present
height of the dam.
The Govt. of Madhya Pradesh which has maximum number of affected people,
did not stand firm on demanding a complete review of the project.
Instead, it took a compromising stance of reducing the height of the dam
to 436 ft. and preparing itself towards offering cash compensation
(instead of land for land) and hence failed to protect farmers and
Then how come this judgment? Who will take the responsibility of
destroying cultural and biological diversity nurtured in the tribal
villages, their community life, the most fertile lands in western Nimad,
the human tragedy that will caused by destroying these thriving
villages.....? What about the catastrophic ecological impacts in the
upstream and the downstream of the river valley and the command area of
the dam? What about the injustice on drought affected regions of Kutchch
and Surashtra which is at the tail end of canal system and which will
remain high and dry..... ? They have been cheated by false promises while
allotting meager share of SSP waters. Who will encourage small,
decentralised real solutions to drought in Kutchch?
It is only due to the 15 year long people's struggle that the court could
not allow construction beyond 90 mts. all that easily. They have
underlined and restated Tribunal's conditions and the preconditions for
mitigating the social and environmental impacts. But by delivering this
verdict, the Court has entrusted the responsibility of monitoring
rehabilitation and environment on the government agencies themselves
(whose failure to comply those have led people to Court) and thus
clearing the path of raising the dam height to 139 mts., which is
injustice. For people to suffer this in the name of development, for the
sake of glitter in cities, is not acceptable. People are bound, not by
law but by life. And hence people cannot think of any other option but to
fight till their last breath, and that is what we have decided.
This year during five days of Diwali, we are observing fast against the
conspiracy to force people in the Narmada valley into darkness. This
fast is not just against violation of peoples' right to life, but also an
appeal to the civil society, to save the Narmada Valley and be with us in
this time of battle for life. The President of the country and the
Governor of this state, entrusted with special responsibility for tribal
areas, can still intervene to protect the tribal area, which is first to
be threatened by submergence. If people stick to their determination,
voice of the downtrodden, who are crushed in the name of development and
globalisation, is sure to rise, upholding their right to life and replace
inequity inherent in consumerism by equity. By observing silence
(maun) during these five day long fast, we have taken
the challenge of a just and sustainable development, not just in the
Sardar Sarovar region or in the Narmada valley, but all big dams in the
country. We are preparing ourselves to save the valley from the death
trap by rising to the ultimate moral plane of our non-violent struggle.
Geeta bahen, (Vill. Badada, Tal. Thhikri)
Mahadev Patidar, (Vill. Badada, Tal. Thhikri)
Manorama Patel, (Vill. Balgao Tah Kasaravat)
Mamata Raje Singh, (Vill. Ekalvara, Tah. Manavar)
Leela Behen, (Vill. Nisarpur, Tal. Kukshi)
Kamala Patidar, (Vill. Pathrad, Maheshwar dam affected)
Mohan Kumar, (Kerala)