NBA Press Note

October 26, 2000

Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!


Narmada Case: Supreme Court Judgment Welcomed with Protests: Strong Reaction From the Civil Society

A series of spontaneous, yet strong actions welcomed the majority judgment of the Supreme Court in the matter of Narmada Bachao Andolan Vs. State Governments of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and others, pronounced on the 18th of October. Holding fasts, dharna, marches and other innovative actions in various parts of the country and abroad, they dumped it as a cruel joke on justice and a pile of contradictions.

Following a huge protest action in Badwani on the 23rd of October, in which over 3500 peasants, tribals and labourers participated, the Maheshwar dam affected came out on the streets on the 24th of October, in thousands, to tell the people concerned, that the Narmada Valley cannot accept this anti-people judgment. It has only helped a bunch of politicians and contractors who are hand in glove in plundering the nation and her people. The rally declared that the people affected by the cascade of dams in the Narmada Valley will rise as one to save their lands and houses.

On 22nd October, a major demonstration through the heart of the city by Friends of Narmada in Bangalore led to a gruesome cane beating by the police and later, arrest of over 80 representatives of various peoples' organisations, students and other individuals.

Magasaysay Award winner Aruna Roy and Jnanpith award recipient Mahasveta Devi led different protest actions at Jaipur (Rajasthan) and Calcutta. Taking a dig at the judgment, Mahasveta Devi said ''The Supreme Court verdict against the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) came as a great shock and I feel especially sorry as this is, perhaps, the first time a movement awakened the world about the next to extinct flora, fauna and tribals on such a big scale''. National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) Bengal Chapter, which took lead in organising the protests sent memorandums to the President to ''save Narmada Valley which has become the synonym for saving the humanity''.

Senior Sarva Seva Sangh leader and freedom fighter, Shri. Sidharaj Daddha, PUCL, CPI (ML), Samagra Seva Sangh, BGVS and various other organisations took part in the program at Jaipur, which was organised by NAPM Rajasthan.

Soon after the delivery of the verdict, the Narmada Solidarity Forum in Chennai held placards, distributed pamphlets and interacted with the public, at Marina Beach, explaining about the valley and the verdict. This was followed by a rally in front of the High Court in Chennai by over 400 volunteers, representing several students', women's and voluntary organisations. 150 of them were arrested by police. In a memorandum given to the President and Prime Minister they stated that ''The people of the Narmada valley have raised their voice against this injustice for years together. Movements all over the country have extended their solidarity to the people of Narmada. It is most shocking that the voices of the oppressed have been completely ignored by the powers that be. We consider this a total denial of democracy and human rights guaranteed by our Constitution''.

In Malegaon (Maharashtra) several organisations took out a protest rally and a mock funeral procession of the judiciary, which failed to give justice to people. In a function held at Dhule (Maharashtra), Jst.Pukhraj Vohra, educationist M.B. Shah, and others expressed their shock with the Supreme Court verdict.

In the South, the very next day of the verdict, in Thiruvanathapuram, a march with eyes covered with black cloth and other such actions welcomed it. Later protest actions, with the involvement of several organisations, were held in front of the Sessions Court. Former chairman of the National Book Trust and literary critic Prof. Sukumar Azhikode, and others led the action in front of the Kerala High Court in Eranakulam, which was attended by over 300 representatives of various organisations and individuals. While emphasizing the need for reconsidering the Supreme Court order, Prof Azhikode said that the majority decision is not necessarily the just decision, for, majority is not the measure for deciding justice.

In Delhi, over 150 representatives from 20 organisations gathered today near the Supreme Court to express their anguish and anger at the Supreme Court verdict and solidarity with the Andolan. They observed fast for one day. Present among them were veteran socialists like Shri Surendra Mohan, Yogendra Yadav, Nirmala Sharma, Vimalbhai. Several women's organisations, dalit organisations, trade unions, and political party representatives and others took part in the action.

Large number of organisations, institutions and individuals across the globe, who were closely watching the developments in the Narmada Valley since long, expressed their deep anguish and concern over the failure of all arms of the State to protect the tribals and the environment. An informal group called, Friends of River Narmada and others, organised a protest in front of the Indian Consulate in San Francisco (USA) and a memorandum was submitted to the Consulate General. "We demand that the Supreme Court review its judgment and call upon the President of India to intervene decisively to protect the rights of the adivasis of the Narmada Valley", the memorandum said.

Members of the Environmental Monitoring Group in Cape Town, South Africa observed a fast in solidarity with the people of the Narmada Valley.

Major demonstrations will be held outside the Indian High Commission in London on 31st October - the day that construction on the dam is due to recommence. The demonstrators will be bringing banners, whistles and drums for the action.

Programs are also planned in Hamilton, Canada, and Washington DC, USA.

Programs were also organised in several parts of the country including Mumbai. Demonstrations and protest actions are planned in some more places, like Aurangabad (on 26th October where people will observe a fast and not light lamps in this Diwali that has brought darkness to the homes of people in the Narmada Valley) and Pune (march and a fast on the 28th October).

Several organisations and individuals have also issued statements condemning the majority judgment of the Supreme Court and expressed their solidarity with the struggle of people in the Narmada Valley.

Joe Athialy