NBA Press Release
  03 October 2002
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Thousands Take Part In Rally Along Roads of Bhopal After Jan Panchayat Demand Right to Life and Livelihood

Jail Road, Mandleshwar
District Khargone, Madhya Pradesh
Tel: 07283-33162

"We Will Never Give Up Our Lands and Forests" Thousands Declare After Massive Rally : "We Will Not Let the State Become the Fiefdom of Asian Development Bank"

"Under no circumstances will we give up our forest and our lands. These forests, these lands belong to us. We will not let the state and the country become the fiefdom of the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and foreign multinational companies." The massive "Jan Panchayat" of farmers, labourers, tribals from all over the state organized under the banner of Jan Sangharsh Morcha ended today with this pledge even as thunderous slogans reverberated in the atmosphere.

After participating in yesterday's Jan-Panchayat, over 15 thousand people took out a rally along the roads of Bhopal today. This rally was converted into a public meeting as it reached Lily Talkies cross raod. Speaker after speaker addressed this huge gathering of over 15 thousand, declaring that he/she would fight till the end for his/her rights. People spoke in their own dialects, in their own styles; some spoke in Nimadi, some in Bundeli, some in Bhilali, others in their broken Hindi. Some spoke of the grave problems they were facing, some posed pointed and challenging questions to the State. All declared their determination to struggle to fight injustice.

Fagram from Kesla (Hoshangabad) raised questions about the forest laws and asked whether the laws had come first or the people? Others addressing the gathering included Banabai from the Veda dam affected area, Gajanan bhai from Sendhwa, Mangal Singh and Suddu bai from Betul, Chotubhai from Dewas, Badamilal Devda from Seoni, Vilayati bai from Badwani, Ram Avatar of Baghelkhand, Gangabisan from Harda, Gansingh Patel from Khandwa.

Former Commissioner for SC/ ST, Government of India Dr. Brahmadev Sharma also addressed the meeting, and analysed how the ordinary tribal was getting trapped in the maze of the laws and the Supreme Court. The speeches were interspersed with songs and slogans of struggle. People from the Shramik Adivasi Sangathan presented an absorbing and riveting puppet show highlighting the issue of bonded labour.

The meeting ended with the presentation of the resolutions and conclusions of the Jan Panchayat on various issues. Strong opposition was declared to the policies of liberalization, privatisation and globalisation as these would be tantamount to slavery of the foreigners. It was demanded that the country walk out of the WTO. The World Bank funded Madhya Pradesh Forestry Project was opposed. The meeting called for punishing those guilty of the heinous genocide in the Bhopal Gas tragedy including Warren Anderson. The Jan Panchayat called for saving the agriculture and farmers of the country and asked that the open import of farm produce/ products be stopped. It also called for reducing the prices of the farm inputs like seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, water and electricity.

The panchayat said that the power sector "reforms" were a betrayal of the people and opposed these strongly. It called for annulling the agreement on power sector reforms made with the Asian Development Bank and condemned the proposals of the MPSEB to increase power tariffs. It called on the State Government to take back these proposals and warned that unless this was done, the people would undertake organised protest actions against the proposals at the district level all over the state. It also demanded that projects like Enron and Maheshwar be scrapped.

The Jan Panchayat declared that it was false that the tribals have encroached up on forest land. The reality is that the Government and other powerful people have encroached upon tribal lands. It called upon the people to oppose the orders of the Central Government and the recommendations of the Supreme Court appointed committee to evict the so called encroacher tribals from the forest lands. The Jan Panchayat declared that the "Dalit Agenda" was an eye-wash.

The Jan Panchayat declared that the common people have a right to employment, food, education and health. The Jan Panchayat also opposed communalism as also discrimination and atrocities against women.

At the end of the meeting, the people took a pledge with raised hands that they will not give up their lands and forests under any circumstances, that they would not allow the state and the country to become the fiefdom of the ADB, World Bank and foreign multinational companies, that they will oppose with all strength all kinds of discrimination, inequality, injustice, atrocities and conflicts in the name of religion and caste, and that they will work towards building a new society.

Anurag Modi
Alok Agrawal