Save The Narmada, Save Humanity! NBA Press Release                                                                 September 16, 2000

NARMADA BACHAO ANDOLAN
B-13, Shivam Flats, Ellora Park, Baroda-390007 Telefax: 0265-382232
62, Gandhi Marg, Badwani, M.P. (Tel: 07290- 22464).
Email: baroda@narmada.org; medhapatkar@vsnl.com; sanjay@narmada.org)

September 17, Conclusion Of Narmada Satyagraha, Jalsindhi And Domkhedi

The "Nav-Nirman" (Recreating the life) in the form of the people's own micro hydel power project, text books in Adivasi language for the Jeevan shala and the strong protests against the police and administration marked the Satyagraha in the Narmada valley which will be concluded on September 17th. at Jalsindhi-Domkhedi. The people in the valley would be announcing their next step in the struggle on this day.

The Satyagraha (insistence on truth) against the unjust submergence and displacement during the monsoon of year 2000 was launched on July 15th and lasted for over two months of the monsoon. While the people in the villages prepared to face the submergence, the water level never rose due to the unprecedented drought in the entire valley. Number of supporters of the people's struggle would converge at the Satyagraha place on this day.

While confronting the dam and the government have taken up the issues of the Nav Nirman, constructive work for the new and sustainable life. Alongwith the discussions among the adivasis and peasants with the outside supporters who have been coming in the valley during the Satyagraha. It has also been a season marred by the over-alarmist reactions by the Gujarat regarding the Saga of Narmada programme on August 24.

The Satyagraha-2000 was launched on July 15th, in the presence of Admiral ( Retd.) L.Ramdas and Lalitha Ramdas in Jalsindhi (Madhya Pradesh) and Domkhedi ( Maharashtra), two affected villages on the opposite banks of Narmada. Despite the agricultural season and drought in the valley, the people came in hundreds from the villages in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. Supporters from all parts of India and some from abroad came at different times. During the Satyagraha, the Narmada Bachao Andolan held Youth Camps and camp for constructive work, with the interactions between the valley people and outside supporters.

Children of Jeevan Shala (School of Life) run by the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) celebrated the World Peace Day on August 6, with a call for a 'sane development for all for a permanent peace'. For the first time, two small books in their own language, Pawari, were released at the hands of scientist Dr. N.K. Dadhich, Sadhana Dadhich and Siddharaj Daddha. One book contains the people oriented alphabets and the other the stories in Pawari, written by the Adivasi teachers of Jeevan Shala. On August 9, people celebrated Martyrs' Day, particularly remembering the tribal martyrs like Khajiya Naik and others.

The Independence day, August 15, was marked by a novel experiment in Domkhedi. For the first time in 53 years of Independence, the people in Domkhedi had the electricity in their village - on their own, based on their own resource and efforts. A small stream near the village was utilised, with the micro-generator and expertise from Anilkumar and Madhusudhan from 'People's School of Energy', Kerala, there was micro-hydel project of the village. Veteran Sarvodayi activist, Siddharaj Dhadda, inaugurated the project on the Independence Day. On August 24th, a special programme, 'Saga of Narmada' was arranged to appeal to the conscience of the nation regarding the struggle and issues in the Andolan. Number of prominent persons and other supporters from many parts of India arrived in Baroda to proceed for the programme in M.P. and Maharashtra; over 500 people from Nimad too were proceeding. However, in a fit of madness that always overpowers Gujarat government in such circumstances, hundreds of police were deployed and no one was allowed to proceed towards the Satyagraha place. These people, including the noted human rights activists Just(Retd.) Rajinder Sachar, Haroobhai Mehta, Girish Patel, Veteran Sarvodayi activist Jyotibhai Desai protested against this ham-fisted attitude, but to no avail. However, the programme went on as decided with over 700 people and supporters like noted author, Arundhati Roy and others making it on the time. All this showed the over-alarmist and cowardly attitude of the Gujarat Government.

During the Satyagraha, the people took out rallies at the police camps in Jalsindhi and Domkhedi and confronted the administration and police about the submergence and the dam. There were village meetings in during these days. People sounded the three state governments in Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh - Sept. 6), Nandurbar (Maharashtra - Sept. 8) and in Rajpipla (Gujarat - August 28). Gujarat government's claim that everything in relation to the project is taken care of was made bare when over 3000 tribals expressed their democratic rights and took out a spirited rally against the Gujarat government's displacement and resettlement. They included the sanctuary-affected people, the canal, colony affected and those who were duped into resettlement. The Maharashtra people organised a Public Meeting to highlight the grievances of those who had been already displaced. Hundreds of 'resettled' people put forth their views and grievances.

The Satyagraha also witnessed the visit of Grievance Redressal Authority - Maharashtra - Justice (Retd.) Kurdukar in the villages on August 7 and 8. People expressed their reservations in the attitude and procedures that he was following during the visit. They were surprised the way the GRA conducted the 'enquiry' of about a dozen people, asking mostly the trivial question. Above all, Mr. Kurdukar is reported to have given the interview to the regional newspapers, stating that land for the resettlement of all oustees in Maharashtra was available - even before a proper enquiry was completed and report was submitted.

The water in Narmada did not rise this time due to severe drought conditions in the valley. The crops were destroyed, many could not undertake sowing in the tribal regions. Paradoxically, there was no submergence of houses as that of previous year. The people have to continue the struggle for the next year also against the dam and for the survival, which has been adversely affected by the constant danger and uncertainty of displacement and submergence.

In an appeal to the people all over India, the main activists, including Norji Padvi, Bawa Muhariya, Kaladidi, Pravinkumar, Medha Patkar, Kewalsingh Vasave, Mohan Patidar have said , "Narmada is still flowing. The dam had to stop where it is today - at 88 metres. This being a drought year, water hasn't risen upto the lowest Satyagraha hut in Domkhedi. The Supreme Court's decision and beyond is still to come. We call unto you to be with us on this day, and even after that, for a more determined fight for the rights and life of people of this country....."

(M.K.Sukumar) (Joe Athialy) (Sanjay Sangvai)