Friends of River Narmada Press Release

October 27, 2000

 

Friends of River Narmada
http://www.narmada.org

"We stand in solidarity with the people of the Narmada Valley"
NRIs, Friends of River Narmada and others greet Supreme Court verdict with protests and solidarity fasts.

The October 18th, 2-to-1 majority verdict of the Supreme Court of India granting permission to allow further construction of the Sardar Sarovar (SSP) dam to its full height of 138 meters has received condemnation amongst a section of the NRI community and its friends. In its October 18th and 19th press-releases, the Friends of River Narmada denounced the judgment an "anti-people" verdict and "mockery of justice and egalitarianism in a democratic society".

The verdict has come as a blow to the millions of tribals and poor peasants in the Narmada Valley proving that justice is on the side of the powerful and the influential. Thousands throughout India are organizing various protest actions denouncing the verdict, which they labeled as "capital punishment" for the Narmada Valley.

The Friends of River Narmada (FORN) and the California-based International Rivers Network (IRN) strongly condemned the Supreme Court Judgment and protested outside the Indian Consulates in the US.

In San Francisco, on Oct 23 from 10-11am, about 30 people from the Bay Area gathered in front of the consulate. Srividhya Venkataraman of FORN and Patrick McCully of IRN addressed the gathering, while Balam Vincent read out the 2-page memorandum addressed to the Consul General of India. The memorandum severely criticized and pointed out certain contradictions in the Supreme Court verdict and called upon the President of India to intervene on behalf of the tribal and peasant communities in the Narmada Valley. Songs of solidarity from the Narmada Valley were sung by the enthusiastic protestors. The rally was also peppered with slogans such as "No more big dams", "California se Narmada tak, hum sab ek ain, ek hain!" (From California to Narmada, we are one). The rally began with the singing of "Vande Mataram" and ended with the Indian national anthem. Mr. Haldar from the Indian Consulate in San Fransisco received the memorandum on behalf of the Consul General, who was out of office. He also addressed the gathering and promised to convey the message and the memorandum to the Government of India in New Delhi.

A protest rally was also organized outside the Indian embassy in Washington DC and was graced by the newly erected statue of Mahatma Gandhi who had championed the cause of the poor in India and had invented the tools of Satyagraha and non-violent protest. Friends of River Narmada, volunteers of Association for India's Development (AID) and other Non-Governmental Organizations in the Washington DC area like Friends of the Earth, Centre for Intl. Environmental law, and Essential Action observed a candle-light vigil. Flyers about the SSP and the recent SC judgement were distributed to the embassy staff and onlookers. There was an energetic chanting of slogans - 'narmada bachao, manav bachao', 'Save the Narmada, Rally for the Valley', 'hey, hey, ho, ho, big dams have gotta go'. A memorandum criticizing the SC judgment was signed and submitted to the consulate. The rally ended with the singing of a Narmada song.

The protests in the US continue with several people fasting to express their solidarity with the fast of Medha Patkar & eight other activists of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (save Narmada Movement who are observing a fast and silence for 5 days of Diwali (the Indian festival of lights) protesting the Supreme Court judgement.

A total of 28 Non Resident Indians in the US are observing a relay fast from 25th October to 29th October. The complete list of the people who are fasting are Neerja Bhatt (SunnyVale, California), Aniruddha Vaidya (Santa Clara, California) ,Rajesh Veeraraghavan (Campbell,California), Kiran Vissa (Maryland), Subbu Vincent (Fremont, California), M. Saranathan (Maryland), Subbu Sastry (Madison), Nagini Prasad (Maryland), Prashant jawalikar (Fremont, California), Mahesh Marina (Cincinnati), RaviShankar Arunachalam (Pittsburgh), Vinay Kumar (Boston), Seema Damani (Boston), Om Damani (Boston), Srividhya Venkataraman (Campbell, California), Vijay (Raleigh), Shrinaath Chidambaram (Boston), Payal Parekh (Boston), Girish Bhatt (SunnyVale,California), Savita Kini (Santa Clara, California), Vinod John (Schenectady, New York), R.Shashidhar (California), Hema Veeraraghavan (Campbell, California), K.S.Veeraraghavan (Campbell, California), Srihari Dukkipati (Sandiego, California), Siva Digavalli (Connecticut), Neeta Mehrotra (Connecticut), Vaijayanti Gupta (San Diego, California).

While the period of the fast overlaps with the festival of Diwali --- the festival of lights in India that symbolizes the victory of good over evil --- the people on fast said that "we are observing this fast to protest against the conspiracy to force people in the Narmada Valley into darkness" and that through this gesture of solidarity, "we are able to get a small sense of commitment required by the satyagrahis who have fought for truth and justice for over 15 years". Further, they are demanding a review of the Supreme Court judgement and plead with the President Of India to intervene and use his constitutional authority to protect the rights of the tribals in the Narmada Valley.

Rajesh Veeraraghavan,
Friends of River Narmada.

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Website: http://www.narmada.org
Contact: Subramanya Sastry (subbu@narmada.org)
Phone : 608-250-9357


The Friends of River Narmada is an international coalition of individuals and organizations primarily of Indian descent involved in awareness and solidarity campaigns along with the Save the Narmada Movement [Narmada Bachao Andolan].