"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
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
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.
Friends of River Narmada.
Press Release images:
Contact: Subramanya Sastry (email@example.com)
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].