Fifty Years & Fighting: A Not So Brief History of the Narmada Bachao Struggle

Written by SabrangIndia Staff | Published on: September 5, 2017

50 years ago, when the Sardar Sarovar Dam was conceived by the government of India on the river Narmada, there was little or no knowledge about the widespread ecological crisis that it would bring about and disrupt the lives of lakhs of people living on its banks, forests and valleys since thousands of years. Narmada Bachao Andolan has been on the forefront of the struggle of the people of the Narmada against forceful and unjust displacement. Once again, in the year 2017, the government is on a warpath to uproot people by increasing the height of the dam without giving compensation or rehabilitation.

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NARMADA VALLEY CALLS FOR JUSTICE

Narmada Nyay Yatra (Narmada Justice March) launched on 29 August 2017, 12 PM from Badwani Grain Market, Badwani, Madhya Pradesh.
 

People’s resistance to ‘displacement without rehabilitation’ is challenging the corrupt practices of Madhya Pradesh and Indian state and administration.

They tried to remove us with false hopes and assurances. They tried to remove us by submitting false affidavits in contempt of court. They tried to remove us using police force and violence in contempt of democracy. ‘No displacement without rehabilitation’ is a constitutional right guaranteed to each and every citizen of this nation. Narmada Nyay Yatra will claim that right through legal, constitutional and non-violent satyagrah.

After the succesful uprising of the people of the Narmada Valley against evictions before rehabilitation is completed, CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan announced a package relief of 900 crores. But those 900 crores have gotten lost in the bureaucratic muddle and due to lack of executive orders. On hand the Chief Minister of the state is announcing measures of relief for the media and on ground they are shamelessly arresting Narmada Bachao Andolan activists on fabricated charges and carrying out reign of repression across the state. While PM Narendra Modi is busy planning the inauguration of the Sardar Sarovar Dam on his birthday on 17 July, we want to ask him if he is dedicating the dam to the ‘nation’ or to the ‘corporates’? Why is Shivraj Singh Chauhan more loyal to the state of Gujarat instead of focusing on the welfare of his own state Madhya Pradesh?

On the first day of Narmada Nyay Yatra,  thousands of oustees tied black bands around their mouths as a silent protest and demonstrated outside the Badwani Jail with the symbolic ‘balance of justice’ demanding the release of their saathis, Vijay Marola (Village Kaparkheda), Santu Patidar (Nisarpur) and Dhurji Patidar (Nisarpur). They were released at 6.30 in the evening.

Badal Saroj, leader of Communist Party of India (Marxist) flagged off the march further and compared the arrest of comrades with Nelson Mandela’s incarceration while struggling against apartheid. Everyone agreed that the powerful participation of women has forced the Shivraj regime to back off. The most burning issue of our times, ‘resource loot’ was discussed in the Yatra in the context of selling off the waters of river Narmada to Coca Cola or Ultratech cement facories. It was declared that while claiming ‘development’ they are actually distorting the river and our planet.

Narmada Nyay Yatra covered villages and met altogether atleast 25000 persons living on the bank of Narmada Yatra has explained how the state government of M.P. and the centre commenced its brutal battle against the people of Narmada Valley. The false criminal cases filed as well as the force and intimidation used to try and suppress, oppress and vacate the villages faced the challenge of people’s power.

People especially the landless in villages like Pichhodi and Bhavti, narrated the story of those few who signed the official affidavits to receive the package of 5.80 lakhs for house construction and left their own old house however didn’t receive the same. Some received the amount without asking for any package.  The government has now started allotting house plots, only 1/3 of the area offered by Tribunal Award as a legal right. They have also at a few places asked the oustees to give back 2/4 of the plot they are already allotted, years ago. All this is obviously to show falsely, that people are ready and willing to take whatever is offered, even against the law and leave their house. All this is illegal and thousands and thousands of families, realising the cunning strategy has refused to sign any such affidavit and denied vacating their houses. The fisherpeople, the boatsmen as well as the potters have not yet received the rights which are recently promised.

On the legal front, the next hearing on R & R sites is to be held on 7 September and Narmada Bachao Andolan with its advocates including Adv. Anand Mohan Mathur and Pratyush Mishra as also Medha Patkar, the intervener in person will be before the court to represent the serious situation at R & R sites, in violation of the SC order of 8.2.2017.

Shantu, Vijay and Dhurji who had been arrested on 9 August by M.P. police on false charges got bail from Indore High Court on 28 August and released on 29 August on 21st day of their arrest. But false charges on many activists still remain and the fight for withdrawing these allegations is on. The fight and non-violent struggle goes on till the valley people don't get their dues and just rehabilitation as per the NWDT Award.
 
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Narmada Nyay Yatra exposes multiple scams and widespread corrupt practices across Madhya Pradesh


Narmada Nyay Yatra resurveyed the entire Valley and was shocked to see the false promises made by Shivraj Singh Chauhan during the Narmada Sewa Yatra. Shivraj’s plantation drive was recorded on Guinness Book of World Records for enormous spends and media highlight, but environmentalists found the idea ridiculous as it was carried out without any scientific planning of the types of plants that would preserve biodiversity. The Narmada Nyay Yatra found most saplings in Pichhodi, Avalda and Bhavti settlements weren’t even alive. Similarly the alcohol ban on Narmada banks as announced failed to be implemented on ground. Whereas the alcohol ban of the villages Pichhodi and Bhavti which was achieved by the women’s struggle still remains successful. Similarly Shivraj’s false claim of banning sand mining on Narmada banks proved fake as protestors themselves found an abandoned sand mafia truck during the rally whose driver had run away seeing the people. Shivraj had spent close to Rs. 1600 crores in the name of Narmada Sewa Yatra earlier this year.

The Narmada Nyay Yatra covered 60 villages in a span of 3 days and continued on its fourth day. In Manawar, the village Jalkheda is facing serious submergence issues due to the Man Dam Project on a tributary Man of river Narmada. These families are facing the challenge of flooding from both Narmada and Man rivers. But the state-administration has no idea about these. They have not surveyed the villages and do not even know how many people will be affected by submergence. So the question of rehabilitation is far from implementation. It was also revealed by the Yatra that Dharampuri is not the only town to be affected by the closing of the gates of SP, but even the Maheshwar town including its historic Maheshwar Fort will also be submerged. It was also found out in Kothra and Bada Barda villages that Dalits, fisherpeople, Kewat community and labour colonies were either acquired half-heartedly or were removed from the list of submergence areas or were considered ‘islands’. But the submergence of the year 2013 proves that houses which were submerged during time of dam height of 122 meters, they will surely be affected by the 139 mt. high dam. Similar corrupt practices were exposed in the mismatch of oustee lists. Meanwhile, the M.P. Revenue Department is claiming that their survey is different from Narmada Valley Development Authority survey. They have announced that only 8821 families are in the submergence area. Similarly they have rejected 8000 families who are in the submergence area but because their names are not on NVDA list, they will be considered ineligible. Instead of giving such families 60x90 land plots, the government is giving them only 20x90 or 30x60 plots. Many oustees are forced to shift into tin sheds. Poor people are being coerced into signing false affidavits and given only half of 1/3 of what they deserve in a bid to increase the number of people who the state can claim are already ‘rehabilitated’.

The movement is against all these unjust and criminal practices of the state and will fight until justice is achieved.
 
Narmada Struggle Support Group, Madurai demonstrates in solidarity with Medha Patkar and the people of the Narmada Valley. 

D. Gabriele, 28 August 2017

At Bypass Raod, opp. Guru Theater in Madurai, hundreds of participants from 18 organisations came together from 9 AM to 1 PM to protest against the ‘emergency situation’ in the Narmada Valley. Women participated in considerable numbers. The MDMK and the Humanist Party extended support, as well as people from peasant struggles and struggles to save democracy (like anti Methane and anti Hydrocarbon struggles). The emphasis was on implementing the Supreme Court orders in Narmada struggle and Right to Life and Livelihood and ‘Land for Land’ and stopping arbitrary violence on people. Three lawyers dressed up as Supreme Court Judges were sitting on a bench on top of a truck, which gave a good appeal to expand the independence of the judiciary.

 
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Solidarity Event in Ambedkar University, New Delhi engages young students with the realities of 21st century India.

Titled ‘Damming the Narmada: Development or Dispossession?’, a cultural-political event was organized by School of Liberal Studies and School of Development Studies of Ambedkar University, New Delhi on 1 September 2017 from 2 PM to 6 PM. Preeti Sampat introduced the event with clippings from the documentary ‘Narmada Diary’ directed by Anand Patwardhan in 1995. A photo exhibition ‘SOS: From the archives of NBA’ was curated by Ishita Sharma and Shiv Ahuja along with the launch of a zine (publication). Powerful performance by Nikita Maheshwari riveted the crowd as she created a sense of doom around the creation of big dams. Swati and Akshara collaborated with the audience and everyone sang along from the lines of the iconic Bhagwan Manjhi song ‘Gaon Chodab Bahi’. The event was concluded with a vibrant interaction between students of the university and Madhuresh Kumar from NAPM.

Courtesy: www.narmadaandolan.org