Adivasis and Women launch Indefinite Narmada Jeevan Adhikar Yatra

More than two thousand adivasis, farmers, fish workers, labourers, potters and other Sardar Sarovar Project affected persons from the Narmada Valley assembled at Rajghat today morning to embark on an indefinite Jeevan Adhikar Yatra to challenge unjust political moves to push the giant dam ahead despite the failure of the dam having been fully exposed and also in the face of gross environmental non-compliance and unprecedented corruption, causing forced and illegal displacement of the two-lakh population in the valley. Read more

Led by determined women from the hilly adivasis regions of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and vasahats of Gujarat as also from the plain areas of Nimad in M.P., the people challenged the political expediency to raise the height of the SSP by installing the 17 mts high gates, when thousands of them have not yet been ensured their legal entitlement of land and livelihood based rehabilitation, while on the other hand, the Government seems to be actively festering the menace of thousands of crores corruption in the name of ‘rehabilitation’ of their families.

Women, men, adivasis, farmers, fish workers, old and young took an enmasse ‘Sankalp’ (vow) on the river bank to struggle against destruction of the valley and save their rights and the ancient Narmada civilization from doom.

Leading the Sankalp and later addressing the struggling people, veteran freedom fighter and Samajwadi leader Shri Shambunath Gupta from Hoshangabad, who has been a long-time associate of non-violent people’s movements assured the people that their struggle will not go in vain and the Government cannot have its way violating the Constitution and people’s inalienable rights.

Ultimately, the people’s voice will have to be heard and in the case of SSP, this has already started to happen, he said.

Not heeding the scorching heat, the villagers from adivasi and Nimadi villages such as Anjanwara, Kakrana, Sugat, Jalsindhi, Chimalkhedi, Danel, Chhota Barda, Semalda, Karoli, Manawar, Bakaner, shouted slogans ‘Amu Akkha ek se’ (We all are one) and ‘Narmada Ghati kare Sawaal – Jeene ka haq, ya maut ka jaal? (Narmada Ghati seeks an answer – Right to Life or Death Noose?). Taking their banners, slogans and demands, the people marched ahead as a huge rally towards Badwani where a public meeting with representative of people’s organizations and prominent citizens of the town was held.

Former Chairperson of Badwani Municipality, Rajendra Mandloi said the decision to increase the dam height lacks both wisdom and sensitivity. He assured the people that the district of Badwani is fully in solidarity with their struggle.

Calling the recent move to grant environmental clearance to the SSP, as ‘Tuqlakhi decision’, senior leader Shri Nanaksingh Gandhi invited people to disown the same. The very fact that the well-studied Report of Dr. Devender Pandey Committee of Experts which has recommended no further reservoir filling has been set aside proves that the decision to push the dam is based purely on political machinations, he rued. Farmer’s leader Chandra Shekhar Yadav condemned the decision to cause further displacement and expressed his oneness with people’s unflinching resolve to fight for their constitutional rights.

The gathering was later addressed by senior Gandhian Pushpa Behan and youth Congress Vivek Sharma.

Medha Patkar, leading the people’s peaceful struggle in its 25 year said, “With just 30% of the canals having been built over 30 years, only 7% reservoir water being used, meager irrigation attained by submerging thousands of adivasi families and diverting water to industries, when Gujarat’s own farmers are unwilling to give land for the canals and when its own organizations have exposed this ‘monument of mismanagement’ ,if Gujarat is to celebrate the death-knell of the nature-based communities and wastage of thousands of crores, criticized even by the CAG, as ’50 years of its success’, it is a shame and fraud on the Constitution and a mockery of the Supreme Court. People will challenge and overturn such political decisions, she assured”.

After paying a brief homage to monument of adivasi dignity at Karanja in Badwani, the people walked further towards Anjad town place where one more public meeting would be held in the evening. They would then move towards village Chota Barda where crores of rupees corruption has been unearthed, which money could have been used by the State to purchase land for the adivasis. Two huge bells, Narmada Ghati ka Mrutyu Ghanta, symbolizing the death-noose that has encircled the lives of the 2 lakh people in the valley is travelling along with the Yatra.

Adivasis and farmers displaced by the Jobat dam and Indira Sagar, Omkareshwar canals also participated in huge numbers and were joined by activists from social groups and journalists. Nasreen Behan and Atikbhai from Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan, Mumbai also extended solid support to the people by their presence.

The resilient adivasis from the numerous villages in Badwani and 17 villages of Alirapjur district in M.P. and the Nandurbar district in Maharashtra that have faced the brunt of displacement and food insecurity since 1994 vowed together that they will not sacrifice the interest of the valley at the altar of
politics and asserted that the Government will have to open its eyes and ears and review the whole project, which is not just in the interest of the valley, but also in the best interest of the people of Gujarat and the whole nation. If the Government wants to test the patience of the people by such illegalities, it will have to pay cost, they warned.

The Jeevan Adhikar Yatra is to hold meetings and proceed via Anjad town place, village Chota Barda (Badwani) Semalda, (Manawar) Dharampuri & Dhamnod (Dhar) on foot, trucks and boats and reach Indore on the 13th morning, where the people would launch an indefinite sit-out before the Narmada Control Authority. The struggle and challenge continues ….

Medha Patkar