LUCKNOW: The Prime Minister’s birthday was celebrated by dedicating the Sardar Sarovar dam to the nation. There are 244 villages and one town going to be submerged by this dam. The cost of the dam is nearing Rs. One lakh Crores. Of this estimated Rs. 1,500 crores was embezzled in the process of rehabilitation. An enquiry commission headed by Justice S.S. Jha was established to look into the corruption in rehabilitation. The government is not ready to make the report public.
Because of closure of sluice gates of the dam, 40,000 families faced submergence at once. The Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal had ordained that any family before being submerged should be rehabilitated six months in advance. However, these 40,000 families are being made to evacuate their homes like rats, by the deliberate flooding of their homes. This is akin to inflicting violence on people. And that too on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s own birthday.
On the other hand Medha Patkar and 37 other people affected by the dam were standing in rising Narmada waters protesting the inauguration of the dam. Earlier she was on fast with others and was sent to jail on false charges of causing damage to government property. Till the PM’s birthday not a single official of either the Madhya Pradesh government or the central government has met Medha Patkar. This demonstrates the Bharatiya Janata Party government’s lack of faith in democracy and the tendency to curb all dissent with brute force.
Violence seems to be part of this make up.The assassination of Gandhi in 1948 is probably the most gruesome and cowardly act which is still justified by some Sangh supporters. The rath-yatra of Lal Krish a Advani which culminated in the demolition of the Babri mosque in 1992 was responsible for the birth of the problem of terrorism in India. The first serial bomb blasts took place in India in 1993 in Mumbai. People have been convicted for this but not for the demolition of the Babri mosque which instigated the Mumbai bomb blasts of 1993.
After Narendra Modi took over as PM at least 20 persons, including Mohammad Akhlaq and Pehlu Khan, have been killed in public lynchings. Rationalists and intellectuals like Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, M.M. Kalburgi and now journalist Gauri Lankesh have been targetted and murdered. Even a seemingly innocuous programme of the PM – the clean India campaign – took the life of one Zafar Khan in Rajasthan in an incident related to open defecation when government employees beat him to death.
The inauguration of Sardar Sarovar dam has made 40,000 people landless and homeless in one stroke. Do they not enjoy the fundamental right to life enshrined in our Constitution?
The Sangh is enamoured of Indian culture in which the value of sacrifice is held very high. Who can be a better symbol of this than Medha Patkar? The BJP governments of Madhya Pradesh. and the centre are indulging in the humiliation of Medha Patkar by ignoring her. The moral force of Medha Patkar is bigger than most of the so called leaders. To become a leader by winning the elections is quite apart from being accepted by the people as a leader because of her participation in people’s struggles. Whether it is the arrogance of Narendra Modi or that of Shivraj Singh Chauhan the Sangh cannot escape the blot of submerging 40,000 people forcibly. This is violence against the people.
PM Modi’s concept of development is purely materialistic without concern for the human element. And the approach demonstrates parochialism and insecurity.
(Sandeep Pandey is a Magsaysay Award recipient, and a well known social activist based in Lucknow)