BARWANI, MADHYA PRADESH: It is becoming increasingly clear that people do not matter. Despite the protests, the statements, the fasts, the satyagraha’s the BJP government is speeding ahead with preparations to celebrate Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s birthday as he arrives to “dedicate” the Sardar Sarovar dam to the nation even as thousands lose their homes and their livelihood with the rehabilitation program barely off the ground.
In a last desperate move Narmada Andolan’s Medha Patkar who has just emerged from a fast, forcible arrest and harassment, has started a Jai Satyagraha protest with local women on the banks of the Narmada river, at Chhota Barda village in Dhar hours before the scheduled inauguration of the dam she has spent a lifetime opposing. Last heard the water was over their waist
The river waters are gradually rising and already expected to submerge at least one two and 192 villages in the region. Patkar along with the village women told reporters, “People will drown in the Narmada river but they will not move. Planning is being done for the massacre of thousands of families so as to celebrate Modi’s birthday with great pomp and show.”
“People will be on the verge of dying on one, celebrations will be held in Gujarat on September 17,” she said adding, “This will be one of the worst days in the country”. The people, despite the warnings, have not left their homes and as many say, “where do we go to, this is our home.” Barwani is also expected to come under water.
NBA leader Rahul Yadav told reporters that due to surge in Narmada waters, around 30 villages have already been inundated. NBA leader Rehmat Ali pointed out that the rehabilitation of the impacted people has still to be completed, but instead the state government is preparing only for the celebrations and inauguration of the dam.“For us, this inauguration event is ‘Jashn-e-maut’ (celebration of death). While thousands of families here are on the verge of drowning in 214 km stretch of Narmada, there will be celebrations in Gujarat where PM will inaugurate the newly constructed SSP gates. Our demand is that the water level in SSP should not be increased beyond 121 metres until the rehabilitation process is complete,” he told reporters.
The struggle by Narmada Andolan is getting widespread support but there is no break in government plans. The Bhumi Adhikar Andolan, that held a press conference in protest said in a statement :“This grim celebration entails the closing of the gates to fill the dam with water. This particular process will lay havoc on the villages and communities that reside in the valley, they haven’t been rehabilitated as promised by the government and as directed by the courts. Currently, the water level has risen more than to 128.96 meters and has submerged several villages including Rajghat and Nisarpur. The people residing in these villages have vowed to not leave their homes, ready to drown if it comes to that. Furthermore, the courts had directed the government to rehabilitate everyone by the end of July. Far from being rehabilitated, these communities are now at the risk of losing their lives, their dignity, their homes and their history. With a largely electoral propaganda behind this move, our Prime Minister is about to celebrate his birthday at the cost of 40,000 families who now await their deaths.”