Narmada Valley Pledges to Save River Narmada, its Biodiversity and Culture on World Environment Day
Rally For The Valley started on World Environment Day with People in Solidarity from all over India
Badwani / Semalda, Madhya Pradesh, June 5, 2017 : “We are not on any government’s mercy and those in power must understand this. We are cultivating our fields and living in the villages on the banks of Maa Narmada for centuries. She has given life to us and we have preserved her and nurtured her too. We are inseparable and no one can separate us by force or any threats. Doobenge par hatenge nahin (We will choose to drown but not leave narmada valley), we have said this for three decades and will continue on our stand,” thundered Shyama Bai of Pichodi village during the public meeting at Khalghat, from where the Rally For The Valley started on World Environment Day along with thousands of people, including more than 200 supporters from 15 states.
The call for rally has been given by Narmada Bachao Andolan as a response to complete failure of the Madhya Pradesh government in completing any R&R sites, continuously shifting submergence levels and on top of that threatening people over past one month with forced evictions. NBA has made it clear that they are ready for non-violent confrontation and are not going to leave the villages till the demands are not met. If they have held on to their ground for three decades then they are ready to hold on and fight for their rights for next three decades. Medha Patkar, further added, if 88 resettlement sites couldn’t be built in three decades then does government have a magic wand that they will provide all basic amenities and completely developed R&R sites in two months before 31st July, a completely arbitrarily and illegal deadline set by authorities for vacating villages.
Dr. Sunilam said the situation today is similar to war and we can’t be silent witness to mass murder planned by the Govt. We are talking of two lakhs of people, not a small number. He urged it’s a battle for everyone and not for only those affected by Sardar Sarovar Dam. Everyone will have to come and fight for the rights of their friends, neighbours and everyone in Narmada Valley. He challenged Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan to come and visit 88 R&R sites and ask these people if they are ready or not. Can people live in those?
Krishna Prasad of All India Kisaan Sabha, and former MLA from Kerala, expressing his solidarity with the struggle said, it’s time that everyone has to stand with people of Narmada Valley and NBA since, NBA has defined the politics of struggle and development in this country and in these trying times we all have to join hands to defeat these fascist forces.
The meeting was also addressed by Dr Soumya Dutta and Chinmay Mishra who spoke of the biggest environmental disaster planned by the Madhya Pradesh government since it’s not only people but lakhs of trees and pristine forest will be drowned too. The scourge of sand mining and series of dams have already killed river Narmada. Now, the fake yatras like Narmada Seva Yatra are not going to serve any purpose and cannot revive the river. It’s only the people who lived alongside the river and valued the river in their culture, life and livelihood they only can save the river.
Former MP Raju Kheri and MLA Surendra Singh Baghel (Kukshi) also addressed the meeting and asked to stand for the people whom he has represented since long. The rally has been joined by students from DU, JNU, TISS, FTII, HCU, Jamia Milia Islamia, IIT, Salsabeel Kerala and many other students from different educational institutions. Nita Mahadev, Ashok Bhai, Hansmukh bhai, Jiku Bhai of Gujarat, Advocate Shiva Kumar from Chennai, Sainaba Teacher from Kerala, Rajendra Ravi, Bhupender Singh Rawat, Nanhu Gupta and Madhuresh Kumar of NAPM Delhi, Sanjeev Kumar and Aashima of Delhi Solidarity Group and their team members, they all joined in support of the people of Narmada Valley. The programme began with prayers and boat rally at Khalburj Ghat, Khalghat where people pledged to fight for their rights and achieve what is meaningfully theirs.
The Yatra will travel through different villages of Dhar, Kukshi, Badwani, Jhabua in Madhya Pradesh, Nandurbar of Maharashtra and Narmada district of Gujarat. It will express solidarity and expose the hollow claims of the resettlement and rehabilitation done by the authorities and the complete fallacy of the numbers of the affected people. Since, government has been arbitrarily decreasing the numbers, marking land and homes out of submergence and there by not giving their right entitlements. Today from 40,000 families, government has now suddenly arrived at a number of 18000+ families who are only eligible for the R&R and are faced with the threat of submergence. This is a complete lie and complete contempt of Supreme Court judgements of February 8, 2017 as well as past judgements.
NBA has challenged the government that they dare even think of using force to evict people without implementing the SC judgement and award passed by Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal. NBA is ready for non violent and peaceful face off with the violence of the State and urges everyone to join in this struggle.