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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

dont worship the the living

The construction of large dams on the River Narmada in central India and its impact on millions of people living in the river valley has become one of the most important social issues in contemporary India.

The recent decision by the authorities to raise the SSP dam height to 121m is in violation of the Supreme Court rulings of Oct 2000 and March 2005 that unambiguously state that further construction cannot happen until rehabilitation of temporaorily and permanently affected families is completed as per the Narmada Tribunal Award. Families are yet to be rehabilitated even at the 110m level.

Three representatives from the Narmada valley (Jamsing Nargave from village Amlali Badwani district, Bhagwatibai Jatpuria from village Nissarpur Dhar district and Medha Patkar) are on indefinite hunger strike at Jantar mantar.

Medha Patkar shown in the photo opposite has a simple point. How can a state, flood thousands of villages and cities, submerge temples, inundate ancestral land, uproot a whole population without even consulting them. What manner of arrogance is this.

After peaceful protests, approaching the courts and arguing their case in a civilised way there had been some headway. Then came the decision last week, by the government to raise the height of the dam another 12 metres. This would increase the area being flooded and uproot even more villages. This while the earlier villagers hadnt been resettled and rehabilitated yet. This move is also in direct violation of the Supreme courts orders, which had stopped further construction till the displaced people were resettled. The nonviolent protests earlier were dealt with brutally by the authorities. So, in the oldest tradition of India, this frail old woman lay down in the capital city and stopped eating. Its been seven days and counting and she is there, doing a gandhi.

We still worship Gandhi, pay lip service to his ideals and declare him the father of our nation. The man who wished to live as poorly as the rest of his countrymen, who fasted to stir the conscience of his people and their rulers, who felt the pain of the downtrodden. We admire him today. We call his path the right path. He is dead and long gone, killed by an assassins bullet.

Medha has gone 7 days without food. Let us try to imagine what that means. Let us probe further into why an old lady is starving herself to death in the heart of the capital city. Let us stop worshipping the dead and look at the living. All those who can, please visit the Jantar Mantar in CP in Delhi and show your solidarity, if not for her cause then at least for her courage.

related links -


Medha Patkars press release

Visit the Narmada Bachao Andolan website here ( Save Narmada Movement )

The build up to this protest, when everything else fails.

an interview with Medha a few years ago.

Medha Patkar turns down PM’s request

Arrested and released.

Editorial in HT - For many Indians, the word ‘development’ sends a shudder down their spines. What should have been a term eliciting optimism and giving flesh to progress has become a cuss word. One prime reason for things coming to such a pass is that governments have allowed development to become synonymous with misery for many. One key element of many a developmental project involves mass displacement. This involves necessary social disruption that requires compensation and rehabilitation of the displaced. On paper, all public developmental projects have rehabilitation measures built into them. But the reality is that while successive governments have tom-tommed their socialist credentials, the second part of the development-rehabilitation exercise is either forgotten or is forcibly jettisoned. That is the reason why people like Medha Patkar are forced to go on a hunger strike so that the injustice meted out to the displaced in the name of development is addressed and corrected.

Read More of " Development and People"

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