Badwani, Narmada Valley
‘Sathi tere sapnon ko ….manzil tak pahunchayenge’
We, the adivasis, farmers, fish workers, potters, labourers, women, men, and children from the Narmada valley and the activists of Narmada Bachao Andolan are deeply shocked and shattered by the sudden and most untimely demise of our dear colleague Shri Ashish Mandloi (Age 38) on the night of 20th May 2010 at his ancestral village Chhota Barda in Badwani district due to a cardiac arrest.
Lovingly called by all the villagers as Ashishbhai and by his family members as Babloo, Ashish has immortalized the spirit of a true activist by literally living the slogan Sangharsh hee jeevan hai, until the last moment of his breath. His mortal remains were consigned to flames yesterday afternoon, in the presence of hundreds of the displaced from the plains and hills of Narmada and activist-supporters from Badwani, Dhadgaon, Bangalore, Pune, New Delhi, Indore, Bhopal, Khandwa amidst slogans of “Shaheed Ashishbhai Amar rahe,“ and Jab Taka Suraj-Chaand rahegaa – Ashish tera naam rahega”.
Born and raised in a farmer’s family in the fertile plains of Nimad, after education and graduation, Ashish spent the early years of his youth volunteering for the Andolan, when the struggle against the gigantic Sardar Sarovar Project was at its peak and later contributed his time and energy; full-time to NBA as a key activist in the Nimad and Pahad (hilly adivasis areas). Virtually every family in the affected villages knew him by name and he won over people’s hearts by his unique way of relating to people’s every day issues and problems. His innate sensitivity, coupled with his extensive networking with the villagers and passion to go into the depth of every single issue at hand – be it exposing the inaccuracies in government surveys and data or unearthing crores of corruption in the rehabilitation of the project affected families, through fake registries or bogus claims of alternative rehabilitation made him challenge many illegalities and injustices.
His investigative efforts, with the help of other farmer-activists, has saved thousands of dam-affected families from being misguided and cheated by the nexus of corrupt officials and their agents. He continued his struggle despite having to face threats from the corrupt agents and touts. It was due to his relentless investigative campaign, that the massive public interest case against corruption could be filed and argued for two-full years before the High Court of Madhya Pradesh and a Judicial Commission of Inquiry under (Retd.) Justice S.S. Jha instituted to inquire into the various aspects of corruption and illegalities. His team of farmers was also awarded the NDTV-PCRF National RTI Award for using the RTI as a weapon to expose corruption. He struggled continuously to keep the Commission working and even in the past few weeks camped in Indore to over-see the entire evidence-recording process. Ashishbhai also played a prominent and leading role in the recent fortnight-long Jeevan Adhikar Yatra of the thousands of Sardar Sarovar and Jobat oustees, through which, the people issued an ultimatum to the Narmada valley authorities to ensure land-based rehabilitation to the oustees.
Having risen from a context of learning in rural areas and then proceeding to attain the best quality of his work over years with extra-ordinary selflessness, commitment and perseverance, Ashish is and will be an inspiration to thousands of youth across the nation. We deeply thank all of you for standing by us in this monumental moment of crisis, by attending his last rites from far and wide, sending messages of strength and condolence and by spreading the word of his demise and his valiant crusade against corruption in the rehabilitation process of the Narmada dam oustees.
Over the past one year, Ashish was also fully involved in the construction of NBA’s own office – which is being built fully on Jan Sahyog – with wood from the adivasis, bricks from the potters, land received in donation. We plan to dedicate the new office of the Narmada Bachao Andolan to his memory and struggle….Ashishbhai, you are for us a dear brother and an indomitable fellow-traveler in our collective struggle for equity and justice. We shall continue in the path of struggle that you have tread all your life …
All villagers and activists of Narmada.