26th January, 2012
62 Years of Indian Republic….62 Days of Narmada Satyagraha
Displaced adivasis hoist National Flag: Demand Constitutional Right To Life
Delegates at National Convention on Children’s Right to Food support Satyagraha
Open Letter by Surbhan Bhilala to O.P Rawat: link
Jobat: As citizens across India observed 62 years of the Indian Republic, the displaced adivasis of the Narmada valley also did so; as they hoisted the tricolor, remembering the valiant role of local and national leaders in the freedom struggle, they also marked 62 days of their indefinite occupation on the government-owned agricultural land at Jobat. As they annually do, they observed the Republic Day by hoisting both the national flag and the flag of Narmada Bachao Andolan. The national flag was hoisted by 75 year old Ganpat Patel of Village Machliya, displaced by the Jobat Dam. The blue flag of the Andolan was hoisted by 80 year old Moorkhi Dayi, an undeclared widow oustee, hailing from Jalsindhi village, affected by the Sardar Sarovar Dam. After the national anthem, the children voiced slogans and sang songs saluting Mahatma Gandhi, Baba Saheb Ambedkar, Mahatma Phule, Rani Lakshmibai, Chitu Kirad, Tantiya Mama, Bhima Naik, Birsa Munda and many other heros.
Addressing the gathering of protestors, activist Kailash Awasya stated that their struggle is not just for the right to land, but for the human right to life and is linked to the constitutional vision of justice for the scheduled tribes and other oppressed communities. The adivasis, who have been protesting since 2 months; demanding legal right to land based rehabilitation, endorsed by the Supreme Court have been cultivating the government land as their own and are now demanding titles to these and other cultivable lands. Although the attitude of indifference being adopted by the government is not shocking, it is certainly condemnable to the core. The oustees have resolved to continue the Satyagraha, until the State relents.
Surbhan Bhilala, one of the oustees, penned a frank, open letter (enclosed) in Hindi to Mr. O.P. Rawat, Vice-Chairman of the Narmada Valley Development Authority, on behalf of all the oustees, throwing an ultimate challenge to either open the dam gates or provide land. Responding to the false and humiliating stance of Mr. Rawat on the legal rights of the oustees, Surbhan states in the letter that the Satyagraha is “not illegal occupation, not even encroachment. It is a right. A Right of Citizenship. A Right to Live. A right which not even the President of India can deprive us of. Obviously you (Mr. Rawat) cannot, nor can our Chief Minister Shri Shiv Raj Chauhan”. He also states, “We have been ‘paying the price’ of displacement, for the past 15 years in ‘national interest’. And now you want us pay the price for the fault and crimes of your officials, for delaying rehabilitation and corruptly pocketing crores of rupees rehabilitation fund? Is this fair? Is this rule of law?”. If they are really well-wishers of adivasis as they claim, they must allot land, he observes.
Earlier in the week, few activists and Jeevanshals kids from the protest site were at Bhopal, participating in the three-day National Convention on ‘Children’s Right to Food’. Sporting hand-made newspaper caps with red-name plates of ‘Zameen Do’, they attracted attention of activists and officials alike. Social movements, people’s organizations and child rights groups, across India unanimously passed a resolution in support of the ongoing Zameen Haq Satyagraha and demanded that the Government of Madhya Pradesh must immediate dialogue with the oustees and allot cultivable land in rehabilitation, since it has serious implications on the right to food and right to life of children and elders in the hilly villages.
Khuman Suthariya Ratan Moorkhi Contact: 09179148973