Barwani, Madhya Pradesh: 25 May 2017:: The people displaced due to Sardar Sarovar Dam, including farmers, laborers, potters etc. lead a rally with bullock carts filling the streets of Badwani. Starting the rally from Krishi Mandi, with farmer and fish-workers men and women sitting on the bullock carts, they reached the pillar of martyrdom, where they paid homage to the freedom fighters who fought from the area. Here Medha Patkar said that if the government wants us to be martyrs today, they are prepared to do so. If government wants sacrifices in today’s freedom struggle the people of the valley are prepared to do it.
From there the rally proceeded on to the Mahatma Gandhi Marg towards Jhanda Chowk where the rally turned into a public meeting. The bullock carts were turned into a stage from where the representative of the valley, Mr. Bhagirath Dhangar, Pemalbehen, Shyama, Sonavarbi Mansuri et al made moving speeches. They all talked about the absence of rehabilitation sites which is clear from the announcements made by the government itself now. The affidavits submitted by the government to the Supreme Court are all false. Is it justified for the government, in the name of sacrifice for development, to use police force to evict the people? Will they destroy our centuries old ancestral villages, temples and mosques? The government doesn’t have the capability to rehabilitate, it is only capable to indulge into corrupt practices. They don’t want to deliver justice, but instead they are promoting injustice and violence. They all said that we won’t let them take away the fishermen/women’s net and their water resources. The chief minister is duping the people. They said these people don’t need promises but registrations and their rights. They all also took an oath to not leave the banks of the river until their community rights are ensured. Sanavarbi Mansuri, symbol of women’s power, said that if the state and the central government is going to resort to violence in the name of development, then even all the women of the villages are ready to fight back.
The public that came from the banks of Narmada won over Badwani’s Jhanda Chowk with their songs, slogans and moving speeches echoing in every corner. Thousands of women accompanied by men from varied occupations joined this massive public meeting after their 3kms long procession, and all of them put forth their plight. Wahid Bhai also proclaimed that the government representatives that have accepted the river as a living being, shouldn’t act like animals themselves. Pemal Behen, a labourer, vehemently put forward the predicament of both the farmers and labourers, and asked them to come together to fight this injustice. She also said that the announcement that was made in Bhopal to give mere 1.20 lakh in lieu of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, is nothing but a plan to cheat them as this amount is not even sufficient to make the plinth for their houses. She said that they all understand these conspiracies. Shyama Behen, representing the fish-workers, sitting on the bullock cart with her fishing net, warned that it might be possible for the government to uproot the farmers but they cannot drown the fish-workers.
Dev Ram Bhai, a senior activist of NBA who had fasted many a times in the past for the cause, reminded the crowd of their 32 years long struggle at the same time rang the bells for a new struggle that started after the new order for them.
Mahesh Patel and Bhagirath Dhangar, representing farmers who have been in this struggle in the last three decades. They said that this rally is an expression of determination that the people will not move out till all rights are attained. The intimidation tactics of the government and also their strategy to divide and rule on the party lines, needs to be understood by one and all. They also challenged the government on the vague assurances given to their own party workers and leaders yesterday in Bhopal. They spoke about the relationship between the Narmada and the life, culture and prosperity of the people of Nimad which cannot be allowed to tampered with. The estimates given by the government are all fallacious. Every announcement about how many villages will be drowned, how many villages is the government preparing to evacuate and how many families will be displaced, give different and contradictory numbers. On one hand they submitted figures amounting to 8177 families from Kukshi tehsil, 2601 families in Manavar, 338 in Dharampuri, all three in district Dharand 30 families in Khargone will be affected after reducing the back water level, on the other hand Dhar district collector is stating figures of 6132 families and 10000 families of Badwani will be displaced. These are extremely contradictory estimates, both given by the government authorities.
D.P. Dhakad, leader of three tier Pachayat Raj organisation and the vice president of district Panchayat, Ratlam, urged all the politicians to come out in support and encouraging the people he said that people should challenge the government that is asking for sacrifices from the people. He also said that the middlemen should be condemned within their own communities and villages. They should be shunned by the villagers. Kukshi’s (dist. Dhar) MLA, Mr. Baghel and Badwani’s surendra singh and MLA Ramesh Patel also joined the rally. Mr. Surendra Singh said that because PM Narendra Modi has never lived a family life, that is probably why he doesn’t understand the pain of women, the plight when there are no chulhas to cook food.
Why has the chief minister never talked with any of the farmers in the last 13 years? He also said that instead of destroying hundreds of thousand families, it is better to not go ahead with the new plan. Rajan Mandloi, former municipal corporation president, said that he will always support the Andolan. He said the NVDA is a corrupt department which is only trying to extract money out of the people in partnership with the middlemen.
Barring the farmers from irrigating their fields by withdrawing their electricity supply is not acceptable.
Medha Patkar said that the meeting held by the CM with BJP-RSS representatives in Bhopal, is against the spirit of democracy. Unmasking the false promises made by the chief minister, she also said that, the government that couldn’t make houses for the people is now offering ₹40000 as rent and ₹20000 for food expenses, this is nothing but mere drama. It is an insult to people of Nimad that they are being offered a meagre sum ₹20000 for food after displacement. When these farmers have the capacity to feed the country, then how can they tolerate being reduced to the status of beggars with such an insulting amount? She also questioned the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna, which is already available to anyone in the country and it cannot be counted as a special offer for the displaced families. It is to be more in the form of a loan and subsidy and not a grant.
She also criticised the government’s decision to give ₹150000 to those who had accepted SRP under pressure and various tactics by the middlemen, since they should have been, if at all, offered ₹6000000 acquitting them with those who accepted the first instalment only and not those duped in the fake registry scam. Vague promises by the CM must be put on papers in the form of government orders without which they cannot be considered reliable. She challenged the CM on the issue of food security.
The rally concluded with a motivating resistance song sung by young activists of NBA.
Rahul yadav Lokendra Patidar Mukesh Bhagoriya Kamla Yadav