Geetha N Bhardwaj, OneWorld South Asia
On 30th May, 2006, at the end of a sultry day, about 200 activists gathered for a candlelight vigil at Jantar Mantar, the spot where NBA (Narmada Bachao Aandolan) activists had staged a fast unto death protesting the raising of the Sardar Sarovar Dam across the Narmada and submerging approximately 226 villages without ensuring adequate rehabilitation for approximately 35,000 families as claimed by the NBA.
It was a unique show of solidarity, where people from different walks of life organised and expressed themselves. A group of activists performed an evocative street play on the issue of displacement.
Participants including Shabnam Hashmi, Miloon Kothari, Jean Dreze and Kavita Srivastava looked on as Sagari Chhabra shared parts of video footage shot during the recent ‘Pol Khol Yatra’ in the Narmada Valley. A team of volunteers from various Delhi-based NGOs had visited the valley to see for themselves and to share with others the true story of resettlement in the Narmada valley and to verify the claims of the Government over resettlement.
The gathering was organised by the Delhi Support Group, which had been formed to support the NBA agitation, in anticipation of a hearing of project-affected families scheduled in the Supreme Court on the following day. Medha Patkar of the NBA, along with writer Arundhati Roy, lit candles and joined the vigil against forced eviction and dispossession.
The evening was rendered melodious as various participants, including singer Sushmit Bose, a youth group called Manzil, a group of NBA activists, and some students from Vasant Valley school,l sang songs celebrating the spirit of struggle – there were rare moments of bonding among the group assembled around. People felt it was a unique and energizing evening.
Medha Patkar was happy to see the activity and energy of the Delhi Support Group and hoped that the struggle would continue. Noting that the Central Government did not believe in the reports of its own ministers, and the state governments had contradicted their own stand in their reports to the Supreme Court, she said that the NBA would decide on further action subsequent to the court’s response on Monday.
A Sardar Sarovar Project Status Report submitted by the Union Water Resources Ministry to the Prime Minister’s Office, on March 22, clearly shows that several families remained to be resettled in Madhya Pradesh at 110.64 metres at the proposed height of 121.92 metres even more families will be affected. However, the Centre in its application filed in the Supreme Court on April 17, claimed that all the affected families up to the height of 121.92 metres were resettled in the three States.