Jantar Mantar. 20 August, 2016: Hundreds of Narmada supporters came together for an evening filled with songs, slogans and speeches today. As Narmada Bachao Andolan marked its 31st year of resistance against illegal displacement on 16 August, a series of protests and demonstrations are being held across the nation.
Today’s demonstration was kicked off with a fiery speech by Vimal Bhai who is amongst the veteran fighters for environment and human rights. Vimal Bhai addressed the crowd consisting of many youngsters who are beginning to realise the devastating effects of unbridled exploitation of natural resources going on in the country.
Swami Agnivesh pointed out the lack of a political solution offered by the state that is common across struggles from Irom Sharmila’s anti-AFSPA hunger strike to the Narmada Bachao Andolan. He called upon the youngsters to radicalize their ways of resistance. Jawahar Bhai of Jhopdi Jhuggi Ekta Manch warned corporations of displacing any more people and supported Medha Patkar’s sangharsh in the last 31 years. The schools of Narmada Valley called Jeevanshalas run by supporters of the NBA prove that far from being anti-development, environmental movements are actually responsible in creation of a fair, just and humane society.
The NBA has introduced the concept of ‘human rights’ which was completely ignored in the uncontrolled ‘development model’ followed across the world. Celebrating the resistance, supporters everywhere are standing with the NBA in solidarity.
On 17th August, an event was organised at Ramjas College, Delhi University where the students participated in huge numbers. A film named ‘Dammed’ (dir. Nandan Saxena & Kavita Behl) on Narmada struggle was screened and at the end of the event some of the activists shared their experience followed by a discussion. More screenings like these have been planned in Kirorimal College and JNU in the coming week. Following these events, today’s evening was dedicated to revolutionary songs and music.
Shankar Mahanand, a noted cultural activist shared the stage with Anil Tharayath and were followed by Susan. They urged the people to pick up the struggle in these changing times.
The highlight of the cultural event was the revolutionary-rock band, Anuraagi who were welcomed with a loud cheer. With songs like Azaadi and Achhe Din, lead singer of Anuraagi, Rajesh challenged the youth to rise up and break the shackles. Feminist friends of the NBA from the collective Saheli concluded the meeting with the song, ‘mashaal’.
This year marks 31 years of consistent struggle of the people of the Narmada valley where the Satyagraha is continuing on the banks of the river Narmada in Badwani, Madhya Pradesh. This has been a struggle by the people for their rights- the ‘Right to say No’ to the devastating project, the ‘Right to claim compensation’ for the loss of their life and livelihood and the ‘Right to demand Rehabilitation and Resettlement’. In the past 31 years, we have witnessed drastic changes, not only in India but across the globe, in the discourse around Big Dams.
However, such discussions have not even been looked at by the Indian Ruling Class. The consequences of the devastating project and the lack of political will to provide rehabilitation and resettlement is more than evident. Till date there have been several litigations, protests, submissions on details of no resettlement happening. The government authorities have been silent and the basic rights of the communities are being violated.