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150 Gujarat tribal oustees arrested, as thousands block road leading to Narmada dam to demand resettlement

By Our Representative
In a development with far-reaching implications, thousands of Gujarat-based Narmada dam oustees on Sunday took out a rally, blocking the road leading to the spot where the dam is located in the Kevadiya colony. Most of them tribals, 150 were arrested even as they were protesting against the alleged refusal of the state government to "rehabilitate" them.
Organized by well-known anti-dam social activist Medha Patkar-led Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), which till now was considered “non-existent” on Gujarat soil, the road to the dam was blocked near the bridge on the Vaghodiya village.
The oustees did not allow tourists to go towards the dam, currently overflowing, and being widely propagated as a sight “worth seeing”. The oustees described the dam as their graveyard, because it has allegedly led to the submergence of their lands, taking away their livelihood.
The rally follows a relay fast at the Kevadiya Colony, continuing since July 15. As many as 80 to 100 oustees would sit on the relay fast daily. Yet, none of the officials of the state government, responsible for managing the dam, came for talks with them.
The protest demonstration comes in the wake of Gujarat government on the verge of completing the Narmada dam. While the 30-odd gates on the dam have been installed, dam oustees in Madhya Pradesh fear wide-scale submergence once the gates are closed.
NBA believes that at least 15,000 dam oustee families remain to be resettled, while Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra government contend that virtually all the dam oustees have been resettled. Gujarat is being projected by officials as an example of ideal resettlement of dam oustees.
NBA, in a statement, has claimed that there were in all about 3,000 people, who were protesting on the road. The 150 arrested oustees were taken to the police station, but others did not budge and continued with their protest.
According to NBA, in 1980, the oustees of the Narmada dam belonging 19 villages of the neighbouring state, Madhya Pradesh were forced to resettle in Kevadiya colony's resettlement sites. “Though they were uprooted from their culture and environment, they continued their struggle, because it was a forcible resettlement”, it said.
NBA further said, “Even 36 years after they were resettled, the Narmada dam oustees have not been provided with all the basic benefits which have been provided to other oustee families of the Narmada dam in Gujarat, one reason why they were forced to decide on sitting on dharna in front of the resettlement office of Kevadiya colony.”

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