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Rally for Valley begins along Narmada to protest "failure" to develop rehab sites, will visit MP, Maharashtra, Gujarat

By Rahul Yadav*
"We are not on any government's mercy and those in power must understand this. We are cultivating our fields and living in the villages on the banks of Maa Narmada for centuries. She gave us life, and we preserved and nurtured her”, thundered Shyama Bai of Pichodi village during the public meeting at Khalghat, Madhya Pradesh, from where the Rally for the Valley began on the World Environment Day.
Insisting that “nobody can separate us by force or any threat”, Shyama Bai declared, “Doobenge par hatenge nahin (We will choose to drown but not leave Narmada valley), we have said this for three decades, and will continue on our stand".
She was one of the thousands of people who gathered at the rally, whose call was given by the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA). Also participated by about 200 supporters from 15 states as a response to complete failure of the Madhya Pradesh government in completing any resettlement sites, the rally saw participants point towards the officialdom threatening people over the past one month with forced eviction.
The villagers were determined: They would not leave their villages till their demands were met. If they had held on to their ground for three decades then they were ready to hold on and fight for their rights for the next three decades.
NBA leader Medha Patkar said, the government has failed to build 88 resettlement sites in three decades, wondering, whether the government had a magic wand that it would provide all the basic amenities and completely developed settlement sites before July 31, the deadline set by the Supreme Court to resettle the oustees.
Dr Sunilam, a senior activist, said the situation today was similar to war and one couldn’t be silent witness to the “mass murder” planned by the government. “We are talking of two lakh people, which is not a small number”, he said, adding, “It’s a battle for everyone and not for only those affected by the Sardar Sarovar Dam.”
Dr Sunilam asked chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan to personally visit the 88 resettlement sites to see for himself whether the sites were ready.
Environmentalists Dr Soumya Dutta and Chinmay Mishra said, disaster were awaiting to happen in the Valley as it is only people but lakhs of trees and pristine forests which would drown. “The scourge of sand mining and series of dams have already killed the river Narmada”, they underlined.
Others who spoke included Krishna Prasad of the All India Kisaan Sabha, former MP Raju Kheri and MLA Surendra Singh Baghel (Kukshi). Senior activists present on the occasion were Nita Mahadev, Ashok Shrimali, Hansmukhbhai, Jiku Bhai, all from Gujarat; advocate Shiva Kumar from Chennai; Sainaba Teacher from Kerala; Rajendra Ravi, Bhupender Singh Rawat, Nanhu Gupta and Madhuresh Kumar from National Alliance of Movements, Delhi; Sanjeev Kumar and Aashima from Delhi Solidarity, among others.
Participants also included students from Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Film and Television Institute of India, Hyderabad Central University, Jamia Milia Islamia, and Indian Institute of Technology.
The yatra will travel through different villages of Dhar, Kukshi, Badwani, Jhabua in Madhya Pradesh, Nandurbar district of Maharashtra and Narmada district of Gujarat.
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*With Narmada Bachao Andolan

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