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Rallies, hunger strike, demand for self-rule in Narmada Valley villages of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra

By Our Representative
Following demonstrations and meeting in several villages of Madhya Pradesh protesting against the alleged failure to rehabilitate Narmada dam oustees, top anti-dam organization, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), in a statement, has regretted that the state government’s top functionaries, including the chief minister and his ministers, appeared to think that the World Indigenous Day, which it celebrated a week ago, was a religious festival.
NBA accused them of  spending crores of rupees, "even as the question of ‘self-rule’ is being categorically denied to adivasis". NBA said, “Part IX of the Indian Constitution states that in spite of any other article or section, there will be independent administration for tribals. Article 243-N clearly states that after the 73rd amendment of the Constitution in 1992 any laws of states contrary to it will not be applicable after 1993.”
It added, “After the 73rd amendment came the Panchayati Raj (Extension to Schedule Areas) Act (PESA Act) in 1996, which was an addition to the Panchayati Raj Act 1993. But instead of extending the special powers given to villagers and panchayats to adivasi gramsabhas, their rights are being crushed. PESA is in cold storage.”
According to NBA, “States, including Madhya Pradesh, are rejecting the claim and ownership of adivasi gramsabhas to natural resources and right to participation in development planning of those resources. Widespread exploitation of natural resources are being undertaken without due process, consultation and consent of gram sabhas.”
Pointing out that “sonsent is the minimum required by law and still it is not being followed. Even Rules for PESA have not been made in Madhya Pradesh”, NBA regretted that the situation is not very different in other states. Thus, “There is death by starvation of dalit-adivasis in Jharkhand, malnutrition of adivasis of Nandurbar or Melghat (Maharashtra) or the displacement of tribals all over India is a result of this.”
NBA regretted, “In a valley like Narmada, where adivasis co-owned the rivers and mountains for generations, they were not even told of the disastrous consequences of damming the river, let alone rehabilitating them. The Narmada Tribunal in its 10 years of inspection hasn’t even met the tribal representation.”
“Even today”, NBA said, “In hilly areas adivasi homes have been broken by the administration without any hope to gain alternative house plot. After fighting for 33 years adivasis have secured their right to rehabilitation. But after submitting false reports the government wants to exclude thousands of adivasis from rehabilitation benefits.”
“Neither PESA Act, nor rehabilitation, nor prohibition of alcohol sales is being implemented by the state”, NBA said, adding, “The Forest Rights Act is not even implemented in single village situated on the banks of Narmada in Badwani, Alirajpur and Nandurbar districts.”  
“Does the Madhya Pradesh government (or any other) have any right to ‘play empty drums’ in the name of adivasi rights?”, it asked, adding, it wasn’t without reason that on the occasion of the World Indigenous Day, relay hunger strike was undertaken in several of the villages, including “Pichhodi, Avalda, Kasravad, Rajghat, Kukra, Bhilkheda, Bagud, Piplud, Seganv, Dhanora, Nisarpur, Kapadkheda, Kadmal, Bajarikheda, Chikhalda, Gopalpura, Gangli, Kavthi, Bada Barda, Dharampuri, Navdatoli etc.”
As part of the protest, submergence villages hoisted the tricolour on the occasion of Independence Day, and special gram sabhas passed the resolution for the stay of the fake displacement process, NBA said, adding, “Until now, 192 villages and 1 town displaced by the Sardar Sarovar Dam have not been rehabilitated.”
Claiming that 35,000 displaced are yet to be rehabilitated by the Madhya Pradesh government, the Narmada Valley Development Corporation, and the Narmada Control Authority, NBA recalled, “Avalda, Pichhodi, Bagud, Kasravad, Chikhalda and Kaparkheda gram sabhas belong to Scheduled Areas and hence PESA Act is applicable.”
It said, “According to Section 4 of this act prior consultation and consent of gram sabha is mandatory before land acquisition. But since this is not followed in Madhya Pradesh, it is contempt of this law and of the gram sabha. The gram sabhas on August 15, 2018 condemned such an attitude, unanimously passed the resolution to keep the gates of the Sardar Sarovar Dam opened and let river Narmada flow.”

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