Skip to main content

Historic Chikhalda, temples, mosques submerged, activists 'rescue' Gandhi idol

By Medha Patkar
The first farmer of Asia was born in Chikhalda, if one is to believe archaeological researchers. A historic village, 50 percent of its population is of Hindus and 50 percent of Muslims, yet it has always remained peaceful. Chikhalda has struggled to save water, land and people along Narmada river.
Here, farmers would cultivate wheat, cotton and corn on a very fertile land. It had an agricultural produce cooperative society, which ran its own warehouse. This is the place which would give away lakhs of rupeees as insurance premium.
Teak trees, banana cultivation, papaya orchards etc. abounded here. Fisherfolk lived along the bank of Narmada river, doing their fisheries business. On the other end, there were kutcha houses of 100 Dalit families.
There were 36 religious places in Chikhalda, some of them of 10th or 12th century – Neelkantheshwar, Narasimha, Shri Ram temples, to name a few. There were Masjid-e-Pir Dargah and Jamat Khana, also a Jain temple, belonging to the family of the beloved young sarpanch of the village, late Nirmal Kumar Patodi.
There were many government buildings, primary and secondary schools in the village... Children used to get education. Government doctors would compete with their private counterparts to provide best of treatment. Tens of shopkeepers would serve passengers on arrival of buses at the Chikhalda Chowk. The village is known to be supplying milk to nearby villages. Sweets produced here were equally famous.
On the banks of Narmada was situated a temple built by the family of Sakubhai Darbar. The family made its name in banana business. Many poor Bhil Adivasis and Dalits would earn a living working on the fields of cultivators like him.
Khaparkhera is just two kilometres away from Chikhalda. Devrambhai Kanaira, a popular activist of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), would live here. Every NBA activist or supporter would visit him, and none would be allowed to go without having meal. Even archaeologist SB Ora camped here. He was involved in excavation, digging out thousands of years old bird barns, utensils, other paraphernalia. This was widely covered in newspapers.
A spot which is known for hiding treasures of rich human history, Narmada became a point of attraction for well-known historian Romila Thapar, too. She said it needed excavation for 100 long years. There was a time when Narmada would be an attraction of institutions like Archaeological Survey of India, Anthropological Survey of India and Geological Survey of India. But now it attracts only ignorant ministers of Gujarat and the Centre, and their propaganda machinery.
Today Chikhalda is no more, neither farming, nor home. Submerged, only Gandhiji remained seated here. Led by Mohanbhai, the statue was recovered by us from the submerged village by activists with great difficulty.
It was donated by the Ranka Charitable Trust of Rajasthan and was installed in 2018 in the presence of charismatic activists like Sawai Singh of Rajasthan, Vimalbhai of Uttarakhand and Namdev of Gandhi Bhavan in Bhopal. Thousands of people were present at the time of installation of the beautiful statue.
The pillar on which the statue stood was constructed in 1996, when Baba Amte had come here. It is under water. I still remember the blessings of the Baba, which would give me and the struggle all the necessary strength and inspiration. The affectionate short but lovely poems of Tai wouldn’t be heard any more.
This was the spot where a major struggles took place. During one such struggle, the police ran after the agitators. Even Nana Patekar and Maneka Gandhi had come here.
In 2017 all the villagers gathered here during our satyagraha, when we sat on a 17-day fast, followed by 15 days in jail. Not just police force, Chikhalda’s trees and farms were also witness to our non-violent struggle.
Today, Chikhalda stands ravished. Yesterday, when we were recovering Gandhiji’s statue, we saw a Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan board hanging a little way, as also a school building, shops and a temple – all under water. Till date, the idols from the Narasimha Temple and the Neelkantheshwara Temple have not been removed. The Supreme Court order granting Narasimha Temple to the Compensation Committee has been violated. 
We could hear the blast of a signle-storey building, as one of its walls collapsed. We could see hungry 40-50 dogs and 10-20 pigs roaming around on rooftops. Chikhalda’s decades old trees were under water. What will happen tomorrow, nobody knows, especially in this era of climate change. Chikhalda is inundated, and so are its agricultural plots, its beautiful houses. The poor have lost their only dwellings for ever.
However, we succeeded in rescuing the statue of Gandhiji, the perpetual satyagrahi...
---
Free translation from Hindi of the article by tje Narmada Bachao Andolan leader

Comments

TRENDING

Mystery around Gujarat PSU 'transfer' of Rs 250 crore to Canadian firm Karnalyte

By AK Luke, IAS (Retd)*
While returning from a Board meeting of the Oil India Limited (OIL) in Ahmedabad some time in 2012, two officers of the Gujarat State Fertilizers and Chemicals Ltd (GSFC), Nanavaty and Patel,  saw me off at the airport. They said they were proceeding to Canada in connection with a project GSFC had entered into with a company there. As we were running late, I hastily wished them the best.

Savarkar in Ahmedabad 'declared' two-nation theory in 1937, Jinnah followed 3 years later

By Our Representative
One of the top freedom fighters whom BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi revere the most, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, was also a great supporter of the two nation theory for India, one for Hindus another for Muslims, claims a new expose on the man who is also known to be the original proponent of the concept of Hindutva.

J&K continues to be haunted, as parts of India 'degenerate' into quasi-Kashmir situation

By Rajendran Narayanan*, Sandeep Pandey**
“Jab har saans mein bandook dikhe toh baccha kaise bekhauf rahe?” (How can a child be fearless when she sees a gun in every breath?) remarked Anwar, a gardener from Srinagar, when asked about the situation in Kashmir. On November 30, 2019, a walk through an iron gate in a quiet neighbourhood of Srinagar took us inside a public school. It was 11 am when typically every school is abuzz with activity. Not here though.

Indians have made 119 nations their ‘karma bhumi’: US-based Hindu NGO tells Rupani

Counterview Desk
In a stinging letter to Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, the US-based Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR), referring to the report citing his justification for the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) – that “while Muslims can choose any one of the 150 Islamic countries in the world (for residence), India is the only country for Hindus" – has said, he should remember, Hindus have made several countries, including USA, their home.

Dalits rights meet planned on how citizenship law 'negates' Ambedkar's equality focus

By Our Representative
A Dalit rights meet has been planned at the Dalit Shakti Kendra (DSK), Sanand, Ahmedabad district, to discuss implications of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), passed by Parliament on December 10-11, for Dalits, Adivasis and other marginalized sections. Announcing the decision, DSK director Martin Macwan said, the meet would take place on December 25, 2019, at 11.00 am, to commemorate the anniversary of burning of copies of Manusmriti by Dr BR Ambedkar.

What about religious persecution of Dalits, Adivasis, asks anti-CAA meet off Ahmedabad

By Rajiv Shah
A well-attended Dalit rights meet under the banner “14 Pe Charcha” (discussion on Article 14 of the Indian Constitution), alluding to Prime Minister Narendra Modi well-known campaign phrase of the 2014 Parliamentary elections, “chai pe charcha” (discussion over cup of tea), organized off Ahmedabad, has resolved on Wednesday to hold a 14 kilometres-long rally on April 14 to oppose the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), enacted on December 10-11.

'Allow critical thinking': SAARC-sponsored varsity teachers support protesting students

By Our Representative
Teachers of the high-profile South Asian University (SAU), a New Delhi-based international institute sponsored by eight member states of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka – have supported “peacefully protesting students and other citizens” against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019 and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

Upendra Baxi on foolish excellence, Indian judges and Consitutional cockroaches

By Rajiv Shah
In a controversial assertion, top legal expert Upendra Baxi has sought to question India's Constitution makers for neglecting human rights and social justice. Addressing an elite audience in Ahmedabad, Prof Baxi said, the constitutional idea of India enunciated by the Constituent Assembly tried to resolve four key conflicting concepts: governance, development, rights and justice.

Kerala governor turned History Congress into political arena, 'insulted' Prof Irfan Habib

Counterview Desk
In a signed statement, office bearers of the Aligarh Society of History and Archaeology (ASHA), Prof Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi (president), Prof Jabir Raza (vice-president), Prof Manvendra Kumar Pundhir (secretary) and Prof Farhat Hasan (joint secretary), have said that Kerala governor Arif Mohammad Khan had sought to insult veteran historian Prof Irfan Habib, 88, at the 80th session of the Indian History Congress, even as turning it into his “political arena”.