Narmada Bachao Andolan and the last 30 years

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The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) activists – villagers affected principally by Sardar Sarovar Dam and also other dams on the river Narmada in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh in India – stand in chin-deep water demanding land to replace land which was submerged after the water level in Omkareshwar and Indira Sagar dams was raised.

Today when almost everything is seen through the lens of ‘development for majority’, a look back at the history of Narmada Bachao Andolan suggests that the sufferings of voiceless minority is often neglected. However, sometimes the resistance of these voiceless become so transcendental that it leaves a blot or sometimes a footnote in the history books of a nation. The credit for Narmada Bachao Andolan goes to personalities like Medha Patkar, Baba Amte and many others. Each person associated with this movement has his or her’s own story to tell. If we look into the last two decades or so, we will see that there comes a date quite often when certain misdoings, injustices and sufferings have in one way or the other dawned upon this weaker section, mainly the people living in settlements across Narmada basin in states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. With each metre increase in height of dams, the number of houses submerged increased exponentially. Though the politicians often talked about rehabilitation of displaced people, this was hardly achieved in letter and in spirit. To add to this, often lethargic forces were used to silence down the protests. At times, these settlers received rays of hope through crucial SC interventions, but ultimately SC too had to rely on official reports only. And it is no rocket science to understand the kind of role governments play in influencing these reports. Thus the judgements succumbed under the weight of this gullible “development for majority” argument. In this sorry state of affairs, as is always the case, it was the poor and the weak who were crucified. These stories are engraved in the history books forever now, and will remind us of our inactions and cruelty for generations to come.

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