Hundreds of farmers, tribals and fisherpeople on the banks of the Narmada River have vowed to intensify their struggle for their right to life, in a spirited boat rally on Sunday, September 23, marking the conclusion of the programme of Satyagraha at Chikhalda. The Satyagraha against the unjust submergence and displacement was launched on August 5 at Chikhalda and then in Bhitada (Aug. 6) and in Chimalkhedi (Aug. 7).
About 165 boats took out a march from Chhota Barda to Rajghat by the villagers, led by Madubhai, with a slogan that "* jahan zamin doobi hamarri/ paani, machhali kaisi tumhari?*" (when our land is submerged, how the government can claim the fish and water?). Along with the villagers, scores of supporters from different parts of the country, like those from Delhi, Mumbai, Nashik, Pune, Lucknow and elsewhere witnessed the reiteration of the resolve.
The village leader, Gokhru, from Bhadal critised the government for imposing the submergence without any resettlement with land. The veteran leader Jagannath bhai declared that despite the unjust submergence, the villagers would not give up their right over the natural resources in the Narmada valley. The village leaders warned the government that they have been fighting the war for land and their life; and though the programme is concluded, their Satyagraha is still going on.
Khiyali Pavra, a valiant activist from village Domkhedi presided over the brief meeting that held at the conclusion. Veteran educationist from Dhule Dr.M.B. Shah paid glowing tributes to the dogged resistance and struggle by the villagers and the Narmada struggle has become a national character by bringing forth the issues of development, displacement and destitution.
Medha Patkar, dealt with the continuous injustice heaped on the people by the bureaucrats, Prime Minister and other forums of democracy. She decried the betrayal of the people by none other than the Prime Minister and his bur4eaucrats. "The political-bureaucratic establishment wishes to suppress the struggle of the people in the Narmada valley, so that nobody hereafter should resist the global capital usurping the people's rights and resources."
The Satyagraha was continuing with determination despite the submergence and large scale devastation. Despite the *gherao* of police and bureaucratic officials, the government was not able to give the resettlement land to the submergence affected people. However, the people compelled the government record the large scale of destructions of houses, grains, cattle and other belongings along with the damage to the farmlands. The torrential rains accompanied with the increase in the height of the dam up to 119 meters, resulted in waters crossing the 127 meters mark on the dam site on August 7.
The impact of such a massive water pondage was felt up to Nimad in Madhya Pradesh, over 120 kms from the dam site. The Rajghat bridge near Badwani was submerged on August 6. The backwaters of Sardar Sarovar dam submerged almost all villages of Maharashtra and the people lost their cattle, grains and saw their valuable belongings washed away in the swirling waters. The backlash of the submergence waters was such that even those villages which were not supposed to submerge, like Savariya in Maharashtra, were either submerged or became islands. The heavy rains have devastated the new resettlement sites in Maharashtra - Vadchhil and Javda, where the waters of the nullah (streams) entered into the sites.
However there has been no trace of the Government and police help for the submerged people. Instead the Andolan and its supporters are rushing the food grains, medicines and other support. Rather the government machinery was busy in intimidating the hapless people. On August 8, the Maharashtra police 'arrested' about 160 children of *Jeevan Shala* and their teachers and activists when the latter captured the police barge as a mark of protest of unjust submergence. The Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh governments were not at all geared up to face the crisis. The submergence waters washed away the walls and construction of the well-known micro-hydel power project of Bilgaon in Maharshtra, which has been a model of the self-dependent and decentralized development, initiated by the people themselves with the judicious use of the natural resources.
*Ashish Mandloi, Umesh Patidar, Geetanjali*