Bengaluru students hold solidarity meet in support of Narmada Bachao Andolan

Students from Azim Premji University, Bengaluru gathered at their campus on September 17th to extend support to the struggle of Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA). What is happening to the 178 villages in Madhya Pradesh, waiting for rehabilitation even as their lands and homes have been submerged while Sardar Sarovar Dam filled to its full reservoir capacity, is one form of structural violence caused by the State. The student-led meeting was held to show solidarity with the project-affected families, who held a rally in Madhya Pradesh’s Barwani district, demanding opening of the dam gates and rehabilitating the oustees.

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the dam in Kevadiya, Gujarat to celebrate ‘Namami Narmada‘ festival, the students in Bengaluru questioned the flaunting of a full dam as a badge of pride. The dam was filled to its capacity ahead of its schedule and coincided with celebrations of Prime Minister Modi’s birthday. He paid a visit to the dam site on his birthday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Sardar Sarovar dam on his birthday. Pic: ANI

To what extent can the State curtail the basic liberties of a community, while claiming to intervene on behalf of the larger society? When does building a dam stop being just an infrastructure project and become a tool for exploitation and marginalization? These were some of the questions that the students tried to raise through the meeting. They expressed their anger and helplessness at the plight of villagers by singing protest songs, folk songs written by adivasis, recital of poems to amplify the voices from these villages. They demanded better accountability from the State towards the project-affected families who are now forced into hardship caused by the loss of home, land and forests.

The refusal of Gujarat Government to open the dam gates and reduce the water-level, coupled with its lack of concern towards thousands of families who are yet to get proper rehabilitation, is a kind of structural violence that has damaging impacts. The displacement of villagers, especially tribals, from their homes and forests that provide them sustenance, is an attack on their culture as they are forcibly assimilated into the mainstream society. An absolute lack of their consent in decision-making process also presents the visible impacts of such decisions. But what remains from explicit view is the loss of livelihood and sickness, hunger, miser, and ill-health that passes down the generations.

The Sardar Sarovar Dam project has been problematic since its beginning. The fact that the water benefits from the project would majorly go to Gujarat while Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra saw their land submerged is conflicting. So is the planning of the project that had almost zero participation or information provided to the affected people. It represents many such projects where basic right to life of certain communities are heavily compromised in a bid to further develop the country.

Students of Azim Premji University during the solidarity meet. Pic: Anjali Rao Koppala

More than 30,000 families, as estimated by the NBA, are waiting for their rehabilitation while the water level has reached its full reservoir level of 138.68 meters. Is it then justifiable that the development of a country should come at the cost of limited population? Where does this place us as citizens of a democratic country? What could be the alternatives? Can such projects move beyond being political symbols of violence? These are some of the questions that we need to answer before we choose which side of history we want to be a part of.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Similar Story

On #PlasticBagFreeDay, here are 5 ways to reduce plastic in your life

These tips are all super basic, and you are probably already doing them if you're at all environmentally-minded. But if you're not, then these are simple to practice but large in impact, so we encourage you to start them today. #1 BYOC/BYOB What's BYOC and BYOB? Bring Your Own Container or Bottle wherever you go. Recently, a Beautiful Bengaluru member calculated that his family of four saved forty plastic bottles by carrying their own steel/copper bottles on a five-day vacation. Think of how many you can save! Most people believe that using disposables is okay as long as they use…

Similar Story

First day, first cut: When salons opened in Chennai after the lockdown

A citizen journalist narrates her experience of getting a hair cut by following the norms of social distancing.

After three months of freedom to grow, my hair needed to be contained. It now formed a curtain over my eyes and glasses. When the government allowed the opening of beauty parlours, I booked myself for a first day, first trim. This was a calculated move. I would be in a place cleaned thoroughly after months of lockdown.  The shop wasn’t quite ready, so I made it “second day, first cut.” The Aadhaar card was mandatory, I heard. Parlours had to check the ID of people they had “beautified” routinely for years? But it made sense. I did look unrecognisable. …