Is the Aamir Khan affair the spark ?
Narmada, Bhopal, and Campaign Issues * Boycott Aamir Khan ? (Rakesh Sharma, May 27) * Ahmedabad's video libraries boycott Aamir's films (IANS / Indo-Asian? News Service, May 30) * Gujarat ban on Aamir's Fanaa unlawful: NBA (Gargi Parsai, The Hindu, May 30) * Fanaa: Bollywood rallies around Aamir (Deccan Herald News Service, May 30) * Boycott of 'Fanaa' symptom of fanaticism / NBA respects and appreciates those who show social commitment beyond commercial interests and careers (NBA, May 28) * Rowdyism about 'Fanaa' in Gujarat Dangerous for Democracy: No Need to be Apologetic about Opposition to SSP (NAPM, May 28) NARMADA * NBA concerned about Sardar Sarovar Oversight Group's mode of operation / Letter sent to Oversight Group chaired by VK Shunglu raising concerns about undesirable processes (May 29) * Dam panel makes stand clear (Statesman, May 30) * Narmada Dam panel to submit report by mid-June (IANS, The Hindustan Times, May 29) * Update on May 26th Action / Letter to Sonia Gandhi (Shivani Chaudhry, May 29) MUMBAI * We challenge the GoM to prove its changing statistics / Will the poor be compelled to reside at Azad Maidan forever? (NAPM, May 27) All-India * NAPM Convention Expected to Launch Struggle against Usurpation of People's Resources, Rights : Prominent Activists Arrive in City (NAPM, May 29)
From Delhi, Tuesday, May 30, 2006
PLEASE SEND ON
Narmada, Bhopal, and Campaign Issues
"There Is A Fury Building Up Across India" (Arundhati Roy, April 29 – see CDDB 29)
In an essential sense, all movements around big projects (such as the NBA and other movements around the Narmada project) and around industrial disasters (such as Bhopal – and these are by no means the only such movements) are about democracy and democratic space : About the rights of all those affected by such projects and situations to have a direct say in what happens to them, their homes, and their lives. (And by extension, they are struggling for this space on behalf of all of us, most of whom take this space for granted.)
For years, the movements around the Narmada dams – as many such movements – have been struggling to get their voice heard, and also to persuade others, in other walks of life, that the essence of what is affecting them – that is assaulting them – in reality affects and assaults us all; and that this is a common planet, and a common struggle. And that their struggle is not just about a dam, or whatever, but things much deeper, and it is only by all people who are concerned by what is happening speak out and (preferably) speak together, that we can all hope to win.
The Narmada struggles, and the Bhopal movements, more than most, have had some small degree of success in this wider struggle, on both counts. Some people listen to them, and can hear not only the voice of dissent but also the voice of freedom and of democracy. But there has also been a price to pay for this; the NBA and its supporters have had to face repeated repression, most especially in the state of Gujarat where (as also mentioned in CDDB 35), where the Sardar Sarovar Project has been used by politicians since the 1980s not just to demonise the NBA but to terrorise the people of the state into compliance and submission – and whenever possible, also to threaten bully and hold to ransom the rest of the country, as well. A few brave people have been willing to stand up and speak out, and they have always had to face the wrath of the politicians and of the goons they let loose; as has the NBA, so often.
Now, it has happened again, in the case of Aamir Khan, who came to the Delhi dharnas back in April to express solidarity with the Bhopalis (CDDB 19) but stayed on to also do so with the Narmadiyas – and the fire again broke out. What are presumably more rabid and chauvinist Gujratis took his simple statement that all the people of the Narmada valley who are being displaced by the Sardar Sarovar dam deserve proper rehabilitation as being an attack on the project, and have opened a huge campaign in the state to attempt to silence him by boycotting his latest film, Fanaa. And the campaign is spreading, it seems, to all his films (see item 2).
Usually, such battles have been lonely battles for the individuals targeted, because they are often alone or supported only by a few people, often scattered across the country and world. But suddenly we have an entirely new situation : Because Aamir Khan is Aamir Khan – a big film star and an individual who has held his ground, with a powerful producer behind him who is losing a huge amount because of the boycott (item 4). And as result, it would appear that at the moment at least, a very significant proportion not only of the progressive but fringe film world but of the mainstream Bollywood world has come out in support of him – not to support the NBA but to support freedom of speech. The Union Minster Das Munshi has also taken a similar position.
This is significant. If this battle can be fully waged, and fully won, this will be a very significant victory for the freedom of speech but also by extension for the NBA and all such movements. For the first time perhaps, the mainstream has stood up.
But the next step remains : Will the film industry be willing to also speak out in defence of the position that Aamir Khan originally took – that the rights of the people of the Narmada valley to a decent future must be guaranteed and implemented ?
And yet, at the same time, we need to remember that this is only a small part of the larger battle around ‘development’, which continues and must continue – for truth and for rights. See items 7, 10, 11, and 12.
With special thanks this time for many of the stories we have used to Subbu (Subramanya Sastry) and his invention of NewsRack? – see the link below. Go to it; we think you will find it interesting, and useful.
Jai Sen, for CACIM
Note : The CDDB (CACIM Delhi Demos Bulletin) is a digest of material on the struggles that have been going on for twenty and more years, and have recently intensified, in Bhopal, the Narmada valley, and Delhi, for a place to live in security and dignity – and everything that goes with that. The CDDB series started during late March and April 2006, when all three movements were holding protests in Delhi, and with the Bhopal and Narmada movements on ‘dharna’ (sit-down strike) simultaneously at a place called ‘Jantar Mantar’ in the city. See CDDB 1 and 2 for more details on Jantar Mantar and the demos. All back issues of this Bulletin (the CACIM Delhi Demos Bulletin), number 0 onwards, are available @ : http://www.cacim.net/twiki/tiki-view_articles.php?type=article&topic=1 http://www.cacim.net/twiki/tiki-view_articles.php?type=article&topic=1
Disclaimer : The views of the author/s of the articles featured here are not necessarily those of this Bulletin (and vice versa). You may copy and print extracts from this Bulletin for your own personal and non-commercial use only.
Some sites for more information : Go to www.cacim.net http://www.cacim.net and see ‘Newsclippings’ and ‘Links’.
Op-ed / opinion piece on Aamir boycott
Hindustan Times (Bombay), May 26, 2006.
Rakesh Sharma http://rakeshindia.blogspot.com/
On 29.5.06 4:32 pm, "Pooh Sayani" wrote:
Friday, May 26, 2006 is the beginning of yet another chapter in the history of Indian fascism. Aamir Khan is to be boycotted in Gujarat for expressing an opinion about resettlement of the Narmada oustees and the Vadodara violence. He is to be silenced into submission. Saffron-clad, trishul-wielding activists have been on the prowl 'peacefully', persuading theatre owners to not release the film Fanaa. As part of their responsibility towards "5 crore Gujaratis", they will leave no stone, sword or trishul unturned to protect their " swabhimaan and asmita". Just as they did in 2002.
It is not as if attack and intimidation are new tactics now being suddenly unleashed by the BJP. In 2002, NDTV's coverage of the carnage so angered Modi that he ordered a blackout of the Star News signal. Rajdeep Sardesai's vehicle was attacked minutes after he left CM Modi's home. On election day, a mob of party workers surround Barkha Dutt, right outside the BJP office. Two men standing next to my camera start chanting - "strip her, strip her". Barkha has the presence of mind to dash into the party office itself to escape the mob. Many others weren't so fortunate - many print media reporters get beaten up, a TV journalist has his arm broken, News channels have their outdoor broadcast vans ransacked. Their crime: they dared to report the truth as they saw it, refusing to buy the 'party line'.
Fascism feeds on terror. Create a fear psychosis and reap an electoral harvest. Terrorise well-defined targets and send out chilling messages. On Feb 28, 2002, two well-chosen Muslim targets were attacked. Ehsan Jafri, the Congress leader who had campaigned against Modi in Rajkot and Prof J S Bandukwala, noted civil liberties activist and a known critic of the politics of hate. Jafri was hacked to death; the professor somehow escaped, [though his home was destroyed by the very people who invited him to deliver the Savarkar Memorial lecture on Feb 26, 2002]. The message: If Bandukwala with his 'national and international' contacts and Jafri as an ex-member of Parliament with his 'Delhi' connections can't even save themselves, no Muslim is safe. Post-carnage, many in Gujarat raise their voice to appeal for peace and justice. Again a target is chosen - Mallika Sarabhai. The message: if old-money, connected families like the Sarabhais can be persecuted, don't you dare speak against us!
Post -2002 Gujarat is already witnessing segregation in schools. Women and school-going children are afraid of crossing the 'border'. Ghettos have sprung up in cities, small towns and villages. Jobless youth often speak of how H-class gets all jobs while M-class (Muslims) don't. My film Final Solution records an impassioned pracharak exhorting the crowds - "buy only from Hindu shops and ride only on Hindu rickshaws". Non-Hindu? police officers find it tough to get executive assignments; conscientious IPS officers who prevented bloodshed in their districts cool their heels in punishment postings. Hindu girls marrying Muslim men either get 'rescued' by Babu Bajrangi and his troops or get killed, like Geetaben or Bhartiben. VHP leaders suggest benignly, "Muslims are our younger brothers; they must respect the elders and then they will get their rights". Other hindutva activists are content with much simpler solutions - Muslims should have no right to vote, compulsory sterilisation of Muslim men at the birth of the second child, banning of Hindu-Muslim? marriages, jail terms for the person converting to Islam and the Moulvi who aids him or the ultimate solution - Muslims must leave India and go to Pakistan. Echoes of Nazi Germany?
Gandhi's Sabarmati Ashram symbolises the crisis of our times. In 2002, its gate were shut to Muslims seeking shelter. It is here that Medha Patkar was dragged by her hair, in full view of journalists and video cameras, in police presence, by a valiant youth called Amit Thakkar. Now, in his avataar as a BJP Yuva Morcha leader, he thunders, "Aamir Khan has insulted the five crore population of Gujarat by supporting Medha Patekar (sic)...Then he made nasty comments about chief minister Narendra Modi. There is no place for any anti-Gujarati in Gujarat". His national President, Dharmendra Pradhan is even more belligerent, determined to prevent any Aamir film, old or new, from being screened in Gujarat. BJP's national leadership declines comment. Says Arun Jaitley, "The party has nothing to do with the campaign.”. He fails to condemn the politics of intimidation and fear unleashed by his own partymen in Gujarat. But, then, why should Jaitley, former Law Minister, stand up for Article 19 of the Indian constitution guaranteeing freedom of speech or Article 25 concerning freedom of conscience and free profession?
Enjoy your rights, but very quietly. Raise any questions and earn the sobriquet - "Enemies of Gujarat or Hindutva"! Hitler, Himmler, Goebbels would have smiled in approval. Senator McCarthy? would have chomped on his fat cigar to suggest a House un-Gujarati activities committee to investigate all the enemies of Gujarat. If Charlie Chaplin, Arthur Miller and Dashiel Hammet could be persecuted, why not Aamir Khan?
Manubhai Patel of the Gujarat Multiplex Owners' Association says, "There is no political pressure, we have done it voluntarily". Single-screen cinema owners issue ads in newspapers on May 23, promising a release of the film. By the evening, a TV channel reports that they too have 'voluntarily' joined the boycott. The Gujarat Druggists and Chemists Association wants to boycott all products being endorsed by Aamir Khan. Leaders from the Congress wonder "why is Aamir talking about political issues?" V K Malhotra and Shatughan Sinha of BJP ask Aamir to apologise.
Aamir's crime? He suggested that Narmada oustees must be rehabilitated. Is there anyone in India or among the allegedly deeply offended "5 crore Gujaratis", who believes that the people of Narmada valley have no rights? That their homes and livelihoods should be destroyed as soon as possible, without resettling them? That their villages and towns must be flooded immediately by raising the height of the dam so that the people of Gujarat can benefit? That the Narmada protestors can and must exchange their fertile lands for distant, barren plots? That their children can and should grow up in an urban slum of their choice? That their women have the option of working as maids, bargirls and prostitutes in any city of their choice within and outside Gujarat?
Imagine a government notification to set up solar power substations or rainwater harvesting reservoirs to meet power and water shortage in our cities, acquiring all of Greater Kailash in Delhi, Mylapore in Chennai, Jubilee Hills in Hyderabad, Vile Parle in Mumbai or Paldi in Ahmedabad. Imagine the furore. The 24/7 media coverage. The Residents' welfare associations demonstrating. The flood of court cases, frayed tempers and street-level skirmishes and finally, politicians making soothing noises. Do the people of Narmada valley not have the same rights as you and I in the urban middle class? Ironically, the state and central governments display remarkable haste in legalising illegal constructions in Delhi and Ulhasnagar through ordinances, bypassing the legal system completely. Should the State be selective? Isn't welfare of all its people its obligation? Why does it bend to accommodate law-breakers in our cities while ruthlessly evicting its villages and tribal hamlets? Should we raise our voice against such blatant and partisan injustice? If your answer is no, then we might as well toll the death knell of our Democracy. If yes, then that's precisely what Aamir has done!
Politics of intolerance marks Hindutva fascism, just as it did in Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Attacks on intelligentsia, too, are another common ground. Stormtroopers vandalise libraries, institutions and art exhibitions routinely. Party members in censor boards merrily ban and mutilate films or harass film-makers. The BJP is only following a time-tested pattern - intimidate any independent voice into silence!
Though Hema Malini, Dharmendra, Vinod Khanna and other TV or film stars within the BJP failed to speak against the Gujarat carnage, I hope they will at least respond to this full-scale assault on a Bollywood colleague. A suggestion already doing the rounds is for the entire film industry to stop releasing new films in Gujarat. Others caution about rampant piracy - with the State looking the other way; DVDs for Fanaa are already on offer for Rs 160 in Ahmedabad . Will the Shahrukhs and Hrithiks, Subhash Ghais and Boney Kapoors of the film industry stand up and be counted when it matters? Or is the Bollywood family just a big myth, concocted for money-spinning awards nights and glitzy extravaganzas on foreign shores?
Finally, let's turn to another voice from history - Julius Caesar. "Beware the leader who bangs the drum of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind. And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded patriotism will offer up all of their rights unto the leader, and gladly so. How do I know? For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar." Just substitute the term patriotism for Gujarati Asmita or Swaabhimman!
Will we refuse to learn lessons from history and fail to protest? The Gujarat BJP's message is loud and clear - "shut up or else..."
(The author is an independent film-maker and can be contacted through www.rakeshfilm.com http://www.rakeshfilm.com )
Tuesday May 30 2006 01:10 IST
The Hindu, Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Deccan Herald, May 30 2006
DH News Service Mumbai:
With Fanaa producer Yash Chopra losing Rs one crore [175,500 euros] a day due to a virtual ban on the film in Gujarat, Bollywood on Monday closed ranks behind the movie's lead actor Aamir Khan in his stand-off against the BJP over his remarks on the Narmada dam and gave the exhibitors in that state a deadline till Friday to release the film.
The Association of Motion Pictures and Television Programme Producers (AMPTPP) and Film and Television Producers’ Guild of India (FTPGI), the two representative bodies of the Bollywood, jointly held a news conference here to back Aamir Khan.
The press conference was attended by film-makers David Dhawan, Ashutosh Gowarikar, Sudhir Mishra, J P Dutta, Ramesh Sippy, Vashu Bhagnani, Sajid Nadiadwala, Vipul Shah, Kunal Kohli, Manmohan Shetty and Aziz Mirza, among others. Actor Anil Kapoor and former Censor Board chairperson Anupam Kher too spoke out in support of Aamir.
Freedom to dissent
AMPTPP President Pahlaj Nihlani and FTPGI Chairman Amit Khanna told mediapersons that the film industry was behind Aamir Khan and everybody should respect the freedom to dissent.
“Aamir Khan has said nothing which is detrimental to the interests of the country or Gujarat and he has clarified his position several times in the last one month,” they said and set a deadline till Friday to the exhibitors in Gujarat to screen the film. “We cannot tolerate injustice being meted out to the film industry. If the film is not exhibited in Gujarat by Friday, we should not be blamed for the consequences,” Mr Nihlani said. He, however, refused to divulge the future course of action.
The exhibitors in Gujarat, particularly owners of multiplexes, have refused to screen Fanaa due to Aamir’s comments on the rehabilitation of oustees of Narmada dam, a project which is considered as the lifeline of Gujarat. The BJP youth wing in the state too has declared a ban on the film.
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who has made no comments on the issue so far, has reportedly refused to intervene in the matter.
The state BJP unit has demanded an apology from Aamir Khan, but the actor has stuck to his guns.
Mr Khanna criticised the Gujarat government and said the primary duty of the government was to give protection to life and property of individuals. He said the exhibitors in the state were being threatened against screening the film. Both of them were of the view that Aamir need not apologise for his comments.
Fanaa producer Yash Chopra said he was losing Rs one crore daily because of the “unofficial ban” imposed on his film in Gujarat. He denied media reports that Aamir Khan had asked him to cut his fee by Rs two crore in view of the losses suffered, and said he has already paid Aamir. “The issue is not about money, but about public morality and ethics,” Mr Chopra said. He recalled that he sent prints of Fanaa to exhibitors in Gujarat. “But they called me last week asking what to do since they were getting threatening calls against screening the film. I told them to do what they feel like. They should not feel that they had to suffer because of screening of my film,” he said.
Mr Chopra met Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi over the weekend during the latter's visit to Mumbai. During that meeting, Mr Dasmunsi assured him that he would talk to the Gujarat government. In fact, Mr Dasmunsi made a brief statement flaying the ban on Fanaa in Gujarat.
“I can only say that it will be an injustice to art and (we should) let the people decide on the film,” Mr Dasmunsi had stated.
On 28.5.06 11:50am, "firstname.lastname@example.org" wrote:
NBA CONDEMNS GUJARAT'S FANATIC BAN ON 'FANAA' AND SUPPORTS AMIR KHAN'S STAND
The boycott of the film 'Fanaa' of Amir Khan, declared by the BJP Yuva Morcha and hesitatingly yet supported by Gujarat Congress, is nothing but fanatics!
These kind of intimidatory tactics are used by Gujarati politicians out of timidity and intolerance because they realise civil society's strength and support to Narmada Bachao Andolan, especially that of eminent persons joining us. This ban is an unlawful action. Since the Censor Board has cleared the film already, no political forum can go against it, and if it does, a legal action may also be initiated. Moreover, such a move against the freedom of speech and expression is against the Constitution and democratic values. But who will take a suo motto cognizance and act, is a question. When there is none amongst the various organs and agencies of the State that could take a position to stop work at the dam that would drown and doom the homes and hearts, farms and shops of thousands of families, can one expect anyone to stand by and support Amir Khan?
The Narmada Bachao Andolan and our allies in the National Alliance and struggle, condemn the intolerance and violence reflected in the propaganda and the rowdy actions by a section of the political forces in Gujarat. We appreciate Amir Khan's committed position on 'no displacement without rehabilitation' as a non-negotiable and his readiness to bear the brunt. May we expect not only Bollywood artists or activists all over but also the common people to take a stance in supporting both Amir Khan and the people in the Narmada valley struggling for life against death and devastation.
The NBA has experienced similar violent outbreaks, mostly instigated by vulgar politics, throughout its 20 years long struggle. Some of these include: the attack on the conference on water in Ahmedabad; the harassment and compelled withdrawal of signature on a memorandum favouring review of the project, by none else but P. G. Mavlankar, former MP; the attack on eminent dancer Malika Sarabhai; the forced return of the former Chairman, Commission for SC/ST from the Narmada Valley; the attack during a post-riot peace meeting in Sabharmati Ashram on Medha Patkar and media persons; as well as, not one but three violent and destructive attacks on the NBA office in Baroda. The policing, harassment, intimidation and threat as well as defamatory statements against NBA have continued till date. We, however, remain on our path to just and equitable development and join in solidarity with all those individuals and movements who share the cause.
Amir Khan, we believe, is one of those, not just celebrities but concerned citizens and creative artists who have shown a social commitment beyond commercial interests and careers. They have paid a cost with courage and joined NBA, even in critical periods. They include Arundhati Roy, Vijay Tendulkar, Sadashiv Amrapurkar, Shabana Azmi, Shriram Lagoo, and others from painters to dramatists and artists. They carry forward the long tradition of pro-people sensitive artists in the country. We are proud of them. They have never even tried to capture dais, why talk about the movement? We know each other's roles, which are complementary yet interlinked.
We know that the opposition to Fanaa, which is fanatical and fundamentalist, is somewhat similar to the communal outbreak and failure of the state in Gujarat. Whether in the name of religion or development, intolerance is unacceptable. The people of Gujarat, the birthplace of Mahatma and Sardar both, cannot condemn or kill differing viewpoints, especially on issues related to development. What Amir Khan has said is the basic minimum as endorsed by the law and judgments related to Sardar Sarovar for years. What is pushed and imposed, the dam construction up to 122 metres, is indeed illegal, unconstitutional and inhuman, and hence must stop and must be questioned. The common people in Gujarat and outside cannot but support the people in the Valley who deserve a right to life. They also have a right to know and judge the project on every aspect, including the benefits and economics. The people of Kutch have already challenged the State, asserting their share, and rightly so. We therefore expect the people across the country to join this struggle for freedom, democracy and truth.
Medha Patkar, Dipti Bhatnagar, Kamala Yadav, Pinjaribai, Om Prakash, Jankibai, Clifton Rozario, Ashish Mandloi, Yogini Khanolkar, Kailash Awasya, Noorjibhai, Banabhai, Chetan, Mohanbhai
On 28.5.06 11:34am, "email@example.com" wrote:
NATIONAL ALLIANCE OF PEOPLE'S MOVEMENTS
C/o Chemical Mazdoor Sabha, A wing, First Floor, Haji Habib Building, Naigaon
Cross Road, Dadar (E), Mumbai ˆ 400 014.
Ph. 022-2415-0529/2536-9724; email:firstname.lastname@example.org
May 28, 2006
The antics by the Bharatiya Janata Party workers in Gujarat to withhold forcibly the showing of actor Aamir Khan's new movie 'Fanaa' is a grim reminder of the increasing intolerance and fascism in public life and state support for such antics. It is also a dangerous trend to suppress the freedom to express dissenting opinions and the freedom to organize or for democratic opposition. It is against the Constitutional and national values of India.
It will be suicidal to the Bharatiya Janata Party to endorse such totalitarian tendencies in Narendra Modi's Gujarat. The BJP is expected to act in a more responsible and mature way as a political party in a democracy. We appreciate the firm stand taken by actor Aamir Khan for not bowing before this fascism. Though we appreciate the statement by the Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Mr. Dasmunshi about the freedom of expression, he need not give explanation about the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) to the Gujarat government and the perpetrators of such threats. It implies that the intolerance would be all right if someone had taken objection to the Sardar Sarovar dam.
Precisely this is the crux of the matter. Has it become illegitimate in India to oppose a supposed 'development project' and argue against it? Is it wrong to have a struggle against displacement, large dams and for resettlement and rehabilitation? The Narmada Bachao Andolan, along with thousands of prominent people, journalists, social-political workers and organizations in Gujarat and across India have questioned the SSP, as it is not the solution for Gujarat's water problem and would destroy the democratic and human rights of our own country people. It is an open secret that the Gujarat government has failed to tap even 10% of the water that was available at 110.64 metres height of the dam, and that the dam itself is driving Gujarat towards financial bankruptcy. We also hold such projects, policies and paradigms of development as anti-people, anti-national, and against sane and human development.
All these years, despite differences of opinion, holding such views posed no problems. But the SSP is being pushed ahead on the basis of repressive and fascist tactics, and by silencing critics and opponents. These anti-democratic and chauvinistic tendencies are dangerous for Gujarat and for the country. People's movements and democratic and progressive forces in Gujarat and India are against such tendencies. We are sure that the common people in Gujarat are not perturbed over the SSP issue and their suspicion about the project only grows with such antics by a few unruly pro-dam groups.
Sanjay Sangvai Sanjay M.G. Medha Patkar
On 29.5.06 12:47 pm, "email@example.com" wrote:
29 May 2006
Narmada Bachao Andolan
In spite of the long struggle by the people in the Narmada Valley and the nation wide support, the work at the Sardar Sarovar Dam site continues. Refusing to intervene with the authority and the responsibility granted by the Supreme Court in its major judgement of 2000, the Prime Minister kept silent, bypassed the report by three ministers who visited the Valley in April, and refused to take a stance on the obvious situation of displacement of thousands of adivasi and farmer families, with submergence without rehabilitation, allowing the dam height to be raised to 122 metres. The ongoing construction of the dam is thus going to be fatal for the Valley where farms and houses are to surely face devastation with the coming monsoon, the number being dependent on the rainfall and likely to reach anywhere up to 35, 000 as per the official contour maps.
The only initiative by the PM office and all authorities allied with them has been to appoint a committee led by Mr. VK Shunglu, the former CAG of India. The committee of three former bureaucrats with its limited term of reference, not without contradictions, is to conclude on compliance with the resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R) policies and Court orders by 30th of June, that is not before the onset of monsoon and without questioning the impending threat of submergence. The Supreme Court unfortunately avoided any order ensuring compliance, for example suspension of dam work till rehabilitation, referring to nothing else but the Shunglu Committee and its upcoming work.
Large number of our supporters must have felt relieved that someone is looking into the ground level reality. However, the NBA oustees and activists had to be cautious and assess carefully the survey work by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) during the first few days itself. Our findings gathered from different villages where the survey teams had reached, are certainly not very promising but rather shocking. While you watch and remain concerned about peoples’ struggle and the response of the State, we forward to you our letter to the committee and NSSO, which speaks for itself.
Please do remain active in raising the issue, condemning the betrayal by the State and the courts. Do join us by writing to the committee and spread the message to other people.
Write to the Prime Minister, Sonia Gandhi, the President, condemning the lack of intervention against such a serious situation. You could also write to Mr. Shunglu with your own thoughts and advice.
Medha Patkar, Ashish Mandloi, Dipti Bhatnagar, Deoram Kanlera, Pema Bapu, Mohan Patidar, Ranvir Singh, Kailash Awasya
Please see the following letter sent to the Sardar Sarovar Oversight Group chaired by Mr. V K Shunglu
Narmada Bachao Andolan
• 62 Gandhi Marg, Badwani, Madhya Pradesh 451551. Ph: 07290-222464
• c/o B-13 Shivam Flats, Ellora Park, Baroda, Gujarat 390023. Ph: 0265-2282232
• Maitri Niwas, Tembewadi, Dhadgaon, dist. Nandurbar, Maharashtra. Ph: 02595-220620
26th May 2006
Mr. Shunglu, Chairman
Prof. Chadha & Mr. Jayprakash Narain, Members
Sardar Sarovar Oversight Group
We, my colleagues and I, have since the last few days been witnessing and assessing the survey work being carried out by the NSSO teams under the aegis of the Oversight Group (OSG), in the Sardar Sarovar affected villages of Nimad region, Madhya Pradesh. In spite of the inherent contradictions in the Committee's Terms of Reference, which we have already pointed out, we have been open to and dialogued with this Committee, and have cooperated with the process. However, some serious concerns have arisen out of the field-level experience and surveys of the last three days. We felt it is imperative to bring these to your notice immediately, in order for you to take corrective action, so that these issues do not undermine this entire process and the credibility of your effort.
These issues must be immediately considered and a serious review of the research (survey) methodology to the practical issues on the ground must be undertaken; otherwise the Committee and its whole survey exercise through the NSSO will be flawed and fruitless, and even incorrect. The truth will escape the endeavour, and the project affected people, in lakhs, who will anyway face devastation and destitution in the coming monsoon, will not be given justice through this Committee either. We, therefore, would like to express our strong feelings about certain undesirable processes, which would lead to unacceptable conclusions.
With all this witnessed, we feel strongly that an urgent meeting with all of you is essential and a review of the research tools, with due transparency, is a must. It is also necessary that if at all official agencies are involved, we, the PAFs’ representatives, also should be meeting the senior persons regularly.
The Committee members themselves must first visit the field at the earliest and understand the complex issues and situation, including the legal basis and the same must be reflected into the interview schedules/questionnaires.
Each family will have to be interviewed on all aspects at the same time as against what is told to them, the left out persons will be talked to later as a second phase of the survey.
We, therefore, feel with utmost seriousness our concern and doubts about the on-going work which can’t be relied upon unless the methodology is reviewed by a peer group of researchers. If you think other ways can be used to correct these glaring problems, we would welcome the same. Without all this and with a faulty survey, if the dam is going on, the Oversight Group will only be left to endorse the official position and be seen as a conspiracy by the State to avoid getting themselves exposed.
Awaiting your response urgently,
Dr. K.V. Rao
National Sample Survey Organisation
May 30 2006
NEW DELHI, May 29: The three-member committee headed by the former CAG, Mr VK Shunglu, set up by the Prime Minister to look into relief and rehabilitation of Narmada dam oustees has rejected apprehensions that it is going by the feedback given by the Madhya Pradesh government. It said that people to be rehabilitated could be much higher than the 18,000 families estimated by the MP government.
Mr Shunglu told reporters that the survey of 177 villages would be complete by 10 June. “We are confident that we would be able to meet the deadline of 30 June to submit our report to the Supreme Court,” said another member of the panel, Dr GK Chadda, former vice-chancellor of JNU.
The committee members said field enquiry was not yet complete. “Of the 18,000 dispersed families, 14000 families only have house as property and not land. We have acquired about 21,000 acres of land for rehabilitation and for the dam,” said Mr Shunglu. He said 86 resettlement sites have been identified by the government. Mr Shunglu said the committee has been entrusted to conduct sample surveys to ascertain the status of rehabilitation and gather facts relating the families affected by submergence, families who have not received relief and rehabilitation package accoriding to norms, checking and verifying if alternative land was offered to the oustees and whether it is true that those who did not take land voluntarily refused to do so.
The committee has also been asked to recommend a system to make sure that all families to be affected by submergence when the dam height is increased to 121.92 metres, receive relief within three months as mandated by by the Narmada Award, the Supreme Court and the Grievances Redressal Authority of the MP government.
NBA decries Fanaa boycott: The Narmada Bachao Andolan while appreciating film star Aamir Khan’s concern for the people displaced by the Narmada Dam, has termed as a symptom of fanaticism the BJP’s boycott of his film Fanaa in Gujarat over the issue.
“The boycott of Fanaa by the BJP Yuva Morcha is nothing but a symbol of fanaticism,” the NBA said today. Describing the ban in the state as an unlawful action, the NBA said as the censor Board had cleared the film, no political forum could go against it and if it did, action should follow. The film federation of India also said today that the Gujarat government should intervene and “render justice”.
The Congress today flayed the Gujarat BJP for the continuing unofficial ban on the Aamir Khan-starrer, Fanaa, in the state, but defended its state government for banning the film, Da Vinci Code, in Punjab.
The Hindustan Times
New Delhi, May 29, 2006
The three-member expert group set up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to review the rehabilitation of families affected by the Sardar Sarovar Dam project would most likely submit its report by mid-June.
"We will be able to complete validation of surveys in 8-10 days, the process for which will start around June 6. In addition, we will be taking 10 days to verify resettlement facts, which would start from June 1," former Comptroller and Auditor General VK Shunglu, who heads the group, said.
The Prime Minister had set up the Sardar Sarovar Project Relief and Rehabilitation Oversight Group following protests launched by the project-affected families led by Medha Patkar of the Narmada Bachao Andolan.
The team, which includes GK Chadha, former vice chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Jai Prakash Narayan, convener of NGO Loksatta, had been given three months to complete its study with as many as 7,000 complaints having been received from displaced families.
With plans underway to further increase the height of the dam to 139 metres, around 182 villages will be affected, while about five uninhabited villages will be totally submerged, said Shunglu.
The expert group revealed that of the 4,200 families who would be affected, only 400 families have accepted land compensation, while the remaining have opted for the special relief package.
"All this information is being verified. Of the 177 villages to be surveyed, we have so far covered 99 villages. Over the next few weeks we hope to complete 100 percent enumeration. We are deploying over 50 teams from the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) to do the verification," Narayan said.
Six more teams have been formed to check the civic amenities provided at the 86 rehabilitation sites in Madhya Pradesh.
Group members said that the Madhya Pradesh government had earmarked 8,000 acres for rehabilitation against a requirement of 21,000 acres of land.
On 29.5.06 3:18 pm, "Shivani Chaudhry" wrote:
As those of you who were there know, we left Sonia Gandhi's residence on Friday 26 May, only after her office assured us that we would definitely be given an appointment with her on Saturday 27th.
However, on the 27th morning, we received a call saying that it was not possible for her to meet with us.
This is a complete breach of our trust and betrayal of her officer's word.
As discussed with some of you, I sent this letter to her this morning, along with the letters that all of you wrote.
Let's see what happens.
Thanks to everyone who came on Friday! It was a successful action, for whatever it was worth. And we got some media coverage, including a PTI release.
I have pasted the text of the letter that I sent Mrs. Gandhi. Will keep you posted if I hear back from her office.
Mrs. Sonia Gandhi
President, Congress Party
29 May 2006
Dear Mrs. Gandhi,
A group of Delhi-based supporters of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (under the banner Delhi Solidarity Group for NBA) came to 10, Janpath on Friday 26 May, to personally deliver letters written by citizens of the country. We came to appeal to you to use your moral, ethical and political powers to intervene and take a stand to save the lives of more than 35,000 families in the Narmada Valley who face imminent submergence in the upcoming monsoon.
The UPA government and the Congress Party have silently supported the illegal construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam, thereby violating not just the Supreme Court’s orders of 2000 and 2005 but moreover the human and constitutional rights of the people.
The issue is dire and critical, and time is not on our side. The early onset of the monsoons and the ongoing rise of the dam height spells death and doom for the Narmada Valley’s thousands of adivasi and farmer families. Which is why we had to resort to come to your doorstep with our demand for justice.
Secretary, Grievances, Mr. Manish Chatrath from your office, assured us an appointment with you on 27 May. On Saturday 27 May, however, he informed us that this was not going to be possible. This is nothing less than a complete betrayal of his word and a breach of our trust. We had come to deliver these letters to you, and did not leave them behind because we were promised an appointment with you. With your office backtracking on its word, however, we have no option but to send you these letters written by various citizens of conscience.
It is sad that the alliance of the BJP and Congress Party led by Ahmed Patel in Gujarat continues to influence the Centre and prevents you from taking a just decision in favour of democracy and human rights.
It is with extreme disappointment and a feeling of betrayal that I write this letter, on behalf of the many people’s organisations and movements who are fighting for justice and human rights, not just in the Narmada Valley, but across the country.
I still hope that you will agree to meet with us and will act exigently in support of the people.
On 27.5.06 6:34 pm, "firstname.lastname@example.org" wrote:
26 May 2006
Today a delegation of slum dwellers and activists met Principal Secretary Housing, Shri N. Rama Rao; also present were Additional Collectors, City and Eastern & Western Suburbs, and representatives of MMRDA. The meeting was held to protest against and discuss the demolition of slums including Mandala, Mankhurd (5000 houses), and Love Dale, Colaba, irrespective of High Court orders. The plan and irregularities and illegalities in using the Mandala plot for rehabilitation of PAPs of Mithi River Development was also discussed.
On 18.06.2005, Deputy Secretary, Housing Department had filed an affidavit in High Court, Mumbai, stating that according to them 5645 households had come during 1995 and 2000 and they were eligible for rehabilitation. A survey to identify these families was once again carried out after a decision taken jointly by the Mumbai Pradesh Congress Committee and the Chief Minister in June 2005, after much struggle by Mumbai’s ousted poor, in Mumbai and Delhi.
However, by now 130 slum dwellers have been allotted house plots at Mandala and about 300 at Ambujwadi, i.e. out of 5645, only less than 500 have been rehabilitated. The authorities have to be answerable not only to the High Court but also to the people. Why only this many? the delegation asked, and the reply was: others have returned back to their native places. This was categorically denied by us. The Andolan activists and NAPM had complained about the flaws and corruption in the survey of 1995-2000 carried out, and an unacceptably small number of families declared eligible. The Principal Secretary has agreed, after much debate, to provide a list of these 5645 eligible slum dwellers, which according to the officials themselves would be difficult to find. Whether the figures submitted to High Court were false and misleading or the eligible families have been denied their entitlements and made to face illegal demolition, the Andolan will be looking into the matter and bringing o incomplete
MMRDA officials informed the delegation that the Mandala plot is intended to be used for the temporary resettlement of the dealers in scrap material, evicted under Mithi River project. But they had no answers to the questions as to how can the commercial units be Œtemporarily‚ resettled and that too on a plot which falls in ŒNo Development Zone‚ (NDZ) and Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ)? Such a step by Governmental Authorities is questionable, not only legally but also morally; since on one hand they are pushing the Mithi River project as environmentally sustainable, and on the other, misusing NDZ and CRZ. Such illegalities will be challenged by the slum dwellers and activists through legal course as well as by taking to street actions.
We made it clear that the State Government must immediately stop this move of pitting the poor against the poor, violating social norms and legal provisions both.
On questioning about the report of the Committee on housing policy, which was to recommend a policy to ensure housing for every citizen, taking into consideration the migrant poor as well, the Principal Secretary said that it is still pending. If it is so, evictions must stop and the people should be allowed to stay till an alternative is provided. Why is the state government not using the plots reserved for Housing the Dishoused, which are occupied by shopping malls and builders‚ townships? we asked. There was no answer.
The Mithi River Development project is totally based on a land-grabbing mission and as such there is no Plan, the reports are still to come, even the relevant plan documents are not being provided under Right to Information Applications. The on-going work clearly shows that the real motives are to remove the poor and grab the land under them. The real culprits, be it the Renaissance Hotel constructed right in the middle of the Powai lake, or the construction going on at Drive-in theatre near Mahim Causeway, or the Taxi bay construction by the Airport Authority of India, are not being held responsible but being absolved and protected.
The legal and human rights violations by the authorities who are backed not only by the local builders and politicians, but by International funding agencies like the World Bank, is creating havoc not only with the lives of the poor, but is also affecting society at large. The suspension by the World Bank of loans to the Government of Maharashtra proves that their policies and agreements too are violated, and now the state government is most desirous of changing the lending agency and thereby trying to weaken the policy on Resettlement & Rehabilitation. But the experience with the World Bank can also be repeated in the case of other multilateral and bilateral funding institutions, if the government is not implementing and following its own policies, and being sensitive to the needs of its poor citizens, especially the development-project affected, whose number is multiplying every year.
Mandala and Mithi river displacement is the test case for the state government if it desires to shop in the open global market for further finance and support.
Medha Patkar Mohan Chavan Raj Awasthi Simpreet Singh
On 29.5.06 4:17 pm, "Initiative India" wrote:
Press Release/ May 29, 2006
Sandeep Pandey, Aruna Roy to Participate / Special Lectures by P. Sainath, L.C. Jain
As the prominent activists of people's movements started arriving in Bangalore for the 5 th Bi-annual National Convention of the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), the movements are preparing to launch a national people's movement against the policies that leads to the destitution, displacement and inequality along with the onslaught of the privatization, neo-liberalization and globalisation. Preparations have been finalized to hold the convention at the Workers' Training Centre (Nandidurg Road, Bangalore), that will be starting of from Wednesday (May 30). It will continue on May 31 and conclude on June 1. The three day convention will conclude with "People's Rally for People's Rights" on June 1, 2006 at 4:00 pm from Shivaji Nagar Stadium to Mahatma Gandhi Statue.
Representatives of organizations struggling against the urban, rural, and workers' displacement, from Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Delhi to W.Bengal, Kerala, Karnataka and Tamilnadu, those opposing the privatization and national or multinational corporates like Coca Cola in Plachimada (Kerala) or Varanasi (U.P.) or Rajasthan and Maharashtra, fisher people's organizations from all over the coast and farmers and farm labourers' organizations from various s