Meri News, 02 June 2017, New Delhi: Mr Rajgopal PV, a Gandhian activist, former Vice Chairman of the Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi, and the President and founding member of Ekta Parishad, came to visit the Narmada Valley on May 29, 2017. He extended solidarity with the Andolan and patiently listened to the villagers.
The meeting was attended by approximately 800 villagers. Representatives of each community, that of farmers, fish-workers, labourers, shopkeepers, put forth their issues. Dev Ram Bhai, one of the oldest supporters of the Andolan, told Rajgopal ji that the Rehabilitation and Resettlement policy although being an efficient policy, has not shown any results on the ground because of the rampant corruption plaguing the whole system here.

No R&R sites are complete yet, even those who shifted to these sites long back, since the beginning of this project, till date are fighting for their rights and dues. He ended by saying that they won’t vacate the villages, even if they have to sacrifice their lives, if the R&R sites and their rights are not ensured in completion to them. From fishermen community – Sava Behen spoke about the predicaments of the landless.Fish workers will lose out on the resource that makes their livelihood. If they do not get fishing rights, in effect their right to life in the form of right to livelihood will be taken away from them. Kusum Behen from Adivasi community, Vijay Bhai and Devram Kanera all put forth the problems and anguish over the present situation.

Medha Patkar elucidating their plight said that the official figures are very controversial and malfunctioning departments are making it difficult for people to get justice here.

After her address, Mr Rajgopal assured he would support the struggle in every way. He told the villagers about the similar situation in Hazaribagh, Jharkhand where in the name of development the villagers are being deprived of their rights over their natural resources and in effect infringing upon their right to life.

He also illustrated barbaric face of the government where the police opened fire on peacefully protesting citizens and killed a few in the process. It was here that he drew a parallel with the situation in Narmada Valley and posed an extremely pertinent question, that why is the government that is elected to protect the rights of all the people, using violence against non-violent people? He said there are certain countries where police is given special training to handle situations like these peacefully without having to use force, India is not one of them. He asked, “Why is it that we have a defence department, a commerce department, but not a department to maintain and promote peace and harmony?”

In the afternoon around 500 villagers along with Medha Patkar went to meet the Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment in the Modi regime, Thawar Chand Gehlot, outside the BJP office. He heard the problems, but did not talk about the solution. He was not ready to listen to all the problems that people wanted to share with him.

He even said that he did not hear about the Supreme Court order dated February 8, 2017 following which the government is preparing its forces to evacuate the villages. Slogans were shouted on both the sides. The villagers complained that he had never visited the R&R sites and never given a chance to people to voice their issues.

A public meeting was held in Chikhalda, a village situated right at the banks of Narmada 8 pm onwards. This was to show solidarity by organising a community dinner as a part of Chulha Band. They all talked about their issues and encouraged each other to fight till the end. This was followed by Mashal Jaloos (torchlight rally), where the whole village came out and shouted slogans of solidarity. They all swore that they won’t leave their village unless the R&R sites are ready for them.