Medha Patkar along with Bhagvati bhai and Jam Singh bhai of Narmada Valley has today entered the 20th day of their hunger strike. As you all must know, the government, disregarding the Supreme Court verdict wants to raise the height of Sardar Sarovar by 17 feet, which will displace 35000 families depriving them of their livelihood in the process. The NBA's struggle started in the 1980 s. Their constructive proposals for alternate 'development' models were met with hostility over the years. They had to make huge compromises, but had small successes and still are holding on. The current demand is the rehabilitation of those who will be displaced- i.e. they are demanding their Right to Life and livelihood.
You all know the details of displacement. But, living in Kerala I was not quite prepared for the inhumanity that is Indian state. The government has literally turned its face on the struggle that is happening for about a month now right under its nose. The Prime Minister thinks it is not necessary even to make a statement.
The NBA s method is peaceful resistance and now they are not in a position to move back from that. Medha s health is worsening. Forcefully arrested and hospitalized she has refused to take the IV. Bhagavati is still in the footpath of Jantar Mantar with other activists. She is experiencing pain and has lost her voice. The media which had lost its interest in the whole issue has revived some of it by involvement of those like Amir Khan, Swami Agnivesh and Arundhati Roy. But the state does not care. I was there only four times. And I was seldom more than an observer. Even then the stony silence you meet with is frustrating. You feel you are banging your head on a wall.
The State makes its face visible through the Police force. And I have seen when they react. One day the protestors blocked Janpath and danced for half an hour. When the Vehicles could n move and the car owners frowned, the state was irritated. Yesterday 50 of us went to the PM s house to give a memorandum. While the PM was too happy to receive the earlier BJP delegation, our audacity to infringe on the sacred space was not tolerated. We were arrested and removed and later released due to left intervention. We had committed the crime of violating orders of prohibition (under section188). And they wanted to search us as though v were a bunch of pick pockets. (That we resisted)
I am not articulate enough to respond to HariKuttans earlier questions to modes of protest. What the protests create might be a passing discomfort to the advantaged middle class including myself... the enormity of violence that the state does to the life of these thousands of disadvantaged is much much beyond that. When we say that resistance has to be limited to a zone where it does not really interfere with any thing, we are closing our eyes on that aspect. Knowing or unknowing the middle class we belong to along with the state are active agents of violence. What do a bunch of poor or displaced or grieved mean to us or to the state as long as the daily routine of those that matter remain unaffected!
Apart from a brief period when I was quite small I never felt a part of the political entity called India. Now, it is a constant presence in me- one of fear and repression and anger. I might go back soon to the cocoon of comfort. But at least now I am nauseated by own passivity. I think the NBA activists who have been resisting for over 20 years have done more justice to their lives than I have.
PS. I got to know of the Supreme Court of Justice has given the green signal to continue construction.
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