Protests against the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) have continued for the past three decades and with the protests height of the project also progressed inches by inches. But lack of united stand among key Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leaders has apparently diluted the movement - started in 1985 - against the construction of a huge dam on the Narmada river.
The NBA leaders - Medha Patkar, Alok Agarwal and NBAs close ally Madhuri Krishnaswamy – stand divided on political and personal lines of late. They, however, denied that their movement was divided as they “work for a common cause”.
The success and support the NBA commanded was immense in its formative years and until 2000s. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), trying to gain entry into Madhya Pradesh, is cashing on the support from NBA and its leaders. But the plot backfired as it further divided the NBA leaders.
NBA founder Patkar continued her protests against SSP in Barwani. Agarwal, who continues his struggle for people affected due to Omkareshwar project in Khandwa district, is now with the AAP. Krishnaswamy - a strong ally to the NBA struggle - stands apolitical and works for people affected by Kharak dam in Khargone.
The lack of unity among NBA leaders has given comfort to the state and central governments as it is easy to handle the divided agitation, unlike in 1980s and 1990s when the entire valley marched in unison.
Patkar, who has been steadfast for rights of tribals and people in the valley since mid 1980s, called for another massive agitation at Ramghat in Barwani. On Friday, she launched a RallyForTheValley to garner support from different quarters.
‘Rise in height of the dam a threat to thousands of tribals and other people’
Whatever their personal equations are, experts say continuous rise in height of the dam was a threat to thousands of tribals and other people living in the valley and the environment.
“The effect could be devastating, as backwaters can submerge many villages, agriculture lands and forests falling alongside the Narmada river valley at least 214 km rearward in the state,” Patkar told HT.
“Long back, we decided to steer head the fight at different dams, we have been allies in various struggles in the past and even now,” Patkar said while refuting claims that the struggle has diluted.
Krishnaswamy said she feels ‘diversity’ was good as “we can raise different issues... as problems are different in different places.” dams on Narmada river
“We all are comrades, working for common cause in diverse ways,” she said.
Agarwal said: “The geographical area that is being affected due to various dams on the Narmada river is huge, and by splitting physically we actually pooled in much larger share of population into the struggle.” However, grounds are common and the fight was common, he said.
Passing through 30 major and 135 mid-sized dams, this river will be converted into several lakes. The construction of each of these dams has led not only to displacement of lakhs of people, but also to destruction of extremely fertile farms, orchards and forests, the activists said.