This is not a story. This is one of the most powerful environmental movements led by the resilient people across the Narmada Valley, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. As I write this, the Sardar Sarovar Dam stands inaugurated today. The Narmada Bachao Andolan began in 1985 by activists, adivasis and concerned citizens. Medha Patkar is one of the activists who has dedicated years to the struggle.

My friend and colleague Avinash Chanchal is in Chhota Barda, Madhya Pradesh, where people are protesting peacefully every single day. I've only read about the struggle, but the ground reality as I hear is far more shocking. The demands of people have been ignored openly despite multiple interventions. The Narmada Bacho Andolan continues strongly, here's an account of my conversation with him from the heart of the movement.

Avinash: Paani mein khade hai, baithe hai, bilkul nahi hil rahe  (They’re standing in the water, some even sitting, and not moving an inch)

Me: Kabse? Aur kitne log? (Since when, and how many people?)

Avinash: Do din se, chhote, bade, buddhe, bacche, kal 20 the, aaj 36 (Since two days. The old, the young and the children have gathered. Yesterday they were 20, today they are 36)

Me: Aur paani ka level kitna badh gaya hai? (And how much has the water level risen?)

Avinash: Raat mein dam se paani release karte hai, aaj raat ko fir badega (In the night they release the water from the dam. Tonight the  water level will rise again!)

Over 5000 people have gathered across the region, in spite of the heavy rains to raise their voice against the inauguration of the Sardar Sarovar Dam.

As of yesterday, the 16th of September, the level has reached approximately 129 meters. Several villages have already submerged in the water, while others are about to be flooded. The people here are resilient, and are protesting continuously. In most of these villages, all the civic amenities have been moved out, like government buildings, schools etc. Fields which were once fertile and flourished maize and cotton, are now drowning in the rising water. Women are spearheading the resistance, singing songs of resistance, echoing in chorus “doobenge, lekin hatenge nahi” and “halla bol”.

 

 

 

 

Countless people in the Narmada Valley feel the same way, they do not want to leave, the rehabiliation programme has not been fair, thousands of people have been displaced and not offered fair resettlement

The Jal Satyagraha is on, and today, on the day of inauguration, a huge gathering is underway in Badwani. The 36 people who have been sitting in the water to protest, have their feet chapped, wrinkled and tired, but they go on, not budging even a little:

Wrinkled and sore foot of protestors from Jal Satyagraha
Wrinkled and worn out foot of a protestor participating in Jal Satyagraha.

The dam has been inaugurated, but the movement continues to be strong on ground. The people of the Narmada Valley are not going to give up; their resilience, courage and  determination is an inspiration to every Indian today. We all stand in solidarity with Narmada Bachao Andolan, with Medha Patkar, who has dedicated years of her life to speak out for the movement. 

This is not a good day, but the people are not backing down. More power to peoples' movements across India.

Ruhie Kumar works in the Communications team at Greenpeace India