Translation of the Review by Ganesh Udawant, Oct 29, 2017
Oral History of the Narmada Struggle
Review – Ganesh Udawant
Recently, that is in September 2017, the Sardar Sarovar Project on the river Narmada was dedicated to the nation. The book “LaDha Narmadecha” by writer Nandini Oza has come before the readers just ahead of that. This book is the extended interviews of two main adivasi/tribal activists of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, namely Keshavbhau Vasave and Kevalsingh Vasave.
Adivasis from the three states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat were to be displaced by the huge dam on the Narmada River. A group consisting of Medha Patkar and some activists associated with her carried out studies of the dam affected areas for the first time in 1985. During this, they realized that the government is neglecting the resettlement of the affected Adivasi people.
The “Narmada Bachao Andolan” slowly emerged from this, and gathered strength from 1990 onwards. The author or the interviewer who asked questions to two main leaders of the Andolan and gathered information from them, herself had become a part of this work from 1990 itself.
The region of Saurashtra in Gujarat is a water scarce area. The idea originated in the mind of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel that if the Narmada River which originates in Madhya Pradesh and from the border of Maharashtra enters Gujarat and meets the western sea could be dammed with a huge dam, then entire Gujarat including Saurashtra could be benefitted. But Sardar Patel passed away in Dec 1950; just three years after the country became independent.
But Pandit Nehru himself was convinced of the idea that there should be a dam on the Narmada River. Panditji had envisioned the Russian model for the development of India. His dream was to make India modern and advanced by building huge factories, large dams, and massive projects. So the Narmada project was inaugurated (sic) at the hands of Panditji himself in April 1961. It was named “Sardar Sarovar Project” in memory of Sardar Patel.
Now it is not only the state of Gujarat that will get the benefits of this project, but Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and even Rajasthan will get water and electricity from this project.
But this was not acceptable to Medha Patkar and other protestors. Their extreme and aggressive stand is that this dam should not be built. Many other groups of people like writer Arundhati Roy, actor Aamir Khan, director Anand Patwardhan etc. are with them. From this, we can gather that all these protestors are of leftist orientation.
From the questions too which Nandini Oza has asked the two leaders of the andolan, Keshavbhau and Kevalsingh, we can understand that these leftist people keep attempting to push their ideological agenda. Be as that may be, but this narration by two activists directly involved in the andolan is an important oral document. Nandini Oza has done an important work by transcribing it. Future historians writing the history of the Narmada project and committed activists working for the real upliftment of Adivasis will be able to draw lessons as appropriate from it.
Author – Nandini Oza
Pages – 270 Price – Rs. 340