Sunday, 5 November 2017

Review of LaDha Narmadecha (Struggle for Narmada) in Saamana-Daily Marathi Newspaper

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.

Ladha Narmadecha
Author – Nandini Oza
Publisher – Rajhans Prakashan
Pages – 270 Price – Rs. 340

 Buy/Get book:  

Friday, 4 August 2017

LaDha Narmadecha (The struggle/battle of the Narmada)

‘LaDha Narmadecha’, my book based on the Oral History of two senior Adivasi leaders of Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), Keshavbhau Vasave and Kevalsingh Vasave has just been published in Marathi by Rajhans Prakashan, Pune. This oral history consists of long interviews with the senior activists. The book also consists of extensive footnotes by me.

The Adivasi area located in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh affected by the Sardar Sarovar Dam. Photo: Rohit Jain.

The oral history of Keshavbhau and Kevalsingh deals with the lesser known history of the struggle against the Sardar Sarovar Dam Project (SSP) that is to displace/submerge 245 villages on the banks of the mighty river Narmada in the States of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. Thousands of other people are being affected as a result of related works like the project colony, canals and the downstream of the dam in the State of Gujarat. Over five lakh people are to be displaced or severely affected by this project in the three States.

The narration by Kevalsingh and Keshavbhau gives insight into one of the most powerful movements of the country against one of the most controversial mega dam projects of independent India. It spans over several decades of this struggle to save a river and for life.

Keshavbhau Vasave  at the Right Livlihood Award function in Sweden in the year 1991. Keshavbhau and Medha Patkar received the award on behalf of the Narmada Bachao Andolan.

One importance of the oral history is that besides the struggle against the mega dam, Keshavbhau and Kevalsingh share their own lives as the senior activists of the Narmada Bachao Andolan. They talk about their community, culture, traditions, beliefs, sustainable livelihood they once practiced on the banks of the Narmada and challenges there in.  They talk about the impact the dam has had on their lives, the trauma of displacement and the life in the resettlement sites post submergence of their villages in the dam waters. They reflect on their struggle against destructive development that has gone on for many years now as well as the future challenges. 

River Narmada - the life line, the big giver and worshiped as a mother by the Adivasis, Farmers, Fishing and other communities living on its banks. Photo: Nandini Oza

One reason for bringing out the oral history of Keshavbhau and Kevalsingh at this juncture is that their struggle against their personal as well as collective dispossession is still very much on. Attention needs to be drawn and support needs to be given to them in every possible way so that the serious pending issues of those already displaced by the SSP are taken up urgently and earnestly towards some resolution. 

The Sardar Sarovar Dam has turned the magnificent river Narmada flowing between the Satpuda and Vindiya mountain ranges into a reservoir submerging fertile lands, rich forests and even hills. Photo: Rohit Jain.

Furthermore while Dalit literature/ biographies/ autobiographies are available, there is not enough of such work as far as Adivasi leaders and their contemporary struggles are concerned as narrated by them. Hence it is important to bring to the fore the struggle of people in the Narmada valley from which lessons can be drawn by future struggles for equality, justice and sustainable development.

This is particularly necessary when we as a nation march ahead ruthlessly with the slogan of “Development”. The oral history of Keshavbhau and Kevalsingh remind us what “Development” means to the Adivasi, indigenous, and farming communities of our country. And what is it that they believe constitutes development. It also reminds us that beautiful and flowing rivers across the country are being irreversibly destroyed by building dams and more dams.

Living in harmony with nature, Adivasi communities make roof tiles themselves from natural resources. Photo: Rohit Jain.

Basket weaving. Photo Source: Not known.

Grain Storage Muhati. Most of the essential things used/made by the Adivasi communities are/were from natural resources.  Photo : Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangathan, Madhya Pradesh.

LaDha Narmadecha gives insight into all of this and much more by sharing the enduring struggle of the people of the Narmada Valley against the destructive Sardar Sarovar Dam and to save from its shackles the revered river Narmada.

Introduction to the Book in Marathi:

पुस्तक: लढा नर्मदेचा...
प्रकाशक: राजहंस, पुणे

नर्मदा बचाव आंदोलन!

विस्थापित होणाऱ्या आदिवासींना लढण्याचं बळ मिळालं, ते या सशक्त जनआंदोलनानं. त्या बळावर त्यांनी आपलं घर-दार, जंगल,जमीन वाचवण्यासाठी दीर्घकाळ लढा दिला. त्या तीन दशकांच्या झुंजीची ही संघर्षमय सत्यकथा... आंदोलनाचा इतिहास, विस्थापनापूर्वीचं अन् नंतरचं आदिवासींचं जीवन, त्यांची संस्कृती, आदिवासी कार्यकर्त्यांची भूमिका अन् योगदान हे सारं या कथेतून उलगडत जातं.या लढ्याचा कणा असलेले दोन प्रमुख आदिवासी नेते केशावभाऊ आणि केवलसिंग वसावे ही कथा सांगताहेत. नंदिनी ओझानी घेतलेल्या त्यांच्या मुलाखतींमधून मांडलेला मौखिक इतिहास
लढा नर्मदेचा...

Excerpts from the book ‘Ladha Narmadecha’ in Marathi/पुस्तकातील संपादित अंश :

LaDha Narmadecha is available offline, and online among other links at:



Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Laxmi, Gandhiji’s adopted daughter, Part-2

In November 2015, I had posted a blog piece on Laxmi, Gandhiji’s adopted daughter-

This post generated some interest and a scholar- researcher Mr. James Takri, kindly shared with me further information on Laxmi including her photograph and her interview that he collected from National Gandhi Museum, New Delhi. Mr. Takri also brought to my notice an article on Laxmi published in outlook in the year 1998 by Saira Menezes – 

Besides the above material I also came across further reference on Laxmi in the following two books:

   1. Ved Mehta’s - Mahatma Gandhi and His Apostles
    2. Arun and Sunanada Gandhi’s book with Carol Lynn Yellin titled – The untold story of Kasturba, Wife of Mahatma Gandhi

However for the issues of copy rights, the material in these books on Laxmi although very valuable cannot be reproduced here. I therefore share Laxmi’s interview and her photograph as collected from the National Gandhi Museum by Mr. James Takri for a wider readership.

Laxmi with Gandhiji. Source: National Gandhi Museum, New Delhi. As sent by Mr. James Takri

 For those who wish to read Laxmi's excellent interview to know about her as well as her life in the Gandhi ashram, get an idea of her role in the freedom struggle, imprisonment, her relation with Kasturba and Gandhiji, see the link:

I wish to specially thank Mr. James Takri for digging out this valuable information as well as for sharing it with me. I share the same for a wider readership.