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Date: Fri, 8 Sep 2000 - From: Medha Patkar
India, Press Note -8.9.2000

B-13, Shivam Flats, Ellora Park, Baroda-390007 * 58, Gandhi Marg, Badwani, M.P.
(Phones : 0265-382232/ 07290-22464 /020-5450870.

Press Note/ 8. 9.00


Over three thousand Adivasis (tribals) from the Maharashtra villages affected by the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP), lifted their siege on the block office at Akkalkua in Nandurbar district on second day today (Friday, Sept.8), exposing once again the false claims of the land availability by the Maharashtra government. It became clear as for the two consecutive working days (Sept.7 and 8), no responsible official was seen in the office to answer the people's queries regarding the land availability for the resettlement.

Thousands of men and women have returned to their villages declaring that the Maharashtra state government has no land for resettlement nor it is willing to settle the land issue of the Adivasi landholders . They called for the confronting the state government by all the democratic minded citizens and organisations in the state and outside for its cowardice and insensitivity. The people decided to stay put in their villages and face the submergence imposed by the government.

The Akkalkua action comes closely on heels of the Bhopal rally on September 6, by the SSP affected people in Madhya Pradesh. The Maharashtra Adivasis oustees took out an impressive rally on Thursday, September 7, through the Akkalkuwa town. Apart from the people affected by the reservoir, people affected by the compensatory afforestation and catchment area treatment for the dam and also those who were displaced but are left without land and resettlement.

The people are challenging the unjust displacement of the people under the threat of the submergence, which in turn is illegal and unjust. They are also protesting against the non-recognition of the rights of the tribals on the land. In the meeting at the block (tehsil) office, the people alleged that the Government of Maharashtra has violated its own regulation of 1978 and the Supreme Court decision in 1995 regarding the giving the right over the lands the Adivasis have been cultivating.

Keshav Vasave, Vesta Pawra , Noorji Padvi, Medha Patkar and other activists accused the state of government of persisting with the false claims regarding the land availability, in the affidavits in the Supreme Court and before the Grievance Redressal Authority. They challenged the state government to show them the land which it has been claiming as available zamin dikhao). People called for an assessment of the claims of the government. They also protested against the snatching away their ancestral lands for the sake of compensatory afforestation for the Project.

It became clear that the officials have no answers and they intend to carry out the displacement processes in secrecy to impose the displacement and submergence on people. However, the people are determined to face this form of violence in non-violent way, of facing the submergence unmoved from their land and villages.

Sanjay Sangvai

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