more on India’s anti-globalization work


Jan Slakov

Dear RN,

Perhaps you remember Thomas Kocherry's speech (on accepting the Sophie
prize) which was posted to this list on July 27.

He mentioned the very exciting struggle to save the Narmada River Valley
from "development" - thousands of dam projects.

Here is the excerpt:

June 15, 1999, Oslo, Norway.

Dear chairperson and friends,

True development is not by conquering and enslaving, not by accumulating
and centralizing, not by displacing peoples and destroying cultures. True
development is only by integrating and working together, through
distributive justice and decentralisation by nurturing and including
Native and Indigenous peoples. It is here that the struggles of the
victims of mega dams in India can be understood. There are 3600 mega dams
in India. These have displaced 50 million natives, tribals and
fisherpeople and have proved to be MASS DESTRUCTIONS rather than
DEVELOPMENT. These victims are involved in a long standing struggle to
create a new paradigm of DEVELOPMENT, where native skills and technologies
are enhanced, small is accepted as beautiful and sustainable and
simplicity has become a way of life with due respect to native cultures.
We have gone to the extent of JALASAMATHI- sacrificing ourselves in the
rising reservoirs- rather than inflicting violence upon others, for the
creation of this new paradigm. Right now, about 400 leaders, representing
different movements in India -Farmers, Fishworkers, People displaced by
the Narmada project and others- are in Europe campaigning against MNCs,
TNCs and the WTO.  For the first time such a mass campaign is taking
place. The victims of GLOBALIZATION are asserting their rightful place in
this planet.  We feel an urgent need to create a new paradigm of
development and politics, a paradigm in which all human beings have right
to live, with equal access to the resources and opportunities. Development
cannot be measured solely by the quantity of production, but by its
sustainability by its capacity to protect the livelihood of all human
beings. Production should be coupled with distributive justice. There is
no Development for the sake of Development. True Globalisation should make
free movement of labour unhindered by national boundaries.  Let the year
2000 be a real Jubilee Year; let the debts of the developing countries be
wiped out; and let all nations experience true freedom and equality.


Thomas Xavier Kocherry
Co-ordinator,  World Forum of Fish-harvesters and Fishworkers [WFF]
Co-ordinator, National Alliance of Peoples Movements (India),[NAPM]
Velankanny, Junction, Valiathura,  Thiruvananthapuram 695 008,INDIA
Phone & Fax: +91 - 471 - 50 1376;
E-mail: •••@••.•••   Website:
From the Global Sisterhood Network, we can read an interview with the
writer, Arundhati Roy, who gives us real insight into the need for alliances
which link wealthy/poor, educated/less formally educated, local
activists/high profile people, etc.:

From: Lynette Dumble <•••@••.•••>

Dear all,
Not just a flood of support, as you can read below from the latest issue of 
FRONTLINE, but also some attention in the international media [also below 
from the London Guardian AND, a crucial interview with Arundhati Roy - one 
which clearly translates her "Rally for the Valley" ambitions 
into the highest order of sisterhood - leaving both Arundhati and Medha 
Patkar's critics without a leg to stand on - just as we know Vandana's 
Navdanya movement will leave Monsanto et al. legless in India, and Vandana's 
"Diverse Women for Diversity" and Renske's "IATP Journal" will leave WTO 
legless in Seattle!! YESSS!!!!!!!!!!!

Warmest regards, Lynette.


Date: Sun, 15 Aug 1999 11:59:59 +1000
From: Lynette Dumble <•••@••.•••>
To: •••@••.•••
Subject: [GSN] #2 Update on the  Sardar Sarovar Protest "THE INTERVIEW" - 'I
felt that the valley needed a writer'
FRONTLINE: Volume 16 - Issue 17, Aug 14 - 27, 1999


'I felt that the valley needed a writer' 

Arundhati Roy's essay The Greater Common Good and the "Rally for the Valley" 
campaign that she organised and participated in have given the Narmada 
Bachao Andolan (NBA) a boost. Although the 39-year-old Booker Prize-winning 
author insisted during the rally that she was "just a writer", there is no 
doubt that more is expected of her in the months ahead. Even though cynics 
said that she was trying to don the mantle of NBA leader Medha Patkar, the 
rally showed that Arundhati Roy had no such a mbitions. For the people of 
the valley, she is their didi (elder sister) and Patkar their devi (goddess). 

Travelling with other participants in a convoy of six buses, Arundhati Roy 
was mobbed at the countless stops on the 800-km route that began and ended 
in Indore. She handled the flower-showers, tilak ceremonies and autograph 
hunters with amazing calm. Ask ed to speak at almost every halt, she 
affirmed her solidarity with the people and encouraged them to speak. "We 
are here to listen to you," she said. 

In an interview with Lyla Bavadam she spoke of her experiences during the 
rally. Excerpts: 

The Rally for the Valley has certainly brought the issue of big dams on the 
Narmada back into the public arena and given the work of the NBA a boost. 
What is the extent of your commitment to the cause? And what form will your 
involvement take in the long term? 

I don't know how one quantifies the extent of one's commitment (Large, Extra 
Large, Petite?), neither do I think of the struggle in the valley as a 
'cause' because 'cause' is too small a word...Was the Holocaust a 'cause'? 
As far as I'm concerned, whethe r the protest is about Nuclear Weapons or 
Big Dams on the Narmada, what one is fighting for is nothing less than a 
worldview, a way of seeing. Why, even The God of Small Things is a 
worldview. What all of these works have in common is that they at tempt to 
analyse power and powerlessness. So, to answer the question of my commitment 
- all I can say is that I have no other way of seeing - instinctively, 
emotionally, intellectually, politically. What form will my involvement take 
in the long term? I don't really know, but I imagine what is most effective 
is my writing.... My commitment is total, but I have to be effective, 
otherwise it would be pointless. 

What brought the Narmada issue to your notice first? 

To be honest, I hadn't been following the struggle in the valley in minute 
detail. Like most people, I thought that some dams (not 3,200 of them) were 
being built on the Narmada, that large numbers of people were being 
displaced and that resettlement was being carried out callously in true 
government fashion. When the World Bank withdrew in 1993 and the Supreme 
Court ordered a stay on the construction in 1994, I thought that the 
struggle had more or less been won. I assumed that the Court was reviewing 
the whole project. In February this year, when the stay was lifted, my 
antennae went up. I began to read up on what was happening and grew more and 
more horrified at what I learned. I learned that rehabilitation was only one 
of several vital issues. From all that I read, I felt that what was missing 
was a communication of the entire issue to an interested lay person - I felt 
that what had been communicated was a fractured picture - displacement, 
rehabilitation, irrigation issues, the politics of who get s the benefits - 
all these had somehow got disconnected from each other. The reason for this 
is quite simple - it's a complex issue and journalists would have had to 
fight for column space to communicate even a part of the problem. I really 
felt that the valley needed a writer...and so I wrote The Greater Common

Critics say that you have suddenly developed a social conscience and the 

Narmada Bachao campaign is a convenient bandwagon to assuage it. How would 
you react to this? 

Maybe they're right. It's such a delightful accusation. Is it a crime to 
develop suddenly a social conscience? Is there a sort of age limit after 
which one should avoid developing a social conscience? But maybe the critics 
you mention should take a look at my earlier work - for instance they could 
begin by reading The God of Small Things, or going to the School of 
Architecture and reading my B.Arch thesis. They could read back issues of a 
magazine called Urban India, published by the National Institute of Urban 
Affairs. They could read back issues of Sunday, where I published three 
essays before I became 'famous'. Back then I was criticised for writing what 
I wrote because I was a 'failed' writer. Now I'm criticised because I'm a ' 
successful' writer. As for the Narmada Bachao Andolan being a 'convenient' 
bandwagon - here is a movement that is one of a kind. Nowhere in the world 
has there been a more spectacular fight for a river valley. As a writer I 
have written in support of it - now that can be twisted and made to sound 
ugly. What can I say? Simply that I support the struggle in the valley. My 
motives for supporting it are not the issue. The struggle is the issue. The 
unfolding human and ecological tragedy is the issue. 

Gail Omvedt has written an article which amounts to being a critique of your 
essay. In it she has called your essay "rhetoric" and categorised your 
statement about the common destructiveness of big dams and bombs as 
"reckless". She also strongly condemns opposition to big dams, calling it 
"eco-romanticism''. Could you comment on this. 

I respect Gail Omvedt for presenting a counter-argument graciously instead 
of dismissing everybody who is against Big Dams with some tasteless 
invective. Her article is more a critique of the NBA (which she obviously 
dislikes) than a critique of my essay . I think there are too many facts and 
figures in The Greater Common Good for it to be dismissed as mere 
rhetoric...Eco-romanticism? I don't think so. Gail Omvedt subscribes to the 
classic 'green revolution' school of thought - maximise production in a 
minimum period of time regardless of the ecological consequences. Long-term 
sustainability is not even taken into consideration. Thousands of hectares 
of land are now water-logged and salt-affected thanks to this approach. It's 
the steroid-user syndrome. If avoiding steroids is romantic then perhaps I 
am a romantic. Gail should read Silenced Rivers by Patrick McCully. I think 
it answers her queries comprehensively. It is not reckless to say that Big 
Dams have proved to be instruments of mas s destruction. From me, she 
deserves more than just an off-the-cuff answer in someone else's interview. 
Perhaps I'll get down to writing it. Let me simply say here that I would 
love to be convinced that Big Dams are the solution to India's problems. She 
hasn't managed to make me change my mind. I wish, I wish she had come to the 
valley. How do you compensate a people once you submerge their civilisation? 
We must stop pretending that rehabilitation is possible. It isn't. In the 
last 15 years not one vill age in the submergence zone has been 
rehabilitated according to the orders of the Tribunal. In the last 50 years 
between 33 million and 40 million people have been uprooted by the 
reservoirs of Big Dams. Those of us who support these Stalinist schemes must
at least be honest enough to support them even if there is no
rehabilitation. Honest enough to admit that like the terrorised tiger in the
Belgrade Zoo during the NATO bombing, we have begun to eat our own limbs. 

There was a lot of opposition to the Rally for the Valley from Gujarat and 
there were also a few instances of local journalists being overly 
aggressive. Could you describe what happened? 

The Gujarat Government flooded Kevadia colony and the dam site with the 
police. They turned it into an international order. They declared Section 

144. They closed the local haat (market) at Kavaat. They prevented all those 
who had to come through Baroda (Vadodara) from joining the rally. Some 
newspapers triumphantly declared that the rally had tried to enter Gujarat 
at night and had been turned back. They claimed this was a moral victory for 
Gujarat. It's astounding, the lies they managed to spre ad. Earlier BJP and 
Congress goons had vied to burn my book in Gujarat. They threatened to break 
up a meeting in Ahmedabad at which I had been invited to speak and therefore 
the invitation was cancelled. I suppose Rs. 44,000 crores, which is the 
total es timated project cost, is too much money for any political party to 
pass up. Imagine the election campaigns that can be funded with that kind of 

Even in Indore, again and again, certain people from the press who were 
rumoured to be in the employ of either S. Kumars or the Nigam would come and 
suddenly switch on a television camera and accuse me of being a foreign 
agent. The upshot of all this is that the people who are being cheated and 
denied the right to information are the people of Gujarat. It's interesting 
that the maximum number of orders by mail for my book, The Greater Common 
Good, come from Gujarat. I think they are beginning to smell a rat. After 
all it's their money that's going into creating this old dinosaur of a dam. 
And very few of them are going to get anything out of it. You cannot fool 
all the people all the time. Sooner or later the argument is bound to f 
ilter through and then, truly all hell will break loose. 

There were moments in the rally when you were unable to cope with the 
constant public focus...moments of exhaustion, of repeating the same thing, 
handling aggressive press persons who were clearly opposed to the rally. Is 
it going to be difficult to be a public figure for a while at least? 

Yes, that's true. I'm not wild about public speaking or facing huge crowds. 
The most exhausting thing for me however was the unreasonable, manipulative 
aggression of a few members of the press. They were frightening people - 
thugs more than journalists. Paid goons. This is a serious problem - the 
lies, the disinformation - behaviour that almost amounts to blackmail. I 
don't know how to begin to address this issue because it is such an ugly 
morass of amorality. But there is something vicious and rotten happening on 
that front... Is it going to be difficult to be a public figure? Well, one 
of the reasons I was involved with the rally was that I hoped that people 
who came along would make their own independent alliances in the valley - 
that they would bec ome fighters too. While I may not be able to claim (at 
least for a while) that I'm not a Public Figure - I'd like, for the future, 
a scenario in which my writing is public, but my life is private... if you 
see what I mean. No more rallies and press confe rences. 

The reaction of the people to you has been amazing. You were almost idolised 
by those waiting to receive you. Some had seen and met you before, but the 
majority had not. How do you explain hundreds of people waiting hours to 
meet you? 

I'm not sure how to explain it... I suppose everyone who came on the rally 
had their theories. Here's mine - since February (after the Supreme Court 
lifted its stay) things have been going badly for the people in the valley. 
They have been cornered and l et down by the nation's institutions, the 
rains have started, their lands and homes are going to be submerged, they 
have nowhere to go. For four years there was a lull in the struggle because 
of the legal stay, suddenly the people needed to rally their f orces once 
again. They needed to show their strength. To do that they needed an 
occasion. I was the occasion - just somebody very famous who had come out 
and said - clearly, unequivocally, unhesitatingly "I'm on your side". I 
think that's what it was. Bu t also - it wasn't just me. They knew very well 

that the Rally for the Valley was a group of 500 people, many of them 
journalists. The valley showed its strength. And how! 

Did you know that there were people in the rally who came purely because 
they were inspired by your essay? Though you keep insisting you are just a 
writer there seems to be something here that goes beyond good writing or 
persuasive presentation of fa cts. What is it that is suddenly making you a 
rallying point for people who had never dreamed that they would travel 
nearly 1,000 km to join a rally in solidarity with displaced people? 

Yes, I did know that some had come because they read my essay... but I still 
maintain that I'm a writer (though not 'just' a writer). People travelling a 
1,000 km to join a rally to show solidarity with people facing submergence 
and forcible displacemen t is a wonderful thing. It means that there is hope 
yet, in this brutal, broken world of ours. They didn't come for me - they 
came for those I wrote about. The power of a writer's writing is far more 
magical, far more majestic than the power of a writer' s human form. They 
didn't rally around me. They rallied around what I wrote about - The Narmada 
and her people. 

To what extent have you interacted with Medha Patkar and what does she 
expect from you? 

I haven't spent a great deal of time with her, but enough to know that she 
is an exceptional woman. What does she expect from me? That's something you 
should ask her - I imagine what she expects is what everybody in the valley 
expects - my support as a w riter, as a human being. 

What do you mean when you join in the slogan Hum tumhare saath hai (we are 
with you) - in what way are you with the people? 

What I meant quite literally was "I am with you". The whole point of the 
Rally for the Valley was to make alliances - urban-rural, writer-farmer, 
musician-fisherman - the idea was that we were all citizens of the earth 
making common cause of the struggle in the Narmada Valley. I'm very 
interested in the debate over the politics of dissent - this sneering 
attempt of many people to delegitimise those who protest - the NBA dismissed 
as urban activists, Arundhati Roy as an elite writer, the rallyists as for-
eign agents and so on. They declare that the only legitimate protestors are 
local people, preferably adivasi and Dalit. Once they've isolated them they 
squash them like bugs and the fight is over. It's interesting that the very 
same people unquestioningly accept a project devised entirely by urban 
engineers and planners but insist that the critique must be only rural and 
only local. I think that the great strength of the struggle in the Narmada 
Valley is that the critique comes from all angles. From adi vasis, from 
Dalits, from the Patidars of the Nimar plains, from IIT engineers, from 
writers, from painters, from architects, from film-makers, from all of civil 
society. It spans the range and that's what gives it its strength and 
beauty. So when I said "Hum tumhare saath hai" I meant all this.