In Madhya Pradesh's Khandwa area, 51 people stayed immersed in water for the 14th day today in what's being called a 'jal satyagraha'. The protesters are demanding compensation and rehabilitation for villagers whose homes will be submerged under water after the state government's order of opening all the gates of the Omkareshwar dam in Madhya Pradesh.
With Narmada flowing above the danger levels, the government has little choice. However, the protesters, members of the 'Narmada Bachao Andolan', say the government's decision to increase the water level of the Omkareshwar on the Narmada without rehabilitating people living in low lying villages is a violation of a Supreme Court order, which says villagers must be rehabilitated at least six months before such a move is implemented.
"Till the time water level comes down to 189 metres and as per court orders we get our 5 acre land, and labourers get Rs 2.5 lakh, we will die but we will sit here," said one of the protesters.
For 14 days, these men and women have been in water and this unique protest is beginning to tell on their health.
"In the water, fishes and crabs are biting us, our skin is affected and it is raining also," said a protester.
A local delegation of CPIM met these protesters and the Congress MP from this area, Arun Yadav, paid them a visit today. But these protesters are angry over the fact that no one from the ruling BJP government has come and met them. They say the government is totally ignoring them.
"We are very angry... the government has turned a blind eye towards us.
The government is deaf and dumb. All we want is the water level to be
decreased, and that too by just one-and-a-half metre. And compensation
for our land. Is it too much to ask for?" said a woman protester.
The local authorities had visited the area and assured all help in their capacity, but the situation on the ground has not changed yet.
"Well, I think the government has no choice but to listen. And if it doesn't, there are going to be very serious consequences because there are some people in neck-deep water and some response has to be made, both on democratic ground and humanitarian ground. You can't let people just drown, and I think it's imperative that the government respond immediately to the demands of these people," said Aruna Roy, member of the National Advisory Council (NAC).
The water of the Omkareshwar dam has already risen to 190.5 meters and its effects can been seen in Ghogal, Kaamankheda and 30 other villages, where crops have been damaged.
Underneath the water, there is a 20-feet bridge but people are being forced to use boats to reach the other side; the water has also destroyed crops.
"Our farmland is on the other side. That is not in low-lying area but from here, we are facing great difficulty going there," said Deven Puri, a farmer in Kamankheda.
Since August 25, these 51 protesters are on a jal satyagraha and so far the district level authorities have agreed to give to some of their demands which is in their capacity. But these do not include two of their main demands - that water level of the dam be reduced to 189 metres and proper implementation of the land for land compensation. The protesters are hell bent that till the Madhya Pradesh government does not agree to their two main demands, they will not come out of water.