The Submergence

June 4th, 2004, 9am

Wondering where to ferry the kids for this Vacation? I am surrounded by places with no ‘Wah’ feeling. May be a trip to Naramada Dam? As the first rain of 2004 fell in the Narmada tributaries in western Indian state of Gujarat, I was having a nap at an island surrounded by Narmada Dam waters. Very few even in the state of Gujarat have any idea of this island village in the middle of Karjan Dam at Dediapada. Those staying in this village named Juna Raj are official Narmada Dam oustees. In 1978, they packed their bags taking a small compensation they were offered and stayed for eight years at government-selected resettlement site. But realizing that their village is not getting submerged in the dam waters, they returned back only to find that from a plain forest area, the village turned into an island.

The Gujarat government insisted they vacate the village since they were the recipients of compensation for their land. The tribal villagers termed the compensation inadequate and claimed the government was wrong to make them move in the first place since the village had not been submerged.The then Village Chief Gopalbhai Vasava approached a Jesuit priest, Joseph Idiakunnel, who popularized free legal aid for tribal. The priest then filed a lawsuit and got the eviction stayed. After a decade of legal fight, the government agreed to allow the villagers to remain in their village.

When I visited the village, I travelled on a second hand boat owned by Vasava, the only boat in the village which used to ferry people to the mainland. It took me an hour to reach the village stayed back at the village for the night. We slept in the open with lurking danger of wild animals from the nearby mountain. Vasava set out to catch a fish for our dinner and made it within no time.

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Binu Alex

Jack of all master of none. Reckless Thinker, Bad writer, Tech lover, Safe Driver in Dry Republic of Gujarat. 2 decades in print, web and radio. Unglorified tweeter. No Admirers. Unlimited Foes, Endless envy. Not to be loose shunted

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