Today, (17/4/2006), there was a screening of the documentary "Words on Water" by Mr. Sanjay Kak. This is a documentary about the systematic deprivation of the livelihood of the 'voiceless' and the 'powerless' by a state machinery that is intent on filling its coffers and appeasing the rich and well do do and the influence peddlers.
I must admit that I missed a little bit of the show because of my commitments to an invigilation, a bath and dinner. But thank God for the concept of IST, I was able to view around 95% of the movie.
The opening shot (from the point I entered) was that of a water park in Gujarat, where people were frolicking and shrieking out of joy. There was a small interview segment with the promoter of the water park who said, "We use only fresh water in all these joy-rides/pools. We use recycled water for ..... (i forget the use that he mentioned)". But I do remember that the item that he mentioned was a very miniscule proportion of the total usage of water in that park. He concluded with the sentence, "Our aim is to sell the customer fresh water".
Awright buddy, your business is to sell the customers fresh water. But ever wondered how that fresh water comes to ur behemoth amusement park? Ever wondered about the hardships that people are put through so that you can have your "hangout place"?
Yes my dear friends, this is going to be yet another piece about the Narmada. Don't ask me why. Its just that I have fallen in love with the river, its name, its mythological history, the way it is different from the other rivers etc. So much so, that it has beaten the Kaveri as my number 1 favourite female name. Either the woman that I fall in love with or my daughter is going to have the name Narmada.
Leaving aside the romantic diversion and to cut a long story short, the film then moves along to narrate the story of the dispossesed and the systematic cheating campaign that has been unleashed by the Government to achieve its aims.
The post movie interaction with Mr.Kak was really interesting. Here is a man who can pasisonately argue about his movie, about the aims of the NBA (Narmada Bachao Andolan), about the engineering challenges faced for dam construction, about the social costs involved. And mind you, hes not your typical "stop dams altogether" activist. He was here on a mission to make people think. More so in the case of the IITs where 85% of the population thinks that the world begins and ends with them. As he aptly put it towards the end to a question from me where I asked whether all this andolans would have any use and whether we would remain helpless forever, "Don't think everythings fucked up. And please don't feel that you are helpless. Even if you have a discussion in your mess about this, you would have contributed your mite."
Some interesting points that arose during the discussion:
1. Some students from Gujarat heaped accusations on the NBA saying that it was funded by the CIA with the sinister aim of stalling India's development. This point was parried by a former NBA activist who is currently a student here, who said that activists pool their savings and conduct all rallies with that money.
2. The repeated invocation of China's name and specifically the 3 Gorges project to which my response was: i) In China opposition is nipped in the bud literally. ii) The real costs of the 3 Gorges project are not shown on TV. One of the only sources that I can think about is an old BBC documentary which bravely showed the actual costs.
3. The same Gujarati students arguing that the Sardar Sarovar Dam will help prevent flooding in the Bhuj region. To which Mr.Kak said, "Even Europe has cases of river flooding specifically the Danube. Why don't they think of hydel projects"?
4. The revelation that Gujarat is not able to make use of even 30% of its share of water when the dam height is 110ft. Hence the question, "What the fuck is going to be achieved by raising the height to 121ft?"
5. The statement by Mr.Kak regarding Rahul Bose's recent support for the NBA. "I am happy to see an actor from Bombay ask questions which you engineers are supposed to ask. The specific question was about the percentage utility of the canal waters.
6. The filmmaker's assertion that democracy and voices of dissent are being suppressed in Gujju land. In his words, "i cannot show this film in Gujarat.Meri buri tarah pitayi hojayegi".
There was much more that was discussed, the full transcript of which will take up all my time. Do watch the movie if you get a chance.
I also would like to present one more example that Mr.Kak quoted in response to a point raised by a student. "Lets assume that the government of India decides to raze Shivalik hostel and build a multiplex here.Lets also say that you are promised an apartment in Gurgaon.You vacate in good faith and construction begins. But halfway through the government says, 'Look, there is no land available in Gurgaon, so I'll give you Rs.5 lacs'. This will be hard to take for an IIT grad like you. The displaced people in the Narmada valley are not IIT grads who can log onto jobsearch.com and say 'Meri kheti nahin horahihe so I'll join Infosys'"...........
1.Even if you care a damn for the oustees, do watch the movie for some sexy shots of the Narmada valley. It will make u fall in love with the river.
2.Mr.Kak also emphasised the non-violent nature of the NBA. He said,"Thank god we are a non-violent organisation.If not a Kalinga Nagar like situation would have arisen.The whole road from kalinga Nagar to paradip is blocked. Why? The maoists have set up camp there.There is no chance of such an occurence here because of the movement's non-violent nature."
3.Check out the graphics regarding the farcial nature of Mr.Narendra Modi's fast. (link via Amit Verma's IndiaUncut)
To quote Mr.Kak to conclude,
1."The battle for the Narmada may be unequal. On one side we have the governments, the rich industry captains and the WOrld Bank. On the other we have a few people, a bearded filmmaker.But the battle still is there to be fought".
2."Delhiites will know the meaning of displacement when the Commonwealth Games will come here in 2010. When 3 lakh people will be rendered homeless, and only 10% of them will be resttled, thats when the anger of the mob will be known".
Go Sanjay Kak.Go Medha Patkar.Go NBA.Win the battle for the Narmada Valley.The battle in blogosphere has some dedicated soldiers.