BARWANI: Oustees of the Sardar Sarovar Dam, built on the Narmada river in Gujarat, and NBA activists staged a sit-in, observed "Dhikkar Diwas" on Tuesday, the 69th birthday of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and dumped his effigy into the holy river here in Madhya Pradesh.
The protesters, which included members of the Medha Patkar-led Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), squatted on the Khandwa-Baroda state highway-26 here, bringing the traffic to a standstill for hours.
Some of them got their heads shaved as a mark of protest and demanded that the Sardar Sarovar Dam's (SSD) gates be opened immediately as the backwater of the reservoir has flooded their homes in Madhya Pradesh located in the catchment area of the mega dam.
The protesters said they were observing "Dhikkar Diwas" (day of condemnation) to denounce the Gujarat government for organising a festival at the dam site in Narmada district to coincide with Modi's 69th birthday.
The PM visited Kevadiya village in the adjoining state to take part in the 'Namami Narmada' festival celebrated by the Gujarat government to mark the filling up of the dam to its full reservoir level (FRL) of 138.68 metres.
The protesters ended their demonstration by dumping an effigy of Modi into the Narmada river here.
"The Gujarat Chief Minister and all his officers raised the level of water in the dam to 138. 68 metres only for the sake of celebrating Prime Minister Narendra Modiji's birthday. We damn the celebrations on his birthday. Wish him a long life. But he should understand his duty and responsibility, and let people live", NBA leader Medha Patkar told reporters here.
The NBA is spearheading the agitation to demand that the SSD's gates be opened immediately and also pushing for proper rehabilitation of dam oustees.
The backwater of the dam has partially or fully flooded 192 villages and one township in MP, Himshi Singh, an activist of the National Alliance for Peoples Movements, to which the NBA is attached, said.
"We want the sluice gates to be closed only after total rehabilitation of residents of 192 villages and one township in MP's Barwani, Dhar, Alirajpur and Khargone districts," she added.
"Dam oustees observed Dhikkar Diwas to protest against filling of the SSD to its full reservoir level that has wrecked havoc in Madhya Pradesh, the activist said.
The Narmada river originates in Madhya Pradesh and culminates in Gujarat, where the SSD, whose foundation stone was laid nearly six decades ago, had been built of it.
Many dams have been built on the revered river in Madhya Pradesh.