Narmada Bachao Andolan and Aamir Khan: Fani Ya Fanaa?

May 25, 2006
Subhan Ahsan

I start first with this disclaimer that I am not or have never been a huge Aamir Khan fan and also not promoting his films. This article is more concerning the right of a citizen to voice his opinion and lend support to a cause which many feel is a just cause.

Since years many Indians has been reading about Narmada Bachao Andolan and seeing its ever so familar leader Medha Patkar's image in news. What an irony that this poor lady has turned grey over the years but the issue of Narmada dam has not been resolved. Its a different topic all together on why successive government was not inclined to take action and steps which can be beneficial to all the stake holders.

I am neither pro or anti dam, and even the activities at Narmada Bachao Andolan are not anti-dam or anti-progress. Though in recent time its saddening to note how the politicians and some media articles have tried to spin the Andolan's efforts as un-patriotic.

The dam at river Narmada is an important and profitable project for the country. Building it would help in meeting the ever growing needs of energy. And thus help enrich the nation. But progress cannot be at the cost of disrupting the lives of thousands of people. And if there is a necessity and no way without effecting the lives of the local inhabitants, then these people should be given the proper compensation. This is their very right and if the government is not concern with this, then these people has no option but to take up their agitation. Even the Supreme Court of India has given direction in this matter that the extension of dam should happen along with proper compensation and rehabilitation.

The people residing elsewhere in cities and towns are not having first knowledge of the concerns and pain of the local inhabitants. Politicians who have vested personal interest are ever too eager to denounce the agitators as people who are hindrance to the Development & Progress of the State.

It is surely a commendable action of Aamir Khan to lend his support for this agitation. Being a celebrity its heartening to see that he has genuine concerns for the weak of the society. And so its disgusting to now see how the politicians would like to take revenge by inciting people in banning his upcoming release in the Gujarat state. In recent years, the politicians and few segment of the society in this state has made all efforts in proving that rationality and justice cannot always prevail in democracy.

The Party workers (hoodlums would be more appropriate term) of leading national political parties have taken voilent action to attack Aamir Khan for his opinion. We have BJP spokeperson Vijay Kumar Malhotra saying,

"We can end this row if he [Aamir Khan] apologises to the people of Gujarat [for his stand on the two issues]. That's all."

Here are the leaders who cannot take action against people breaking the Laws, but demanding an apology from a person who had echoed what Supreme Court has said.

It won't be easy for Aamir to face such attacks as this will effect him financially. I wonder if there is option in the Indian Judiciary to put up a case on the Political parties and seek monetary compensation for the damages. But in any case, being on wrong foot with the politicians is as good as starting enmity with a local gang-lord.

Fanaa is a sufi term which means self annihilation or take steps to destroy one's existence for a cause. (And fani means immortal.) Will Aamir be able to stand by his principles and continue to support the cause? Fanaa is just the first step in the realization of the Truth.

Subhan Ahsan is an Indian Muslim. He has domain and technical expertise on Collaboration and Knowledge Management Solutions. Currently based & working in Dubai, his native place is Bombay. You can reach him at www.subcoded.com
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Proud Barodian
May 26, 2006
02:57 AM

Again it depends on the perception of an individual.

The ruling party in the state is trying to unite its vote bank. It also helps that Aamir is from a particular community.

The CM has had a lot of bashing in the past and now he is desparately trying to project himself as a progress oriented leader and earn some sympathy over severe criticism. Way to go politician!

May 26, 2006
09:28 AM

Those who oppose the Narmada dam oppose the right of 100 million people in Gujarat , MP and Rajasthan to gain access to their basic rights - water and electricity. I hope that is clear.

Support for this NBA anti-dam gang comes mostly from people living in Delhi or Mumbai. Imagine Delhi or Mumbai going without water and electricity for even 3 days .....then you will understand why people of Gujarat are so angry and even hateful towards those who oppose the dam.

May 26, 2006
10:26 AM

Why can't ones affected be just rehabilitated, and let the Dam be finished.

Subhan Ahsan
May 26, 2006
11:49 PM

@3- Thats what the people effected has been asking, dats what the Supreme Court ruling and the instruction to the Government is.

@2- When will we come out of the "Sacrificial goat" mentality, that we have to put on Bali 40000 families to please another 50million people. Development projects cannot be based on such arguments and need to factor in rehabiliation cost/effort in the budget. A hypothesis to explain the point, imagine your house being demolished for a Road widening project and you are not rehabilitated. Will you happily agree to this for the convenience of thousands of others? Or will you run and get an Stay Order from the court.
Try to put yourself in the shoes of the affected people and you will get to know their plight.

May 27, 2006
12:07 AM

Subhan - its a question of numbers. If 100 million people can gain access to water and electricity at the expense of 40,000 , then so be it. That is how history has always been.

May 27, 2006
12:16 AM

Besides - rehabitation has been adequete in most part , though not perfect. Inspite of great roadblocks set up by the 'human rights activists' belonging to the NBA. I read in India Today about how NBA activists demolished a health care facility set up the the government to help the displaced. They also distribute messages warning government officials of 'dire consequences' if they attempt to rehabilitate the people or even visit the villages.

We are dealing with a double faced villain here. One who threatens to fasts onto death protesting lack of rehabilitation of the poor people and yet at the same time unleashes his/her goondas to prevent the rehabilitation from taking place.

What is the ultimate goal of this creature ? Stunt development at every level. Hold India back at every level. Oppose every big infrastructure project or a industrial plant. Reduce all Indians to a state of perpetual poverty , take away all hope , demolish any productive economic activity - and set the stage for a 'people's revolution'. Called Operation Pol-Pot.

Subhan Ahsan
May 27, 2006
12:31 AM

Raj you are escaping from answering my hypothetical question. What if you were the effected person? What if your house is being demolished and you are thrown out (like a garbage) without being rehabilitated?

Will you be happy because it will be for the betterment of thousands of others?

You seems to be reading the Animal History, where might is right and the Stronger crushes the weaker of the society.

Why dont you post News link on what you are claiming? You don't suppose everyone should be believing what you say.

P.S. - Don't know from where u got 100million figure when the whole of Gujarat population is below 50million. And you sounds as if every one is in dear need of water.

May 27, 2006
12:38 AM

Subhan - but the thing is , they are being rehabilitated - inspite of great opposition from the NBA.

India Today online is for subscribers only. Find somebody with a subscription , and find out the article on the Narmada controversy. I read it in the hard copy. It is a famous magazine you know - I cannot make up what I read there.

There are pictures of banners set up by NBA threatening government officials who dare visit the affected villages.

No - its not just the people of Gujarat who are bieng deprived of narmada water. Rajasthan and MP will benefit greatly. And they are being deprived of their basic right by your NBA gang.

May 27, 2006
12:40 AM

Oh - sorry again ...the last post was written by me and it was addressed to Subhan.

May 27, 2006
12:41 AM

Can the moderators change that please ? Change the name of the poster from 'Subhan' to Raj' ?

Subhan Ahsan
May 27, 2006
01:07 AM

No problem at dat.

If you can recollect the Issue no. or tentative month, I will check that.

Vikas Chowdhry
May 29, 2006
11:54 PM

I thought that the main focus of this post was that whether as an Indian citizen, Aamir Khan has a right to voice his opinion or not and if the violent reaction to his opinion is justified?

Comments in favor or against the dam itself are all valid but I don't think that they belong in the comments section of this particular post.

Subhan Ahsan
May 30, 2006
12:11 AM

Thats right Vikas, but this is how the whole affair concerning Aamir Khan has been turned into. He has stated his support for rehabilitation, which politicians and many others turned it into an Anti-Dam, Anti-Gujarat comment.

Even reading by the comments on Blogs you can see how people in their zeal easily overlook the fact and gets hyper-tense :)

Shantanu Dutta
May 30, 2006
01:48 AM

He is not the first celebrity to do so. But he's turned out to be the most radical, activist Bollywood filmstar by far, all in day's time..at least as far as my memory serves me.

The reasons why he would back the Narmada Bachao Aandolan
could be several. Ranging from the fact that a cousin associated with the movement influenced him to the fact that he was in and out of the Kutch for six months whilst the shooting of Lagaan
To his credit, he did not buckle to the mob frenzy that followed his signing up a few days ago. Instead, he calmly called the attention of all and sundry and asked if these were really the politicians and political parties they wanted to be led by ? He even accused the political parties of trying to bully him.

June 6, 2006
03:01 PM

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