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The Medha Patkar Chat

The participation on the Chat with Medha Patkar was expectedly hostile. The ecocrusader, despite her good intentions, arouses angry reactions from individuals who accuse her of being anti-development, and therefore, anti-India.

Despite the belligerent questions, the lady held her ground. Responding to antagonism and criticism with forceful arguments.

The transcript is very illuminating.

Nikhil Lakshman (Tue Oct 15 20:22:17 1996 IST):

Good evening, Ms Patkar. It's very kind of you to appear on the Rediff Chat despite your busy schedule. We hope you enjoy the experience.

bittoo (Tue Oct 15 20:44:43 1996 IST):

Hello Ms. Patkar,Good evening...Are you there?

oxymoron (Tue Oct 15 20:45:38 1996 IST):

Hi Medha! Hi Nikhil, would you believe it takes 8 minutes to check into this chat? Medha, do you think even VSNL is blocking this show today? I hope not!!!My daughter and I have a lot of questions for you today, be warned we've done our research on you from a great friend of yours...does that worry you?

Sysadmin (Tue Oct 15 20:45:55 1996 IST):

Pl wait...system is coming up..

oxymoron (Tue Oct 15 20:47:50 1996 IST):

You say that liberalisation is a major problem area. Yet you do use the media, which is a direct result of this great freedom we have now, to it's fullest extent? Is'nt that contradictory? Or do the means bely the ends?

oxymoron (Tue Oct 15 20:48:21 1996 IST):


oxymoron (Tue Oct 15 20:48:37 1996 IST):


MEDHA PATKAR, (Tue Oct 15 20:48:59 1996 IST):

Oxymoron: Not at all, I always prefer investigative questions.

oxymoron (Tue Oct 15 20:49:06 1996 IST):


Abhi (Tue Oct 15 20:50:26 1996 IST):

Good Evening MS. patkar,How are you doin Today

oxymoron (Tue Oct 15 20:50:54 1996 IST):

There are rumours that you get funded by rival construction outfits. What are the sources of your income?

sateesh (Tue Oct 15 20:51:51 1996 IST):

Hello Ms.Patkar, The complaint against you is you are publicity crazy. Are you?.

MEDHA PATKAR, (Tue Oct 15 20:52:14 1996 IST):

Oxymoron: Liberalisation does not necessariyl define media alone. It certainly defines the controls through media or otherwise disguised openness, so although I am certainly for proper technological choice and I am fighting for that, we feel that liberalisation is encroaching upon our sovereignty as a nation state and further, on the life and livelihood of our people. Media is just one aspect of this whole design, and my views on what is ideal are of course to be conveyed using all ways and means, even if it means picking a thorn with a thorn.

oxymoron (Tue Oct 15 20:53:12 1996 IST):


Abhi (Tue Oct 15 20:53:14 1996 IST):

Ms. PAtker even after the Gobernment has come out with a rehabitilation packege for Poor What keeps you from still opposing the Dam,Don't you see the Positive side.....Or you also have some Scandals in Your closet

Akansha (Tue Oct 15 20:53:36 1996 IST):

Good evening Ms. Patkar. It is great to have this opportunity to speak to you.

B K Behram (Tue Oct 15 20:54:52 1996 IST):

Namaskar, Miss patkar, why are you so anti-development?

na (Tue Oct 15 20:55:04 1996 IST):

Namaste Medha, This is nikhil aziz. I've finally been able to log on!

MEDHA PATKAR, (Tue Oct 15 20:55:07 1996 IST):

Sateesh: I must say I am not. But will you believe if I judge myself. I welcome you to watch the movement and my personal dealings closely. And also ask the media men, if I ever wooed them using wrong means such as five star treatments whcih are adopted by the governments and our opponents. I would have pursued have many other ways just for the sake of publicity and not this hard way.

Asha (Tue Oct 15 20:55:20 1996 IST):

Ms Patkar, why are you so against liberalisation?

Ram Sinha (Tue Oct 15 20:56:06 1996 IST):

Ms Patkar, it is a pleasure to speak with you today. May I ask you to enunciate what you stand for? What made you what you are?

Narmada (Tue Oct 15 20:56:06 1996 IST):

What according to you are the most remarkable results achieved from your agitation?

oxymoron (Tue Oct 15 20:56:38 1996 IST):

Agreed, sovereignity of the 'nation state' is paramount. However, how can you have one segment of something called liberalisation and damn the rest? Further, don't you think we have to move, change with the times, and take our chances instead of remaining in sloth? After all, what is the lifestyle of the people you call tribals and I call Indians?

MEDHA PATKAR, (Tue Oct 15 20:56:53 1996 IST):

na: Hi, Nikhil, be with us not merely in the chat but in the movement.YOur contribution as an Indian student abroad must be conveyed to others for motivating them to join us.

Akansha (Tue Oct 15 20:56:53 1996 IST):

How does it feel to believe so strongly in a cause to make it you life's sole motive??

sateesh (Tue Oct 15 20:58:18 1996 IST):

Ms Patkar, We all appreciate your hard way.But don't you think the problems can be solved across a table than by Dharnas or by dramatic hunger strikes?.Don't you think solving peoples problem requires some kind of sophistication instead of just plain mass appeal or dramatisation?.

na (Tue Oct 15 20:58:48 1996 IST):

Did you get my letter? How is the NAPM work going on? I'm planning to come again to India for 3-6 months in March and would like to work with NAPM at that time.

Narmada (Tue Oct 15 21:00:22 1996 IST):

How long do you expect this 'movement' of yours to continue?

Abhi (Tue Oct 15 21:00:48 1996 IST):

Ms PAtkar i think you didn't notice my last question o rmaybe ignored it.....NO comments....But how do you feel on what is going on India right now....Scandal after another and Then Goverment making fool of the public by protecting them

Ram Sinha (Tue Oct 15 21:00:56 1996 IST):

You don't believe you are anti-India when you oppose projects like the narmada Dam which will bring so much hope to India?

Asha (Tue Oct 15 21:01:04 1996 IST):

Ms Patkar, I think you missed my question. Why are you so anti-liberalisation?

na (Tue Oct 15 21:01:21 1996 IST):

That goes without saying. I'd made a commitment before I left all of you. I'm convinved even more now of it than before. By the way, a quick question. I wanted to get some details on NAPM meetings from the first one in 1992 to the Spet 95 conference. Who'd be the best person to contact? Ganesh or someone in Baroda office?

rishi (Tue Oct 15 21:01:27 1996 IST):

Do you think it is fair to oppose policy of a government elected by the people. What prevent you from standing for elections, winning, and then implementing your policies, and agenda.

MEDHA PATKAR, (Tue Oct 15 21:01:53 1996 IST):

Oxymoron: Who says no to the change. The question is what is desirable and who decides it. The liberalisation based model of development has closed all options to the common Indians that I'm with. Their lifestyle is certainly non consumerist and natural resource based. Neither they or we are for the status quo but when the life support resources are getting not only degraded but encroached upon and snatched away without any alternative means of livelihood coming to them. And leaving them without minimum needs fulfill, we do not think that the casinos and five stars hotels,tourism and hi-tech is going to be their priority. They and we therefore want the reprioritisation which is no scope for while facing the attack of the global consumerism to which their resources and life is opened up today.

rishi (Tue Oct 15 21:02:49 1996 IST):

Do you think it is fair to oppose policy of a government elected by the people. What prevent you from standing for elections, winning, and then implementing your policies, and agenda.

B K Behram (Tue Oct 15 21:03:09 1996 IST):

Why are all of you so shrill about liberalisation? How can you dismiss it as something wrong? How can you ignore the compulsions of economics?

Aaron Sharpe (Tue Oct 15 21:04:18 1996 IST):

Ms Patkar, Good evening. We in the West get the impression that you have now abandoned the Narmada Dam movement and taken up lesser causes. Is that correct?

na (Tue Oct 15 21:04:22 1996 IST):

Ram Sinha: Why does being against a dam project or even against the dominant concept of "development" have to be anti-India? I think it's important to ask some basic questions as to who exactly this "development" is benefitting? Medha and others involved in these struggles are certainly not against development. They're arguing for an alternative concept of development which is beneficial to the vast majority not a small elite section.

Narmada (Tue Oct 15 21:04:35 1996 IST):

How many people do you have who are actively involved in your work?

Abhi (Tue Oct 15 21:04:36 1996 IST):


Ram Sinha (Tue Oct 15 21:05:41 1996 IST):

Look Na. I am here to ask Medha Patkar questions. If you don't mind, I'll await her response.

oxymoron. (Tue Oct 15 21:06:47 1996 IST):

Medha:As we 'liberalise', we discover the redundancy of the existing government. The people, even those who are trod upon so shamelessly by our rulers, colonial or our own brethren, no longer need them because these rulers have nothing to offer. In such a scenario, why not let matters just take their own course, because the people are intelligent enough to decide? Or are you taking on the complete mantle, everybody's conscience keeper?

na (Tue Oct 15 21:07:00 1996 IST):

Medha, did you get my question on the NAPM meetings? This format is unfortunately not very conducive because of the time lag and the fact that new conversation doesn't just appear on the screen as it happens.

MEDHA PATKAR, (Tue Oct 15 21:07:47 1996 IST):

rishi: Why do you think, one cannot challenge the government which oneself elects, the voters, citizens whom the government is suppose to represent, cannot and should not tolerate wrong priorites and corrupt use of resources--- monetary,natural and human. When in the name of development the projects are planned unscientifically, without consideration of the priority for the masses and for the handful of the vested interests, under sheer political expediency, it's a democratic and civil right and a duty of every citizen to question that. This too is politics, peoples politics that would define power relations among various sections of populations, which we pursue. And why can't this be considered as politics broader than the electroal politics. The former responds to the social norms values and processes. And only that can monitor the electoral politics. These are two parallel forces.

sateesh (Tue Oct 15 21:08:18 1996 IST):

Ms Patkar Most of us may not agree with your principles or with your goals. But we are curious to know what motivates you to do all this. You say you are not against development and again you say you are against constructin dams.I could see the fallacy here. Do you remember what Nehru said to the nation "Dams are the modern temples of India". Your comments please

na (Tue Oct 15 21:08:26 1996 IST):

Ram Sinha: Point taken. Didn't mean to crowd in.

Ram Sinha (Tue Oct 15 21:09:00 1996 IST):

NA: How can you call the millions who will benefit from the Narmada Dam "small elite?". Are you crazy?

na (Tue Oct 15 21:09:21 1996 IST):


Abhi (Tue Oct 15 21:10:17 1996 IST):

MEdha ji > Are you there?This is turning out to be a chat amonst us not with you

na (Tue Oct 15 21:10:47 1996 IST):

Ram Sinha, i thought you didn't want to chat with anyone else?

na (Tue Oct 15 21:11:30 1996 IST):


oxymoron. (Tue Oct 15 21:11:38 1996 IST):

Ram and NA:please slug it out in the smoke filled cafe. or let medha answer both of you!.../

sudder (Tue Oct 15 21:11:55 1996 IST):

for all of us in the city, who take power fr granted and endure blackouts9one right now would really send this chat into limbo!)the tribals are far away.while its not exactly laudable i guess you need to really sella solution to the problem rathet than mere resistance that the movement stands for. true support begins when you spred your message to guys like us who are otherwise spectators.what , in your opinion is the lonf term solution and can this get to us?