Last week, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi celebrated his 69th birthday at the controversial Sardar Sarovar Dam (SSD) in his home state of Gujarat.
But 186km upstream in Barwani town on the banks of the Narmada River in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh state, the mood was anything but celebratory.
Nearly 2,000 men, women and children, riding bikes and packed in tractors and trucks, rallied in Barwani, a town of about 55,000 people, against submersion of their homes, property and businesses due to the dam.
The country’s biggest dam has led to mass submergence after the authorities recently raised the water level to its maximum height of 138.68 metres.
Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), a grassroots movement agitating for the rights of the indigenous people displaced by the dam, said at least 178 villages in Madhya Pradesh have partially or fully submerged after the dam’s water level was raised.
However, the state government has yet to put out a specific number of villages submerged so far, which it says is fewer than the number cited by the NBA.
Protesters gathered at Kasrawad bridge on Narmada River alleged the dam’s water level was raised before the schedule to mark the birthday of Prime Minister Modi, who had pushed for it when he was the chief minister of the Gujarat state.
They waved blue NBA flags and posters featuring the prime minister that said “my birthday is your day of death”.