Author's biography:
A theoretical physicist, resigned his job from Delhi University in 1982 to work full time at grass roots in the areas of education and rural development. With like minded people, has helped to evolve the People's Science Movement, something unique in India, that attempts to empower people to plan and implement their own developmental ideas and needs, so as to reverse the trickle-down paradigm of development. Has worked in developing alternative school curriculum for rural areas, edited a children's magazine and a developmental news feature service. Helped conceive a major regional project, and was the main editor of the outcome, a book titled 'The Dispossessed Victims of Development in Asia', published by the Asian Regional Exchange for New Alternatives (ARENA), Hong Kong, of which he is a board member. Has worked closely with the Bhopal Gas Tragedy victims and with the Narmada Dams movement. Has been a Homi Bhabha Fellow, a senior Fellow at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library and is a Honorary Fellow of the Indian Science Writers Association. Lives in the city of Bhopal in India.

Those familiar with various movements across the globe, concerning workers, peasants and women, sometimes find it hard to imagine that an issue based movement, like that against big dams, should have become such a world-wide phenomenon. The protests of wild life enthusiasts and conservationists, during the early phases, have become much more strident and militant as project affected people have got organised, finding support from a wide range of middle class professionals, often residing far away from the sites of these projects. The paper, using India as an example, attempts to situate the movement within the larger socio-economic realities of the country and attempts to portray the popular nature of the movement as a consequence of a subsistence economy, where contending claims to natural resources that provide livelihood support to a vast majority, are at the heart of the conflict. A similar conflict at a perspective level, between the Gandhian and Nehruvian notions of development is also outlined. The paper also attempts to trace the cultural roots that give a vibrancy and sustenance to the anti-dam movement, based on the reverence for rivers in India. That the encounter between the traditional and modern need not always be confrontational and can also be assimilative is illustrated with an example from an adivasi (indigenous people) area of the country.