This is how an Adivasi village is!

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Priyanka Sandilya

Priyanka Sandilya (Poya) is a Koitur (Gond) from Surguja, Chhattisgarh. She is an Adivasi Research Scholar presently based in Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). She did her Master in Social Work in Dalit and Tribal Studies and Action from TISS. She worked in Asivasis areas before joining TISS. Her area of interest is Adivasi economy, Adivasi Politics, Adivasi Philosophy, Adivasi Epistemology, social movements, Identity politics and Adivasi Culture and spirituality. She can be reached at spriyanka18@gmail.com.

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Kuruwa – my village is!

My village is destroyed, displaced…

And recreated thrice,

My language, my knowledge and my culture…

Is already vanished,

This is development!

And now…

We are civilised…

Mainstreamised!

 

But actually…

We are a destroyed lot,

Forests are gone…

Now I see forest from distance…

Or in the retold stories once I heard…

From my grandmother,

Or now from my badi-maa…

She recalls and shares…

And it all begins with…

Once upon a time.

The forests were ours…

And now they claim its’ theirs!

 

I connect to that forest reality only…

When I visit my Nani’s village,

Why our reality has been taken away?

Why no traces have been left behind?

Why only memories have been left now?

 

My grandfather once pointed…

The mountain belonged to us,

Now that mountain is flat

From all directions,

The beauty of that mountain

Is gone forever!

 

Why was our beauty robbed?

Is it the only way to…

Develop us?

Civilise us?

Mainstreamise us?

By vanishing our beauty?

By snatching our bread?

And murdering a livid culture?

 

My house sits on the top of coal mines,

Every day the mines are blasted,

Every day mother Earth cries!

Every day we live with the vibration of dynamites!

 

There is a river flowing by,

The Britishers built a narrow bridge,

To make it look more modern…

Neo-colonisers went for a mega construction…

A mega bridge.

The narrow paths are altered…

Into four lanes,

Truckloads with our mineral…

Flood the highway now.

 

Those once upon a time days…

As told by my Nani and badi-ma,

We had water in plenty,

To construct our homes…

To irrigate our fields…

To drink and cook…

For human, cattle and everything…

Living or non-living,

But now since last four years…

My house could not be constructed…

Due to shortage of water,

If we construct…

With the water from our well…

Then there won’t be enough to drink.

 

The coal mines drank all our water…

They ate all our mountains…

They buried all our forests!

This is how my village Kuruwa is!! This is how an Adivasi village is…

 

So is Mainpat

I walked to the hills…

Of Mainpat…

To conduct my research,

When I observed them…

I imagined…

All the past of my village…

If it was coal in my village…

It is Bauxite here in Mainpat.

 

Bauxite mining is killing all our people…

Generations after generations…

Women, Men…

Old, young…

Children and future…

The list is still long,

Agricultural land, Graveyard…

Sarna land, grazing…

Forests, ponds…

Streams, lakes…

The beautiful terrains…

The crop patterns…

The climate and weather…

And everything else..

All are on the death troll!

 

They also robbed us of…

Our Culture…

Our Philosophy…

Our Economy…

Our Technology…

Our Science…

Our Innovation…

Our Livelihood…

Our Skills…

Our Alternatives…

 

Today,

I am of NO use…

Generation after generation…

It’s repeated…

With women, men and children,

Our forest doesn’t…

Have a place for us anymore,

They have turned alien.

The forester warned:

‘It is for the elephants,’

The company sahab scared us off saying:

‘You don’t have skills or knowledge…

Or degree to work in Bauxite mines!’

 

Even I can’t attend the school…

Is there any history of education in my family?

‘You are not made for education,’

Yadav of neighbouring para told me

I neither get admission in Adivasi school…

Nor any scholarship,

Since I don’t have a Tribal Certificate…

And therefore,

I can’t proof my Adivasi status…

 

Vakil babu negotiates…

Between us and the company,

I am stuck with the laws and policies…

Which I have never been part of,

The Dikhus of the village…

Added my name in voter roll…

Took my thumb impression…

On so many papers!

I don’t have a clue of…

What they are!

Even my husband asks me the same…

I love and trust him…

He is the family head….

So I give my thumb impression.

 

The old grandmother says:

‘I have dreamt to marry my grandson…

With a girl of his choice…

But I have no money,

His mother is dead…

His father was a mine labour…

My son was retrenched…

Since then he has lost his senses!

Now I will take a loan…

From the Yadavs…

To get him married,

But I don’t have the place

To conduct the marriage

To invite the spirits of ancestors

To perform the rituals,

My home, field and ancestral shrines

Is all submerging

Into the belly of Bauxite mines…’

 

She pauses and continues:

‘We used these stone

To construct our house

Our boundary wall,

Our wells

And erected a Stone

When someone died

The company babus say it’s Bauxite

They use these stone for different purpose…

I don’t know for what

And which purpose

Trucks-by-trucks gets loaded

And they whisk it away.’

 

Another grandpa said:

‘This field was earlier ours…

I was happily working on it,

But now I cannot enter there,

Half of the field has been…

Taken away by the company…

And the Yadavs,

Now in our village…

We have huge money…

Young lads buy bikes and are dying…

Day-after-day they die

Due to happiness…’

This is how Mainpat village is!! This is how an Adivasi village is…

 

Bastar villages have a different story to say

First a company…

Came to our mountain land,

We called the mountain Bailadila,

They were looking for iron,

Our mountain was…

In the shape of ox’s withers,

But now it is no more,

The dynamics in our village…

Has changed very fast,

When NMDC came…

They brought police and CISF with them.

 

Then the revolutionaries came,

They brought CRPF, BSF…

Naga force, Mizo force…

Koya commando and local armed police

 

We have a perennial river,

It was our source of drinking…

And cultivation…

And for our cattle,

Today it has turned red…

With the blood of our people,

The affluent from the plant…

Further polluted the river,

 

We are left no where,

We are left with nothing,

We are trapped from all side,

No place for us now,

Neither in the forests,

Nor on our own land,

Our villages have turned alien,

Kids to elder generation,

Have these stories to speak.

 

‘These streets were ours once,

But now…

We are scared…

To walk at the sides of this small road,

Recently a school going girl…

Was blown into the air…

With a mine blast,

We are scared to send…

Our children to the school now,’

A story retold.

 

They have left

Cow, ox, buffaloes…

Goats and hen in the forest,

They don’t keep them,

There is not safe space to feed them,

They would be killed one by one,

Observed I!

 

The young woman says:

‘Even we are falling down…

We hide here and there…

To save our life…

How can we save their life?’

 

Two types of people come to our village,

One comes to boost our women…

Other comes to rape our women,

There are some…

Who just come to kill us,

I don’t know which type…

Will come next!

 

Gunda Dhruw’s statue…

Is not found in any place…

Except Jagdalpur,

But in Sukma…

A huge statue of…

Some stranger has been built,

I don’t know who he is,

No one cares to tell us even,

I have seen Gandhiji…

In the currency note clearly,

Apart from him…

I don’t know anyone…

But he also doesn’t listen to us.

 

We walk miles…

To collect our PDS…

To visit market…

To the hospital,

Our children…

Walk miles to the schools,

There is a school in our village…

Next to CRPF camps…

Our daughters are scared…

To walk by the camp…

To reach the school,

In our village…

Two types of people come,

One from the CRPF camp…

And the other from…

Deep inside the forests.

 

I have a bank account…

But I have never visited bank,

Once my father went to the bank…

He never came back,

I also have the Voter and Adhaar Card…

But I have never used them.

 

This is how the village in Bastar is!! This is how an Adivasi village is…

 

This is the story of Kuruwa!

This is the story of Mainpat!

This is the story of Bastar!

This is how my village is!

This is the story of every Adivasi village!

 

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Priyanka Sandilya

Priyanka Sandilya (Poya) is a Koitur (Gond) from Surguja, Chhattisgarh. She is an Adivasi Research Scholar presently based in Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). She did her Master in Social Work in Dalit and Tribal Studies and Action from TISS. She worked in Asivasis areas before joining TISS. Her area of interest is Adivasi economy, Adivasi Politics, Adivasi Philosophy, Adivasi Epistemology, social movements, Identity politics and Adivasi Culture and spirituality. She can be reached at spriyanka18@gmail.com.

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