Surban is from Kakarana village, a very respected people’s representative among the tribals of Alirajpur district in the Narmada Valley. He raises some pertinent questions on the soul less ‘developmental model’ that has ruthlessly uprooted people, cultures and degraded nature and its resources. He compares the urban ‘educated’, ‘individualistic’ civilization with the communitarian tribal/individual societies which look at life from a holistic world view. Speaking before camera, he commented on the clash between these two civilizations, calling forth a review of the aggressive ‘developmental model’ that is being propagated. Here we reproduce the translated transcription by Blaise Josesh of what Subran said:
In the 1992 Survey conducted by the Sarkar, many people were left out who are now offered merely INR 85,000.00 after forcing them to destroy their houses. We have neither been given any plot for building houses nor has our eligibility certificate (paatratha) for the plot been handed over to us yet; instead the government has been forcing us out of our land through false means showing us false rules. The government should give us what is due to us legally. Why are they forcing this destruction upon us?
There are 26 tribal villages in Alirajpur district and it is the same case in all of them; no one has been rehabilitated and resettled in the full sense. But the government has been proclaiming that R&R (Rehabilitation & Resettlement) has been done!! Legally speaking the government stands responsible for doing an impartial survey and compensating us duly for our houses and land. Not only by giving us the monetary compensation (Rs.5,80,000.00), but the correct house plot and land for land. So far nothing has come to us. What we have to say is that we should get our rights.
Very few people from these villages have been given land in Gujarat contrary to what was promised. Even in the case of those who were given land, it is difficult to live a normal life if the entire family settles there, because the land is very weak and non-fertile. Most of the people who have moved to Gujarat are doing labour for daily wages or working in some odd factories. How else can they survive? Right now they are managing somehow, but if all these people migrate to Gujarat where will they find the resources to survive.
We are basically farmers. Here in the jungle (forest-villages) we had more livestock; cows, buffaloes, etc. We used to cultivate kapas (cotton) and moongfali (groundnut) enough to secure to eat for the whole year and even surplus for selling. We never had to buy things to eat, rather we had surplus to sell. But after the land has been submerged we have been forced to go to the market to purchase necessary things. We had meetha tel (cooking oil), milk, money from selling goats and chicken, everything was available to us. Cloths were woven in our homes. Now after being drowned we have been reduced to be labourers…we are ruined. The source of our food has been ruined and we have become physically weak.
We have been living here for at least 10 generations. I can take the names of all those generations that have lived in my village Kakarana. Our people also have participated in the freedom movements under the leadership of Gandhiji. We have fought for development and in that course we got the patta for our agricultural land. But as we are illiterate the names of our people were never published. We also had our own views that our land should be freed from the English Rulers, for that our leaders also participated in the movements. Thanchya veer, Khaja Naik, Bima Naik, our tribal leaders had fought for freedom, but our government has erased that freedom, making us slaves once again. Others are pocketing the money that comes in our name. Officials are pocketing the money that comes in our name!! They forcefully drowned us; without permission why are they displacing us by showing us in the submergence area using false survey data?
We do not have any survey to specify the size of the agricultural land we have lost to the submergence. We had already lost quite a bit of forest land to various kinds of encroachments and that is unaccounted for. If we consider the pattawala land, Kakarana, Kukadiya, Kulwat and Roligaon, and further down, Anjanwara, Bithada and Jalsindhi, these are some of the big villages, which have lost a lot of land. We have no idea of the amount of forest land thats been submerged in between these villages!! From the time the Dam has come up, Sarkar has been lying about the land that belong to us (the records are mostly with the tehsildar office) and falsely seized them. We really do not have an estimate of the land we owned and lost as we have been living on this land for generations as a natural inheritance.
The forest-lands in abundance with bio-diversity, land, rivers inhabited by adivasis are the most fertile land and there are many livestock. We adivasis have everything given by nature. In the entire desh (in his context he uses this word for MP), in reality the people who produce the basics like vegetables and other edible things, clothes and build houses (roti-kapada-makan) are adivasis. Knowing the abundance in our land, Sarkar, is trying to push us out of our land by all means and transfer the ownership to big big companies and corporates. If not for adivasis who would build these big buildings in the cities, who will make bricks, who will dig the foundations?! Our land is fertile and under the soil there is abundance of minerals. Whatever minerals, be it iron, boxite, etc. are all available here. That is the reason why the Sarkar wants us to vacate our land so that Companies can be established here.
We are adivasis, and for generations we have been closely connected to Nature and its powers. We have always produced grains and food crops with an objective of feeding the desh as well. We and our land are the ‘machines’ that produce food for the desh. The ‘educated’ urban population do not even know how food grains are produced, because they eat what is already produced and ripened. Our land produces a wide variety of food grains and vegetables. We Adivasis know the dynamics of nature and how it produces. We knew many more varieties of food grains, but over the years, with the degradation of soil, water, forest, we have lost much of these varieties.
There is so much greed inherent in urban lifestyle and it is centered around greed for money!! We produce what is required for sustaining our life. It is not in our system that we would be greedy to snatch the livelihood of others. On the contrary, the ‘educated’ folks do not have any qualms about snatching the livelihood of each other; there is a lot of greed in them; there is not much reservation about making false documents to loot poorer fellow beings!
We know how to look after our farms. We do not have much greed; and are quite satisfied with whatever the land produces for the whole year. Here we do not need so much resources as people in cities. We sleep early at night and get up when the natural light is available. Therefore, we do not have to be greedy about electrical power. But Sarkar has come up with all kinds of plans and schemes and forcing upon us in the name of electrifying our villages and giving us facilities making everything expensive and unaffordable for us. They are building dams on rivers, digging land ( to insert pipelines) and what not…all in the name of giving us electrical power-another tactic for generating income for themselves.
We have been quite content with whatever produced with rain-fed cultivation. Now that the farming land areas have been reduced (due to encroachments and submergence) Sarkar offered us electricity supply saying that it would support increase in production with two crops. Otherwise, we were living happily without electricity also. We depended on dry wood (dead trees) from our forest for fuel to cook our food. Our lifestyle really did not depend on electricity. But now the Sarkar is imposing such resources upon us and keeping us in debt.
We did not need toilets as our toilets were in the open fields near the naala, far away from our sight. River, wells, water for drinking and bathing, everything was freely available…With the Dam constructed we are scared of going into the River. Formerly, we used to go to the naala for our nature’s call and then have a bath in the river before coming back home. Only then we would prepare food. We used to live a peaceful life. Everything was freely available. Food, water, everything was free. We rarely depended on bazaar (Market). Only for clothes and salt we depended on the market. We cultivate kapas(cotton) which textile industries convert into cloth. We sell our kapas and purchase cloths, so it is coming to the same thing. Only for the production of Salt we had to depend on the market. In exchange for Salt there used to be a seed called sun, which was available in our fields. So in reality we used to produce everything that we needed from our land. But Sarkar imposed things that we are unfamiliar upon us saying, “If you do this you will be better, if you do that you will be better”.
To manage a country and its people one needs certain skills which most of our Sarkars do not have. Sarkars function on the basis of money, but money is not the basis of life, no one can eat money nor can anyone live life merely with money. When the food grains from our fields reach the whole desh and its cities, they eat, and then there is life. But the ‘educated’ folks do not understand these ‘life-giving machines’! When we drink water we live; water is created by Bhagvan. Rivers and wells are given to us by Bhagvan. Everything in Nature has been created in a specific measure and traditionally we understand these measures. How much Sun light is required, how much air is needed and how much water is required…whatever, is REQUIRED is created in certain measures.
How can you exploit it? How can you weaken it? Dry land is forcefully drowned!! What kind of silliness is it? Is Bhagvan stupid? Bhagvan has wisely created everything in order. All kinds of human beings also have been created; some are hardworking while some are less hardworking, the ‘educated’ are less hardworking. They just manipulate things on paper in the name of the ‘development’ of the poor, but on the contrary there is no actual development of the poor. If you talk about education for Adivasis, even that has become an expensive affair. Sarkar does not want our children to be educated.
Therefore, with the help of Narmada Bachaon Andolan, and other well meaning organisations we have set up our own schools (Jeevanshalas) in different villages to educate our children. We make contributions to educate our children. There is NO support from Sarkar for our children. If our children get educated it is beneficial for us. Today we educate our children on our own efforts. It is unfortunate that the ‘educated’ people who are appointed on powerful positions make fake documents and grab all the money that comes in our name.
We always lived an independent life far removed from the Sarkari assistance. We relied on our land and forest for our livelihood. Lately, Sarkar wants us to build pakka (concrete) houses. But where do we get the necessary resources? Our river where we could get sand from has been submerged. Moreover, sand has become unaffordable with increasing demands in cities for the rampant constructions. Every river has been damned. Bhagvan has given the ‘machine’ that produces sand to rivers. No one else knows how to make sand. We know that sand is an essential component for building concrete houses. Sarkar has blocked the flow and filled all the rivers and that sand is submerged and inaccessible.
We call the One invisible residing in the jungle Dev, and on the banks of the River Ma Narmada (unclear)was going accompanied by Shiv Shankar. Those temples in his name were made by devi-devatha. The big temples in the jungles are made by our ancestors dedicated to our Dongaria Devatha; Rani Kajal. The Mandir that got submerged in Roligaon, was dedicated to Brahmin Vaniya. He was Dev, invisible to our naked eyes. He used to distribute money to people without being visible. So there have been many Dev- Devtha present in this region for generations.
How was the prakriti made? It’s female- nature. Kalchya Mata, is female. Today women are being tortured. Narmada is our Ma. She is the daughter of Shiv Shankar. If she does not give water, the State of MP would not have water. There are springs of Narmada River all over the State. She has come from Amarkhantak. Her water is pure. We do not need to go to doctors for many diseases. If a woman was not getting impregnated, taking a bath in Narmada River would heal her. So what kind of a Sarkar is it which is adamant on destroying our dev-devtha? Sarkar does not even know whose daughter is Narmada.
Its water is like milk. It cleanses you from your diseases. That is the reason why people come from all over desh to take bath and do parikramana of Narmada. Those who have illness would take bath in Narmada and tie a thread (reciting certain mantras in her name) around their wrist. If our cows or goats do not produce enough, we sprinkle Narmada water and it heals them.
We have not seen Bhagvan. But we consider Narmada as Bhagvan’s daughter. Idols of the invisible Bhagvan has been made, giving human shape to them and we worship these moorthis. Since Bhagvan could not be found in tangible form therefore, our ancestors created idols of Bhagvan in stone. Instead of searching for Bhagvan, they started worshiping the idols. Mandir was created to worship Bhagvan. Narmada Ma was created so that there is water for all our needs. The Sarkar does not seem to respect or care for our Bhagvan. Narmada water is forced to become stagnant and rotten and the Mandirs have been destroyed.