Two days back, my dear friend, a fellow journalist called me up in the middle of the night, visibly disturbed after reading Rana Ayyub’s much acclaimed book, “Gujarat Files.” She was unable to come to terms with the fact that despite the circumstantial, documented and well pronounced evidences against those who carefully orchestrated the Godhra riots, why there is no outrage against them in the national conscience? Why Godhra was followed by Muzaffarnagar? Why as a nation, we remain so unfazed, so nonchalant about the rapes, murders, burnings and astounding amount of atrocities on our neighbours, friends and fellow Indians?
And as if one a cue, I woke up the next morning to the atrocious news of gangrape and murder of Madkam Hidme, an Adivasi girl in Sukma district’s village Gumpad. She was picked up from home, gangraped and then shot in cold blood by a gang of bloodthirsty, estrogen shooting men, dressed in an attire given by government that miraculously shields them against all legal shenanigans. Two days before this, a 12 year old child was similarly raped by a policeman in the same district. This is happening everyday in these villages. Every single day. As someone who lives in Chhattisgarh, I have seen this place wrought with poverty, mysery, slavery of a particular kind of people- people who speak the local dialect- Chhattisgarhi. They always do the menial jobs, they live out of the posh areas, they huddle at the ration shops, they dig up dead animals to eat and die, they toil, they go to government hospital, their children go to government schools, they drive rickshaws or clean the gutters. This is their land, but they have been enslaved by those who have landed here with degrees from Engineering, Medical and Business Management colleges. They have been bought by cheaters, thugs and conveniently sold off as slaves, to another. But, in all these decades, I have seen hardly any outrage at this colossal inhumanity, barbarity and atrocities that has been perpetrated on them by a handful of outsiders. Chhattisgarh remains one of the most peaceful of states, save the guerilla warfare going on in its forests and mountains.
The question remains the same, where is the mass outrage? Where is fight for justice, where is cry for retribution? There is something wrong here. Something wrong in the way Shankar Guha Neyogi was murdered, something ominuous in the way after state formation, all Adivasi politicians became willing bedmates with the Corporate thugs, something essentially disturbing as farmers are thrown out of their land to construct cricket stadium for IPL matches. Something sinister in the way liquor barons run schools, hospitals and become Olympic Association Chairman, while destroying households across the villages. Something dastardly has been going on as a whole generation of Adivasis is being trampled to non existence by foot soldiers of neo liberal, brahminist corporate bigots. It is even more appalling because this continues as life in the cities, go on unaffected.
The land is divided into have and have-nots forever. But in Chhattisgarh, its colonization of the Adivasi heartland, that’s happening with stringent urgency. Soni Sori, the quitessential voice of Adivasi women now, sits through yet another hunger strike demanding punishment of those who killed Madkam Hidme. Last time, she had similarly raised her voice against the gangrapes and mass violent assault on women from Sukma and Bijapur when she was attacked with a grease like chemical and threatened with life. Even as the state administration gets busy covering up the creases along their carefully panned out story of an encounter killing of a dangerously armed Maoist, (read gangrape victim Madkam Hidme)- the media remains staunchly divided on the narrative.
The fact of the matter is, like the Maoist guerilla fighters in the forest thickets, those who are part of the intelligentsia, have too actually held a myopic vision of these vengeful barbaric acts. Its not just the police, or the CRPF, or Air Force and NASA- or the local politicians or one Industrial house- that needs our attention. It’s the whole nefarious design of ridding the forests of Adivasis, to plummet the hills, dig up the vessel of jungle and smuggle out the Bauxite, Iron, Manganese, Diamonds, woods, soil, sand, water, rocks everything that there is- to the coiffeur of 1% people owning the world. When billions of dollars worth MoUs are signed, a Hidme, Kawasi, Lakhma, Kodopi and Sori become punitive collaterals. And when these collaterals raise their heads in protest or refuse the insulting in genuine compensation paid to them in exchange of their lives and dignity- then Army, Air Force, NASA and Hindutva Brahminist fascist brigade is called inside the forests.
The war is not of employment, land entitlement, or reservation in jobs- these are but smaller battles. The war is for survival and dignity, for proclaiming to the world, that they are human beings who have breathed on this land much before the Corporate or Hindutva thugs ever entered here. The fight has to be to let their voices be heard, above the cacophony of whataboutery, above the shrill voices of betrayal and blamegames, against humongous repression of these voices. The war cry thus, has to come from deep within these forests, a Birsa Munda, a Gundadhoor or a Kawasi Hidme- has to rise from the Bastar- to decolonize their land, to transform the rhetorics of development, to strip their land off corporate stooges and uniformed rapists. To claim what’s theirs, to not being crushed into inessentiality as priviledged actors under the grandiose history’s floodlights upon them. It is not going to be pretty, but war seldom is.
The Author is an independent journalist, writer and Intersectional Feminist. I have worked with development sector for some time, and have contributed articles as an Assistant News Editor for The Hitavada News Editor, a Regional English Daily for 10 years. After working with media for more than a decade I have come to understand, stories ought to be told from the voice of the deliberately silenced echos, and those that are preferably unheard. For Dalits, Bahujan, Adivasis and Women, this world is a battlefield, their stories- are what we need.