Few days ago in Bangalore, on New Year’s Eve, on one of the most happening streets of Bangalore, filled with upper-middle class, a woman was molested. There are claims that multiple incidents happened at the same place with counter claims that only one such incident happened. Entire media, social media, civil society, people in general were in state of shock; and rightly so. Questions were asked, questions which had no response.
As someone who has stayed in Bangalore for long time and considers it as one of the homes, it was a depressing to say the least. These are the same place, streets where we celebrated our birthdays, hanged out as a teenagers, watched movies, tried to learn to be cool, tried to adjust to urban culture. Many a times, late at night, and late had no meaning, in those days even 1 AM felt early.
I wish sanity of Bangalore is maintained, I wish Bangalore could always provide their dwellers the sense of security that it provided me a decade ago.
But as I talk about the places I have lived, I am reminded of a place called Chhattisgarh, place where my first job took me. Read a news couple of days ago about NHRC findings which stated that 16 women were “prima facie victims of rape, sexual and physical assault by state police personnel in Chhattisgarh” in Bijapur district in October 2015. And another 20 women who’s statement could not be recorded.
Somehow, outrage was missing.
News was published at few places in inner pages. People looked over it and moved on. Editors were right in not giving it much prominence. Editors know their readers. Prominent editors know that the news is:
- From Chhatishgarh
- Has no photo, video to showcase
- About Tribal
- It’s from a state which ruled by same party which rules the country
It has no outrage value. No one is going to care about it. No one can relate to it. We all have been to places like Brigade Road, every city has such places. It’s likely that most of us have not seen a tribal woman in bones (Their body rarely have any flesh and blood).
Their social status doesn’t match ours; they are born resilient, they know how to fight misery, they have done it all their life. Their life-problems don’t inflict gut-wrenching fear in our stomach, in our mind. They are barely human. They don’t even look like human.
There are people who had certain pity toward those children of lesser Gods. They didn’t share things out of pity (Not talking about all of them). Remember how those billionaires who adopts African Children to get some good PR, clean their Karma etc. (Not all of them but many of them).
Then there was this grand old political party Indian National Congress led by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi duo, with a history of talking about women right tried their best. On Sunday, their social media volunteers raised the issue; and as people do for outrage on Twitter they trended hashtag. As expected even they didn’t get much traction. Their volunteers tried but sadly these things work on public response. If audience isn’t responding to it, little can be done.
Well, people didn’t respond. Issue is closed. We all have moved on.
And since we are talking of my homes, I am reminded of the place I was born to. Place where my parents live. Place where I got my education. Place which still gives me a sense of belonging. Godda. Jharkhand. One of the least developed districts of India. Nature gave us minerals, but that’s about it. And as we all know it, people with minerals supposed to live for the nation. It’s not a coincidence that mineral rich areas across the globe live in abject poverty. People from mineral rich areas first, have to concede any right, any ownership to the mineral for Greater Common Good and then they have to concede their only other source of livelihood, their farm lands. Farm lands which weren’t really farm lands but unproductive piece of stony land without any source of irrigation. Lands which were worked upon for decades so that it could produce something, anything worth eating. Anything which people could survive on.
But now that minerals presence has been confirmed by the Govt, factories need to be set.
Minerals need to be put into use. Lands need to be snatched away. Area need to be polluted. Their drinking water and irrigation waters need to look like Charcoal. People need to be uprooted. People need to be made unemployed. In a nutshell, local people need to die. In National Interest.
But these people are resilient. They have lived in hardship all their lives. Their forefathers have lived in misery and survived. Not very long (at avg life expediency of 40yrs in most areas) , but they have managed to survive. They know the trick. They know how to live with nothing.
Now coming to Godda, since sometime now an Oligarch, certain Mr. Adani with support of state and central Govt is trying hard to take away lands, so that he can set up Power plant, and supply electricity to Bangladesh while Godda lightens in Kerosene Oil or often lives in dark habitually, compulsorily.
See, we don’t only serve National Interest, in Acche Din we serve International Interest too. We give our lives for citizens of the world.
But fortunately for people of Godda and unfortunately for The Oligarch, certain Rahul Gandhi had different ideas few years ago. He had brought a law to give people, owners, saviors, survivors of the land, some right on that piece of land. Logical enough. Unfortunately not. People in positions, media creative narratives thought it’s too much. How can poor people decide about their land? It will create chaos. It will kill the “Investment environment” in the country. It’s too much power in hands of people.
If you see it from other side, it looks very simple. These are poor, desperate people with barely any source of survival, it shouldn’t be very difficult to convince them to sell their land. But somehow these rich billionaire Oligarchs have no confidence in their bank balances, have no money to pay these people. They prefer to pay-off their political friends. They want state to acquire the land on their behalf. And state, in pockets of these Oligarchs, using force/violence in every possible manner acquires it for them. At times by shooting them (like few months ago in Barkagaon, Jharkhand) or by beating them up, as it’s going on in Godda right now.
And amidst of all this, minerals keep coming out of those coal mines. In mines where locals get job, a job which kills you in a decade or 2, that too when you are resilient, you are born to survive. And at times, it kills you in accidents. Which keeps happening, almost daily basis. People keep getting injured, accidents are part of life, people die frequently, it’s part of life. People are meant to die anyway.
But few days ago, something big happened, and in these areas that something is always a tragedy, almost always. Good things are meant for good people. City people. People from planes. Good thing are not meant for people mineral areas where surviving every day is good enough. Something big happened. While we were planning our new year’s eve party, around 60 laborers travelling in 2 vehicles to their work inside a freezing cold mine, were trapped on their way at an illegal construction at an open mine, carried out by a famous Mumbai based Builder M/s Mahalaxmi Construction (Obviously People with better jobs, The Managers, Govtetc all know, all are paid). Locals estimated that 40 people died. States says 18 dead, 5 still missing. Who cares anyway, stats are stats. Stats have no emotions.
What wouldn’t surprise you at all is that rescue operation started over 15 hours later. They are stationed conveniently in cities, at Ranchi, at Patna, places where they are constantly needed, people where accidents keep happening. People in mining areas are resilient. They know how to survive, they have survived without Horlicks, they can survive even under 20 feet soil. They are born to do it. You know.
Technology is a great leveler. Even those from Godda, few of those privileged in Godda use same social media as people in New York. One of those people Smt. Deepika Pandey Singh used social media, a platform called Twitter to raise the issue, to let the world know that people live (mostly die) in Godda too.
Deepika who gave up her career, family and Delhi based set political career to go back to Godda and work for the people of Godda. She wrote few tweets, nothing much, few photos, some meaningless stats etc. Nothing important. She should have avoided it. It her problem if she had been up whole night, running around from Coal fields area to referral hospital, calling it a dispensary will be more appropriate but signboard says Hospital so let’s go with that. Anyway, it’s only for white collar Managers, not for those contract Mazdoors and locals, so who cares. Her running around, staying up, calling everyone for help didn’t bring any respite. No rescue operation had started. 60 people trapped inside,
and a helpless lady trying to bring world’s attention to it wrote few tweets. Few Delhi journo saw it at last. Normally what would you expect. To run some pity stories on it, some stats, some “representative images” of mines and laborers. But even that was too much. Journos found it funny, they first laughed. Then they found it fake, an agenda to malign the Prime Minister. Journalists, working at biggest of media houses. May be they were too with Anushak- Virat’s New Year plan, but we never object to that. Even if we do, we don’t have a loud voice. They could have ignored it. But that would have been too much.
Moving forward, it’s been 2 weeks, no one is responsible for their deaths. TV tickers, and News snippets vanished next morning. No FIR filled, no CM visited, no PM tweeted. As if that was from some movie, as if it didn’t exist. No one is responsible for their death. They are all born to survive or die. Whatever. We all forgot.
Except one person. Deepika. Who is still fighting for those people? She could have very well taken a break and spent the New Year with her family, her children when schools are closed. Somehow she didn’t feel like. She preferred to become voice of those voiceless family whose bread earners have died, leaving behind nothing else but prolonged traps of death. Deaths which won’t even be reported on its own. Deaths which will complied in Janm-Mrityu record. Death, if lucky will make the cut to some NHRC stats, some Poverty stats.
Deepika, after fighting for 2 weeks and not achieving much has committed her own life to to it. She is put her own life at stake. She is sitting on Hunger Strike. It’s been almost 24 hours now.
Sitting here in Delhi, I may not be able to do much, but I wish to thank her for what she is doing for people of Godda, fighting for those voiceless. And of course, I am with her in her fight for justice of Lalmita coal mine victims. I hope she comes out victorious out of it.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NEWSD and NEWSD does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.