In an unprecedented act of resistance, a tribal community, one of the many displaced by the Narmada dam project, has turned the tables on the draconian state. For over a decade since the displacement, the community had been quietly waiting for the government to come good on its promised rehabilitation and relocation policy which clearly stated that the people would be moved to arable land and be provided with basic amenities for housing, health, sanitation, education, electricity etc. But instead, the government dumped the community wholesale across a barren and inhospitable terrain. In return, the tribals took on the government at its own game.
In late 2011, the community decided to move into government land in Alirajpur, Madhya Pradesh. Without force or furore, the tribals moved into land belonging to the state Agricultural department and made it their home. They plowed the land and sowed the seeds. This past season, they reaped the first harvest of their resistance. IndiaUnheard Correspondent and veteran Narmada activist Rakesh Khanna was present at this moment to document the celebration, hope and rigid persistence of the community.
The people are calling the act of occupying government land, a ‘satyagraha’, a peaceful struggle for rights, recognition and land. There have been frequent government threats that threaten to remove the ‘encroachments’. But the people are steadfast. They have already lost all they had . They have witnessed and lived the fate of the around 162 villages and 85,000 people who were displaced by the ‘development’ project. Seizing the land was their final resort. They did not and will not give up. They are eating the fruits of their resistance.