The summer is here and you’re probably already looking for places you can travel to, and escape the heat. And while you’re at it, might as well make it cost effective or stir up the backpacker in you. We found this super useful Quora thread with some of the most beautiful (and budget-friendly) places you can travel to with friends, family or even solo. Take a look (try and resist the temptation of just packing your bag and setting off), and let us know which places you’d add to this list in the comments below.
We just recently went on a trip to Sikkim and it has everything for you. Snow capped mountains to lush greenery. Pristine and cheap. We went for a 2 week trip, from the south and it cost us only 20k. M.g marg is one amazing place and it makes Gangtok serene. If you would like to visit places unexplored with human intervention, I would suggest you to pay a visit to north Sikkim. This place has some of the most spectacular places like Gurudongmar lake , @17800 feet , and a freezing temperature of -10°c. And ofcourse, it was frozen.
Also Darjeeling is just a 3 hour drive away from Gangtok. Another hillstation, which is relatively cooler than Gangtok. River teesta flows beside you en route to Darjeeling. The best time to visit Sikkim would be from mid march – June and from october-december. During monsoons, landslides may happen and during decemeber-february there would be snow all around.
This is how a random landslide would look like :p.
Photos and text by Robin S. Kishore
2. Araku Valley
If you are looking for hill stations in summer, that are off the beaten track, not too expensive, I would recommend the following options. Most of them are down South, not that crowded, pretty much quiet, and have decent accommodation. Avoid Ooty, Kodaikanal, Munnar, which have become too touristy. Though becoming popular or late, it (Araku Valley) is still less crowded, compared to other hill stations. Many decent hotels out here, and accessibility is good from Vizag. And if not for anything just for the 2 things, one the train route from Vizag to Araku, one of the best ever rail routes. And the breathtaking Borra Caves.
Photos and text by Ratnakar Sadasyula
I would recommend Vagamon hill-station located in Kottayam-Idukki border of Idukki district of Kerala, India. It has a cool climate with the temperature between 10 and 23 °C even during a summer midday.
Last November, I went on a Solo trip to this place for few days and would highly recommend this place because,
Vagamon is not commercialised yet (thank god), so you will not find many tourists here. That makes it one of the quietest places
The stay is very cheap here (I stayed in a youth hostel which costed me around 300 Rs/night)
Vagamon is highly safe for any kind of travelers.
Food is very cheap and good , since they are all prepared by local homemakers.
Text and photo by Mari Subramanian
The 4 dham yatra Gangotri-Yamunotri-Kedarnath-Badrinath
We stayed at the Bharat Sevashram Sangha guest houses where you can stay for 20-30 rupees per day. It is not only cheap,but peaceful,secluded from the rest of the town.You can sit there in there meditation room for hours and pray to God or listen to Maharajas singing.The people there are very friendly so,you won’t have any problem while travelling.
You will get only vegetarian food in this state so that’s the only thing that you need to consider.
The Kedarnath dham yatra is on foot,14 kms from Gauri Kund(people worship Gauri Maata there).
Text and photo by Souravi Sarkar
Yelagiri is a hill station located near Vellore at altitude of 1110 m above sea level. This place is not as commercialized as other popular hills stations. Sparsely populated villages , where you can either be a paying guest or in a cheap, good quality resort. This place is good during May as well as Oct/Nov.
Text and photos by Venkatesh Balaji
6. Katagla Village
Quietest – Katagla Village in Kasol. It is 3.5 Kms short of noisy and crowded Kasol town and is across the River Parvati. Set amidst a jungle that runs along the river, lower Katagla is a heaven.
Cheapest – guesthouses are cheap. Katagla Forest Retreat is a Himachali house and if you want to stay for long, they can offer you very good discounts. Food is available in the cafe called Mari Vanna. Reaching Kasol is also cheap- Rs 400 by Govt bus from Delhi or 1000 by Volvo (get down at Bhuntar).
Summers – you always need a windcheater kind of jacket during mornings and evenings while days are pleasant during summers. It snows only in late December onwards and October is cool.
Photo and text by Lay Pubs
7. Thachi, Himachal Pradesh
I won’t say this is the most beautiful place, but this is most beautiful place for me. It might as well be the most beautiful place for you, if are looking for peace, want to take a break from the crowd and/or looking for some nature.
Thachi is situated near the Great Himalayan National Park.
Manual scavengers and Dalit activists from all across India held a protest march at Jantar Mantar in Delhi under their 125 days long nationwide #BhimYatra, that ended on April 13th, on the eve of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s 125th birth anniversary.
With so many manual scavengers losing their lives because of the inhumanity of forcing them to enter and clean out septic tanks, protestors at Jantar Mantar burnt a symbolic septic tank to assert their demand to scrap the manual scavenging profession in its entirety, so as to avoid any further deaths of individuals performing such work.
They also demanded complete modernisation and mechanisation of the sanitation system in India.
Through the Bhim Yatra, they hope to send a message to the government of India and people at large of this country about how this inhuman practice that destroys their lives, needs to end.
Protestors set fire to containers representing septic tanks cleaning which manual scavengers have and continue to lose their lives even today.
Women who have lost members of their families to deaths in septic tanks stand in protest at the Bhim Yatra, Jantar Mantar.
Pinki, Khushboo and Asha – three women from U.P. whose husbands died while cleaning septic tanks – demand justice at the Bhim Yatra.
Translation: We’ll put an end to the practic of manual scavenging.
A container representing a septic tank on fire.
125 families whose loved ones have died while cleaning septic tanks were protesting at Jantar Mantar as well. Out of these 125, here is a list of 80 individuals who lost their lives because of manual scavenging.
On March 29, 2016, a 17-year-old girl’s body was discovered in a water tank of the hostel of the Jain Adarsh Teacher Training Institute for Girls in Nokha, Bikaner. The girl was Delta Meghwal – a talented Dalit student and a gifted painter from Barmer district in Rajasthan.
A day before her death, reports suggest, the hostel warden had asked Delta to clean the PT coach’s room where Delta was allegedly raped by the coach. According to the reports, when the college authorities found out, Delta was forced to sign a document along with the coach which stated that it was, in fact, a consensual act.
Since her body was found, the college has been trying to portray it as suicide whereas many student organisations across the country and members of some civil society groups claim that she was murdered.
It’s important to see this case in light of the recent happenings against Dalits in the country. Many pertinent questions can be raised – Why was she asked to clean the room of a faculty member? Why was she forced to sign a document which stated that the alleged rape was a consensual act? Even if she did sign the document, why was the police still not informed since she was a minor? Why has this case not received the mainstream coverage that it deserves? Is it because she was a Dalit from a small town?
Many are quick to jump in and draw a wedge between the issue of gender and caste identity portraying them as two different and unrelated things. But it’s easy to see the dynamic and the pattern here.
And this is just one case. There are numerous that happen every day in small villages and towns, the news of which dies faster than the victim. Rohith’s death opened up the gates to acknowledging and questioning caste dynamics in the country. Delta’s death should make that debate even bigger.
On April 4, 2016, JNUSU (Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union) gave a call for a protest outside Bikaner House in Delhi. A delegation of four people met the Resident Commissioner and submitted a letter demanding action against the PT coach and the hostel warden.
‘Emergency-like situation’ is the phrase being used to describe the state of Hyderabad Central University currently as students sit on an indefinite protest in the campus premises.
Tensions resurfaced in the University after the Vice-Chancellor Prof. Appa Rao Podile resumed charge on March 22. Podile had left for an indefinite leave soon after protests erupted in many cities against the MHRD and the vice chancellor over the death of Rohith Vemula, one of the five Dalit students suspended from the University over an alleged tussle with members of ABVP.
Many videos which have emerged from within the campus show the police lathi-charging and manhandling the student protesters as they raised slogans against the VC. According to some reports, 36 students and 3 faculty members were allegedly beaten up and have been detained in an undisclosed location. Such action by the police has received flak on social media as many videos, photos and posters are doing the rounds demanding justice for Rohith Vemula and freedom for the detained students and faculty members.
Electricity and water supply were allegedly cut off, apart from shutting down the mess and obstructing Internet access in the University. While the facilities have been restored, the students still remain apprehensive and University authorities seem unrelenting on their decision to keep Prof. Podile as the Vice-Chancellor.
A march to National Human Rights Commission has been called on March 28th from the JNU Students’ Union against Prof. Podile’s return, slapping of non-bailable charges on students and faculty members and the heavy deployment of the police personnel in the campus.
The following photographs show a glimpse of the scenario at the Hyderabad Central University till 24th March.
Photos from University of Hyderabad Students Media Group curated by Yamini Maggo.
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Editor’s note:Pascal Mannaerts is a photographer based in Brussels, Belgium. Travelling to Asia, Africa, Latin America, North Africa and the Middle East during the last 10 years has given him the opportunity to portray humanity in its strongest forms. Pascal has publication credits in National Geographic, The Guardian, Lonely Planet, and other European magazines. He has also held several exhibitions in Europe, Brazil and India and actively shares his work on his website.
During my visits to India in 2013, and then in 2015, I visited Vrindavan to capture Holi celebrations where social barriers get broken, people feast together, regardless of differences in age, sex, status and caste. It is the time when the castes mingle, where the lower have the right to insult those to whom they had to bow throughout the year. Rich and poor, men and women, all celebrate together. The atmosphere is about excitement, pleasure and joy.
Here are a few photos of Vrindavan’s Holi celebrations in 2013.
Abandoned by their relatives after the death of their husband, thousands of widows have come to Vrindavan. They are Hindu, of all ages and castes, coming mostly from West Bengal or Orissa. They try to continue their lives in ashrams.
Often made to give up all celebrations because they are considered unlucky, the women at Meera Sahbhagni ashram, broke tradition and celebrated Holi.
You can view more of Pascal’s work on his website.
Water is just one of those things that you take for granted as long as you have it, but the moment you run short, your whole life can come to a stop.
It is surprising to see how little we seem to care about a resource, the absence of which can literally bring an end to life as we know it. The manner in which we waste water makes dystopic representations of water wars shown in movies like ‘Mad Max’ a highly possible future.
And we seem to be taking a step closer to ‘doom’ each day. According to a report by IndiaSpend, India is facing the worst crisis in a decade, with a severe shortage likely to spread out throughout the country. Seeing the rate of population growth, the amount of pressure it puts on resources, and the measures being taken (and not taken) to save water, India could soon face drought-like conditions in most parts of the country.
This World Water Day, let’s take a look at the extreme water conditions we are facing:
1. Accessibility is a major concern in rural India, and women are primarily burdened with the task of fetching water, and 17% have to walk over a kilometre to reach the closest clean water source.
2. While some official data states that 86% households in India have access to drinking water, the reality is far from it. These figures count hand pumps and tube wells as sources of drinking water, whereas the quality of water from these sources is a carrier for many diseases. According to the 2011 Census, only 2/3rd of homes have no facility for drinking water.
3. Owing to these numbers, India now has the largest number of people in the world who are living without safe water.
4. The lack of clean drinking water has had a major impact on health. Of the 3,15,000 people dying globally because of diarrheal diseases, 45% are from India.
5. Currently, there are 100 million people in India who live in places with polluted water.
6. A recent report by the Central Pollution Control Board states that at least 650 towns and cities lie along the banks of polluted rivers, which severely affects the quality of groundwater in these places.
7. More than half of India’s groundwater is contaminated, with 276 districts having high levels of fluoride, and 387 districts with extreme levels of nitrate, and high arsenic in 86 districts.
8. The availability of water per person (annual per capita availability) has been on the decline since 1947. From 6042 cubic metres, it has gone down to 1545 cubic metres in 2011.
9. There is not enough water to irrigate over 74% of the farmland in India, and this shortage is only growing. With unreliable monsoon, this is likely to create a massive food shortage in the country.
10. Going by current trends, two-thirds of the world’s population may face water shortage by 2025. Conflicts over water would cost us dearly.
Willow wickering, craft where artisans manufacture different types of products by weaving willow rushes and reeds, has its roots in Central Europe and West Asia. It is said that Ganderbal district provides best soil and climatic conditions for the cultivation of this plant in the Kashmir valley. Legend has it that 12 kg seeds and some fine artisans were imported to valley of Kashmir from European countries by Maharaja Hari Singh during his reign and afterwards many people got associated with this newly introduced craft.
According to artisans, there is no regulation on the rates given by contractors to them, neither are the rates fixed for selling these products. Contractors fix prices and rates of their own depending on the demands in local and national market.
Artisans are in a fix whether to continue or switch to other sources of earning. There are no visible efforts by any government agency to regulate the prices or to protect the craft from the threat of extinction.
Labourers peel off the bark of boiled withies. These labours work on a daily basis. Special apparatus called ‘Zelan’ is used to peel off the bark. Zelan is a pair of 3 feet long stick bound together tightly. Withies are placed into the gap between the two sticks and are pulled from other side letting the loosened bark part away. I remember when I was younger, I used to peel the bark of the withies with my cousins. Those days there used to be a huge rush at boiler sites. People would fight over the number of stacks of withies. For peeling every bundle of willows, one used to get Rs. 7 in those days. Now, that trend has died. Owners have to get labours for peeling, who work from morning to evening and are paid about 400 rupees on a daily basis.
Withies are left to dry in the sun for at least two days. Later, the owners weigh and stack withies into bundles, which are later sold to workers and contractors as raw material.
A worker starting up a base of the product. Usually these workers work in places that are locally called ‘Kaarkhans’. They are usually housed in makeshift rooms of size 10×8 feet, specially made for this work.
On this assignment, I travelled to many villages in district Ganderbal and came across some Kaarkhans that were housed in abandoned houses, shops and tin sheds. Many workers had covered the walls and roofs with thermocol for insulation and warmth.
A worker mounting up the Willow withies over a base. When the base is set up. Some withies are inserted into the spaces created by weaving reeds of base. Usually the base determines the size and shape of the product.
Different products are of different shapes and it demands weaving reeds over the withies differently. This weaving usually leaves workers’ hands and feet bruised and cut. Some items are woven in coloured reeds at the behest of contractors and the colouring agent used is believed to have health hazards, taking a toll on the health of the artisans.
Supported by his feet, a worker weaves up the reeds over willow withies. In Gundirehman village of Ganderbal district, I came across a worker who has mastered art of weaving reeds with both hands. “It eases weaving and saves my time,” he told me with a grin.
I saw transistors in most of the Kaarkhans I visited during my shoots. At some places, I saw workers listening to music using their cell phones. “I love listening to Kashmiri folk music and news bulletins on the transistor,” said Habibullah Lone, a weaver.
A worker checking up the firmness of the basket he has made. Willow products are robust and strong. These are watered, varnished and dried up before put up in the market for sale.
Mohammad Sonaullah of Shallabug village cuts off unwanted pieces of reeds and withies from the base of a tray. He has been in this craft from 1957. He told me he has seen this craft for a long now. “I was in 3rd standard when a worker, Ghulam Mohuidin from nearby village Gundirehman introduced this craft in our village and set up a unit. Most children did not like school, so along with other boys of the village, I joined this unit.” He further said, “It has become a tradition that runs through generations. We do not need to teach our children the basics of this craft, but they are not interested it. They prefer education over it.”
Ghulam Ahmad War of Gaadora village has been in this craft for almost 35 years now. While talking to me he said, “There was a time when people used to make products for promoting the craft but now most people do it just for money, hence the quality of products has come down. I still put my heart into every product I make, working is worship for me. This craft has given me a livelihood for so long,” he added with pride.
The contractors collect work from workers and every fortnight load these products in trucks and lorries to transport to other parts of state and country. Usually during festive seasons, the demand get escalated.
Some workers have also abandoned the craft. They can be seen working under schemes like MNREGA as many find it easier than the craft of willow wickering since it requires one to sit in one place from dawn to dusk and this amount toil hardly fetches 200 rupees for the day.
Many workers I interacted with said, “Our younger generations are not taking up this craft. Most of our children prefer education and some prefer other sources of income.”
Note: This story was commissioned by Youth Ki Awaaz, as part of our Zoom In contest where Rouf Sadiq Tantray was one of those selected.
“Diversity creates dimension in the world” – Elizabeth Ann Lawless
India is an oxymoron in its own essence. It is a melting pot of people from different religions, nationalities, class, creed and kind. And yet this melting pot is notorious for not being the most tolerant or welcoming at times. The classrooms of the University of Delhi have people from not just around the country, but also from across the globe. The university attracts students from all corners of the country because of the variety of courses it offers which makes Delhi as a city, a mini-world in itself.
When I joined the university, it was highly intriguing and fascinating for me to find people from such varied places and backgrounds. In order to know about how people from other countries feel when they visit the city where I belong, I decided to talk to a few about it. In the following conversations with some foreign international students, they told me about their experiences and how is it like to live in Delhi, coming from a different place altogether. They talked about cultural shock, encounters, incidents and keeping the distance aside, how far they really felt from home.
Hawwa Yania, Maldives
Shaheed Bhagat Singh College
”Being in Delhi is like home now! When I came here first I was so uncomfortable with people, places. I was unhappy actually. I really thought that coming here was a bad choice. But now, I feel like this is my second home. There are rude people as well, some people just mock foreigners sometimes thinking they don’t understand their language, I have had such experiences myself. But I have also met some really helpful and kind people who I’ll always remember.”
Adylson Faquira, Mozambique, City Maputo
Shaheed Bhagat Singh College
”My initial experience with cultural differences was slightly tough but not as bad as I expected it to be. Initially, it took me some time to make friends, some were not very welcoming at first but slowly I was accepted. I think that what helped me settle in were the new friends I made and got to learn a few things from them.”
MSc. from Department of Environmental Studies
“I crossed the border as a small kid. It has been almost nine years since I haven’t seen my family. But still I feel my home very close to me, in my heart, because hope is a beautiful thing and I always keep my hope alive. Tibet will never die because there is no death ofhuman spirit. As far as my Delhi University experience is concerned, I made some really good friends and it has been great.”
Aminath Nazaahath, Maldives
Shaheed Bhagat Singh College
”Main problems of living here are related to communication as I do not understand the language at all. The unfriendliness of most people, feeling of being unwelcome, managing all by my own, and feeling ignored by some teachers for unknown reasons, all make adjusting here a little difficult. Trying to manage and fit into an entirely different culture and society is a challenge and one wouldn’t know the feeling without living in such a situation.”
B.A. (Hons) Physics, Hindu College (Here on a 2-semester exchange program)
“People here are really nice and open. I expected a major cultural difference but it was not as shocking as I thought of it to be. The one thing I realised here is that people don’t take their classes seriously but take their exams really seriously. In Germany, the entire semester is equally important.”
Zahra Hussain Zada, Afghanistan
BSc (Hons) Computer Science, IP College for Women
“I experienced several new things here like using the ATM, going by metro and many other things, and last but not the least seeing everybody being free and nobody even daring to disturb them. Overall, coming to a new place itself is just new and interesting, even if it’s going to bad or good, it doesn’t matter because you’ll find out that life is just not about the place and country you were born and raised in. It’s all about looking deep into new things you haven’t seen before.”
Anoushka Poudel, Nepal
B.A. (Hons) English, IP college for Women
“The thing about India and Nepal is that they are not at all different. It is only the language. The major problem I faced is not in the college but in my hostel. They treat people of different race differently, they are polite but they act like we know nothing. We understand everything they say, they don’t realise it.
Slowly, I have come to know Delhi and its corners. I have become habituated to the crowd and the occasional smelliness. Nepal with its small population and lack of industries is green. Its emptiness makes it safe while Delhi is a trickster, constantly teaching me to be careful. I was growing in Nepal but I’m a woman in Delhi.”
Josh Reid, London
M.A. in History, Faculty of Arts (Here for a 2-semester exchange program)
“The cultural shock I had here was massive in the starting. Especially because of the hot and humid temperature. It took me time to come to ease into that. But Delhi is a fantastic city. It’s big and hectic. The history department here is a bit more old school. In Edinburgh where I studied, everything is done electronically so you submit your essays online, you are given your work online, everything is done over emails. Here it is more professor, people, personal element, which is quite nice and charming actually, in an old school kind of way.”
Nyima Lhamo, Bhutan
B.A (Hons) English, IP College for Women
“Well, it wasn’t such a huge cultural shock for me because a lot of Bhutanese are already familiar with the Indian culture. We watch a lot of Indian movies and soap operas. I’ve been here for 3 years now. This is home too.”
Note: This story was commissioned by Youth Ki Awaaz, as part of our Zoom In contest where Roshni Khatri was one of those selected.
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On 8th March, 2016, the streets of North Campus were witness to hours of slogans, singing and sisterhood. Pinjra Tod, an autonomous collective of women students from Delhi, organized a march from the Arts Faculty to the Vice Chancellor’s Office, to commemorate International Working Women’s Day. In the recent past, Women’s Day has been appropriated by capitalism and benevolent sexism, with the focus being shifted to free drinks, spa discounts and token speeches. Pinjra Tod endeavoured to reclaim this day as a celebration of the feminist spirit, and years of agitation that have brought us where we are as a society. Be it the right to education, the right to vote, or the right to own property, every victory has been a result of fearless struggles by women in the face of a ruthlessly status-quoist social order.
This Tuesday was one of the many attempts by Pinjra Tod to secure a non-discriminatory environment for women students in the university. Around 200 women and allies walked to colleges and hostels (Ramjas, Kirorimal, Daulat Ram, Meghdoot, Miranda House and University Women’s Hostel, to name only a few), dancing to revolutionary songs, and gathering support from all they met.
They were met with resistance by administration at many points, but continued to be undeterred. Finally, the group reached the gate leading to the V.C.’s office, where the officials used the age old patriarchal tactic of pitting women against each other. Female workers were given orders to physically prevent them from entering the university premises while female administration members were sent to firmly inform them that the gate would remain closed. Some girls climbed over the gate while others sat in front of it. At length, they were forced to be content with submitting a charter of demands to the officials from behind the locked gate. The demands included the abolition of gendered curfews across hostels, regulation of paying guest accommodations in the university area, and the institution of functional, student-elected sexual harassment committees in every college. The day ended on a note of frustrated attempts, but an everlasting hope of an equal world.
Images posted by Harsha Vardhan on Facebook:
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Dissent seems to be the new sedition in our country. In the last 50 days, as a result of some media houses allegedly running doctored videos and facts about the sloganeering at a cultural event conducted within the premises of the esteemed Jawaharlal Nehru University, we witnessed a huge upheaval among the masses. Some instantly jumped to define patriotic and nationalistic values for others and to add fuel to the fire, right-wing organisations like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and Bharatiya Janata Party took turns to further distort the truth and turned it into a political battle.
The student president of the JNU Students’ Union, Kanhaiya Kumar was detained and is being held in judicial custody. All this turmoil, however, did not deter the nearly 15,000 people who reclaimed the streets of Mandi house in New Delhi. Students from JNU, DU (Delhi University) and other educational institutions, professors, alumni, civilians who stand for the right to dissent and for the freedom of speech, also joined in huge numbers in the protest. We walked to Jantar Mantar with our placards, our slogans and our compassion for JNU, our country, it’s youth and our constitutional rights.
The case of Rohith Vemula, a Dalit Ph.D. scholar from the University of Hyderabad, who had committed suicide after being subjected to blatant casteism on campus for months, was given a fresh wave of support on the 23rd of February, 2016. Hundreds of students from UoH came to Delhi for a protest march which was organised by the Joint Action Committee for Social Justice, UoH and saw 10,000 people come together for a protest march which started from the Ambedkar Bhavan in Jhandewalan and went up to Jantar Mantar. 300 Dalit women and men had come from the Lakhimpur Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh to stand in solidarity with Rohith’s family and also to raise their voices against the ostracisation of Dalits and for their basic civilian rights which they have been denied till now.
These two protests, which have been held in the capital within a week of each other, stand as an emblem of compassion, love for true democracy, and social awareness of our constitutional rights and truth. These photographs are personal favourites as they capture a spectrum of emotions and support the fact that this country has millions who can rationalise a situation, have space for doubt and reasoning and believe that constitutional rights are to be taken more seriously.
On February 18, thousands marched from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar in Delhi in solidarity with JNU students, and demanding the release of JNUSU President, Kanhaiya Kumar. The atmosphere was “electric” as YKA’s Managing Editor Artika Raj said, who was present at the protest. Around 5000 people from all walks of life had gathered to keep democracy alive and fight for the right to dissent. Many even carried flowers, as a symbol of peace. With placards that read “Those who disagree with you – don’t call them anti-national” and “We stand by Constitution, we stand for dissent”, the energy at the protest was infectious, to say the least.
Among those who attended and addressed the crowd were Kavitha Krishnan, Secretary, AIPWA, Shahla Rashid, VP of the JNU Students Union and Sucheta De, National President, AISA.
“Ek dhakka aur do Gandhi ke hatiyaron ko! (give another blow to the murderers of Gandhi)” versus “Desh ke gadaron ko goli maaro saalon ko (shoot the traitors to the nation)” are some of the slogans that I heard yesterday at the centre of the DU North Campus at 1 p.m. Delhi University students came out in support of Jawaharlal Nehru University and its students outside the Faculty of Arts and to voice their dissent over the arrest of the JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar.
Being a part of the 150 students that were present at the location protesting, I stood with JNU. The event was held with the motive of uniting students against what could be seen as the Central government’s attempt to stifle free speech. After the incidents that have taken place in FTII (Film and Television Institute Of India), Hyderabad University and JNU, students gathered to voice their opinion against the Modi government’s actions.
While this was going on, several ABVP members came to denounce the protest. They shouted slogans like “Afzal ke jo yaar hein, desh ke gadaar hein (those who are friends of Afzal guru are traitors),”“Naxaliyon campus chodo (Naxalites, leave the campus),”“Jis Yuva ka khoon na khole wo khoon nahin paani hai (if the blood of the youth doesn’t boil, it’s not blood, it’s water).” As the number of ABVP members increased, they started waving the national flag and shouted slogans of ‘Rashtra Maan’ (National Pride). While JNU students maintained their cool, the police took control which eventually led to the end of the protest.
All photographs provided by Roshni Khatri.
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Day 2 #JNU: In Defence Of Democracy And Right To Dissent!
On 13th February 2016, more than 2500 students, teachers and civil society activists gathered in JNU for a public meeting to uphold the democratic ethos and the right to dissent and freedom of expression in JNU and in this country. The public talk was addressed by Sitaram Yechury, Kavita Krishnan, D Raja, Rahul Gandhi, Shambhaji Bhagat, Yogendra Yadav, Anand Sharma and members of ex JNUSU (JNU Students’ Union) and JNUTA (JNU Teachers’ Association).
The event held on 9th of February at Jawaharlal Nehru University against the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru has turned into a huge controversy as the raising of anti-India slogans by some ‘unknown people’ in attendance at the event led to the arrest of the JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar on sedition charges.
On 12th of February, the campus saw a huge protest march led by the faculty and students after a press conference was organised by JNUTA (Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers’ Association) at 6.30pm in the campus premises where, according to some sources, more than 2000 students participated, calling the police crackdown and the arrest “witch hunting.”
Some places, no matter how amazing the pictures you manage to click are, can never be captured through a lens. The beauty of such places can be captured only when you see them yourself.
The white desert of Kutch is one such surreal place. You must have seen the most amazing pictures, heard the best stories, but nothing comes close to seeing it for yourself. The full moon experience in the desert is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Soon after sunset, the colour of the sand and the sky looks exactly the same and there appears to be no horizon. As far as I could see, it was white and only white.
The “Khusboo Gujarat Ki” ads of Amitabh Bachchan always fascinated me. You must have heard Mr. Bachchan saying “Kutch nahi dekha to kuch nahi dekha” (If you haven’t seen kutch, then you haven’t seen anything).
The Rann of Kutch is a large area of salt marshes located partly in Gujarat and partly in Sindh (Pakistan). The Great Rann of Kutch is a seasonal salt marsh located in the Thar Desert and is reputed to be one of the largest salt deserts in the world.
During my 3-day trip to Kutch, I spent one evening at the Dhordo Rann. I preferred to stay at Bhuj to keep my budget minimal and travel to the Rann Utsav with a Local tour Operator whose advertisement ‘my travel mate’ I had spotted in a local newspaper a day earlier when I wasn’t quite sure whether to go to Ekal ka Rann or the Dhordo Rann. The deal offered by the tour operator was a good one. Rs 550/per person only, inclusive of the Border charges. It turned out to be the best deal for us as it was a full moon night.
These are the sites we visited:
1) Black Hill, known as Kala Dungar
2) India Bridge
3) Lunch at the Toran Resort
4) Rann Utsav at Dhordo (reached around 4 p.m. and spent the entire evening there)
While we were asked to come back at 6:30 p.m., we made sure we got a good view of the full moon. We came back at around 7:45-8:00 p.m. and had to face other angry travelers waiting for us in the bus but it was worth it. Sometimes it’s okay to make people wait, for example, when you have to get the full moon view at the White Sand desert.
You can opt to walk as far as you can in the desert or try these horse rides or camel rides.
We spotted this very popular transport medium used in Kutch known as a ‘chakda’ in the local language. This was only available for clicking pictures.
Soon after the sunset, you see different shades of colour at the Rann. When we arrived, the sky was white. Then slowly, close to sunset, it started turning yellow, then orange, then red, blue and at the end white again.
I wish I could have clicked a better picture of the full moon, but this is what I was able to capture with my lens (I had an 18mm-55mm).
All pictures were taken with a Nikon D3200.
Visited Rann Utsav on January 23-25th January 2016.
On 9th October 2015, 10 individuals united by their love for riding bikes took on a challenge to achieve a milestone – nutrition for every child in India. To spread awareness, and learn something themselves, they took part in a bike rally from Delhi to Baran in Rajasthan. They were all seasoned bikers, but none had been a Famine Fighter before and hardly knew what it takes to be one.
World Vision India’s ‘kNOw Hunger Ride‘ bike rally was organised as part of the NGO’s national 24 Hour Famine campaign to spread awareness on hunger and malnutrition. The 24 Hour Famine is targeted at addressing issues of hunger and malnutrition that severely impact the lives of children, especially those under the age of 5. Conducted in 21 cities across the nation, the 24 Hour Famine consists of events from art exhibitions to literary and cultural competitions driven by local communities, school children as well as civil and public officials to drive home the message. It hopes to engage the public and youth from ages of 13–30 on the problems faced by children due to malnourishment.The bike rally was jointly organized by World Vision India and the Delhi Bikers Breakfast Run (DBBR). “Know Hunger Ride is about 10 bikers on a mission to learn what it’s like to not have access to nutritious food. Delhi Bikers Breakfast Run is a group that cannot ride without eating. So it is apt that such a group should partake in this awareness campaign,” shared Joshua John, one of the bikers from Delhi Bikers Breakfast Run.
Here are some photos that follow these 10 bikers’ journey of learning about famine and hunger in the country.
Meeting Community People, Sharing Smiles And Chai: Day One
On their way to Baran, Rajasthan the convoy stopped at Jaipur and Tonk on day one. The bikers interacted with children and families from communities supported by World Vision India’s Area Development Programme to understand the ground realities of living with malnutrition in Jaipur.
The younger members of the community also organized a nutrition exhibition, which showcased their daily diet in comparison to the ideal consumption to maintain a healthy diet.
So Far So Good: Day Two
Reaching Bundi was easy; the highway was smooth and wide. The booming sound of the bikes raised much curiosity and at every stop they were talking of the issues that they want the nation to give its attention and bring a change.
The latest annual hunger report of the United Nations states that India is home to the largest malnourished and hungry population of 194 million, surpassing China. By this measure, India holds quarter of the undernourished population across the globe, with 44% of the country’s children under 5 years being underweight.
The Ultimate Baran Challenge
The excited bikers were given a hand drawn map to Bamendah village which is around 70 KMs from the Baran city. Joshua, the group leader explained the map and each of the bikers gave suggestions as to how they can find this village. The first easiest way they thought was GPS, but they could not find a single trace of the village on the GPS. Defeated by technology, the bikers then decided to use their road tracking sense and find the village no matter what it takes for a biker to do.
After getting lost twice, the bikers finally reached Bamandeh village where another challenge awaited them.
Cook And Eat Or Join The Fast
The task facing the bikers was to find five households whose details were given to them and collect food ingredients to cook a meal. Their riding skills were of little or no help to them. It was time to put on the chef cap and think food. Many shared how difficult it was for them to enter a stranger’s house and asked for food ingredients. But when the community people opened their houses and welcomed them, they realized how little they have yet how happy they are to share it with them. They finally collected whatever they could – dal, rice, oil, turmeric powder, salt, garlic and onion and cooked khichdi.
The challenge finally ended and all the bikers were successful. But the happily ever after story of the ride starts now – 10 bikers united by their love for bike riding stands united in their fight against malnutrition and hunger.
Presenting to you all the 10 Famine Fighters. With their bikes from left to right – Pankaj Kumar Das, Pallavi Fauzdar, Joshua John, Tarique Afaque, Jasjyot Singh, Prem Arora, Amit Minocha, Sanjeev Arora, Manu vashistha and Harkaran Singh.
If you have been to Varkala, you will know it is one of the topmost beach destinations in the world. It promises economic international cafes, free WiFi, and a good swim. To me, it was all that, and more. It introduced me to a community that is striving for sustenance as storms, both literal and metaphorical, ravage their lives.
I had come face to face with fishermen previously as well – it was when I was in Cochin, I saw them using traditional Chinese nets; I remember being enthralled by the extensive manual labour; and I remember the silver catch. But it was only in Varkala where I understood the real problems these fishing communities face today. It was perhaps Raman’s friendly smile which started it all; which beckoned me to come and get a closer look at their work and become a part of their morning ritual.
Raman, a 48-year-old fisherman, said he had been to Mumbai, and even Kolkata, and could speak a scatter of Hindi and Bengali interspersed with English. He and his friend Babu stood on the shore, waiting for the pull to begin and calmly recounted the many flaws of modern day development using words and often frantic hand action – logging, development, pollution, dams water diversions – and the list was going on when I finally said the fateful word – “global warming”. They nodded their heads vigorously. Raman sighed, “āgēāḷatāpanaṁ”. A later search on Google pointed out that this was the Malayalam word for global warming.
Yes, one of the major threats to the environment in the 21st century is of course that of global warming. One only needs to go back to their school textbooks to remember how the water affects the temperature of the earth and vice versa. In view of increasing global warming, coastal communities are doubly disadvantaged. First, the fractured aquatic ecosystem impacts their livelihoods. Secondly, the effect of a rise in sea level means that coastal fishing communities are in the front line of climate change, frequented by storms and heavy rainfall. Babu, a 33-year-old fisherman voiced the very same concern. He told me that his sons feel fishing is a cursed trade in today’s world. The income is dwindling for traditional fishermen in the light of commercial fishing trawlers, and increased export. And moreover, the expenditure on daily maintenance is on the rise, as they have no catch to spare for meals, or money to repair their shanties after every monsoon. Raman pointed out that his generation could not refute the youngsters’ argument. This is why they are desperately trying to educate them well enough, so that they can get jobs in the cities, deep in the mainland.
Artisanal fishing provides a critical source of food and income to thousands of Indians, but the ever-increasing local and international demand for fish, combined with rapidly depleting stocks, is increasing strain on their way of life. Lack of modern equipments and skills has left thousands of small-scale fishermen, who provide directly for their families, unable to access deep-water species or make the best of diminishing coastal stocks. Raman’s group of fishermen use simple methods of nets stuck on stumps at mid-sea. This promises a regular catch of few small fishes that helps them earn around 900-1400 rupees at the local market, depending on the quality. The fish is shared among 13-14 fishermen, thus each earns around 100 rupees, or even less. The catch of the day is only worth around 1000 rupees. I was touched by their generosity when they offered me a few fishes despite their dire economic condition, as I had given company during their endeavour.
Locals eat 3-4 of those fishes, fried for lunch; people in well-to-do households that is. Some of the fishermen saved the black or spotted ones for home, tying them in their lungi, because these don’t sell well. Their wives will return home after working on the fields, or making pickle, to cook these for the entire family. They stood around the boats, laughing and teasing, while some others mended the nets where they had snags, and the fish- some blue, some silver, others a beautiful green, shined like jewels in the sunlight.
People assume there must be certain fatalism in continuing the early morning rise and reign. But quite the contrary is true. Amidst howling waves, and sparkling fins, groups of men continue to make a life for themselves and their families on the shores of India…and they do this with a smile on their face. This is a real struggle for conservatism of nature, culture and an older way of life.
The Supreme Court verdict of December 11th, 2013 set aside the landmark Delhi High Court ruling which said that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, that criminalizes homosexuality in this country, was problematic at its very roots – that it is a blow on the very idea of unity in diversity that the Constitution of the nation upholds; that it is against a person’s basic constitutional right to freedom and equality. Not recognizing same-sex marriages, though why not would be a valid question here, is one thing. Raising eyebrows at public display of affection by same-sex couples, though why would be a valid question here, is one thing. But criminalizing what two consenting adults choose to do in the privacy of their rooms with one another, is against the very notion of democracy. The verdict left not only the LGBTIQ+ community, but even others angry and disappointed.
Jawaharlal Nehru University, which has spear-headed many movements of national significance in the past and continues to do so even today, found a beautiful way to celebrate ‘free love’.
From fighting against autocratic forces and establishing the Gender Sensitization Committee against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) and trying to ensure its unbiased functioning, to installing sanitary napkin dispensers on campus, the campus has embraced ‘difference’ and been vocal about issues on gender and sexuality. A couple of large posters by SFI, for example, donning the back wall of the Central Library shows one how JNU has never shied away from doing what is right –
One morning, in the December of 2014, a few unassuming people painted a tree in the colours of the rainbow. They called it The Rainbow Tree. The tree was located centrally – at the busy “T-Point” of the campus, standing tall (but not ‘straight’) as a symbol of Queer Pride and people’s choice to love freely. When the temperatures dropped drastically in the city and the fog descended on its people like a plague, the colours of the tree lent its warmth and brightness to an otherwise cold environment.
Mysteriously, some mornings later, the body of the tree was found violated. Some people, not brave enough to engage in a political debate in broad daylight (because the tree did turn out to be a symbol of a certain kind of politics), had stealthily, taking refuge in the dark covers of the night, performed this act of vandalism – The Rainbow Tree was found stripped of its colours, one grey morning. That is when Gourab Ghosh, a senior PhD scholar at the University and a leading gay-rights activist on campus, decided to paint the campus in the varied hues of the rainbow – openly challenging the miscreants to destroy every symbol of ‘free love’ if they so dared. Collecting funds from shopkeepers in JNU, students, friends and activists of Queer Rights, with the support of members of Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers’ Association (JNUTA), JNU Staff Association, Dhanak (a queer group in JNU), student representatives of GSCASH and Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU), Ghosh along with a group of young people, including students and activists from political organizations like AISA, DSU and SFI undertook the mission of colouring the campus in shades that scream of equality, liberty and fraternity. ‘The Rainbow Walk’ as they called it, according to Sumit Dey, a PhD Scholar in the School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU, was a “response to the intolerant attitude of reactionary, neo-conservative forces that try to undermine and curb diversity”. Singing, dancing and raising slogans against homophobia the group walked around the campus for over five hours, with their bottles of paint and coloured ribbons. The result is for everybody to see.
“The campaign was meant to create awareness about the freedom of choice in general and queer rights in particular”, says Dey and clearly they have left a mark on the campus – literally and metaphorically. Ghosh, who is now in Calcutta for his PhD fieldwork, sends “Rainbow Salaams” to all those who helped him in this venture. “It feels good to see students stopping at T-Point or Central Library and posing against the colours”, says Ghosh. “It feels good to go through all the photographs that these people then post and to spot smiling faces tying colourful ribbons on the trees.”
Case: Jharia Name: Jharia Coal Fields Alternate Names: The Living Pyre, Hell on Earth Location: Dhanbad District, Jharkhand, India Population: 81,979 (2001 Census) Future: Unknown
Jharia is not only one of the largest coal mines in India, but also one of the largest in Asia. What once was a dense forest populated by tribes, Jharia, famous for its rich coal resources, was sacrificed at the altar of development. Uncontrollable fires have been raging havoc and spewing dirty smoke for the last 98 years.
Reports indicate that as many as 70 fires are burning in Jharia coalfield.
Reports indicate that over 2300 families have been relocated
Many promises like schools, hospitals and free utilities remain undelivered
“How can any project that leads to further impoverishment of the communities…be called development?” — Stalin K, human rights activist.
This narrative is not for the faint-hearted, and definitely not for the judgemental. As you scroll down, do so with an open mind because what you are about to witness is going to gobsmack you. It is the breaking of societal and cultural norms; a catalyst unlike any other. A message to open our minds and hearts; before we judge, before we limit, before we stereotype and before we objectify. You are about to see photography in its most honest form.
As a college project, a young womanÂ in Bangalore decided to shoot the following photographs to portray that there is nothing wrong with showing skin, it’s all in the way we think and react. Chavi Sethi from New Delhi says that her photo project is a means to make people think. “How can a country grow, when half of its people are not comfortable in their skin?” During my conversation with her, Chavi mentioned that at a family member’s wedding in the recent past, she encountered some aunts and theyÂ asked,Â “who will marry youÂ if youÂ keep shaking yourÂ leg like that?” As a limerick, she added, “Tell my prospective husbands that I have obsessive compulsive disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.”
Chavi’s project is a subtle yet powerful portrayal of everything that is wrong with our mentalities. We have all been judgemental and biased, we have all at some point looked at a girl dressed in hot pants and thought, ‘that is so indecent’, or judged a girl for showing her cleavage. Even today, sleeveless clothes are banned in colleges, and adding just two inches of cloth to a sleeveless top apparently makes it more decent. I ask you, is the absence of those two inches enough to brand someone vulgar, to seek them out and stare at them, to lech at them in public spaces, to leave them uncomfortable and fearful? Is that reason enough to touch them? I am not judging you for being intrusive, so why are you judging me for minding my own business? It seems that the message from this photo project is pretty clear; women in India are uncomfortable in their own skin for fear of judgement and disrespect. You should be able to wear whatever you want, while being able to carry it, without caring about unknown people harming you mentally or physically. Feminism is about two genders and about a shared responsibility. So women and men alike owe it to each other to be more sensitive and open minded toward each other.
What is the ideology behind your project? The general idea is that there are a lot of dogmas attached to general things women use and do, which we as Indian men and women, cannot seem to accept. Buying a pad from a male attendant is an embarrassment, because he quickly bills it and wraps it in newspaper and gives it to you as if it’s an explosive or just leaves it there for you to pick up. What also bothers me is that people think that rape is only about the woman’s body. Rape is perpetrated on babies aged 3 months, little girls and boys, young women and middle aged women as well as women aged 85. Rape is about aggression and power, it is about control. Also, we can’t assume that men are sex mongers; they too can not want sex and it is not fair to label them so. Our country is stagnating because our beliefs are speed bumps and ditches which refuse to be repaired.
What were the challenges you faced with this project? I’ll list it down for you so that it becomes simpler:
1. No one agreed to be the model for ‘a revealing shoot’ like mine, so for a moment I thought I would do self-portraits, till I found the perfect person. She too was very reluctant and stiff in front of the camera and I had to engage her in conversation for quite some time before we started shooting.
2. No one would cover the article except one forum for the fear that it was ‘explicit’ and possibly ‘erotic’.
3. My relativesÂ were against it. TheyÂ told me, ‘what if someone Googles you and sees this post? No one will marry you.’ I don’t need someone who disagrees with my opinions to marry me, everyone should have that choice. Women are not born so men can accept and reject them for marriage.
4. A few NGOs too disagreed to use the content for awareness drives because it was not art oriented and seemed revealing.
5. My uncle asked me why I am rebelling. I told him that this is not rebellion, this is an opinion. Is having an opinion rebellious?
This is not modernization, this is acceptance. When I wear a crop top, it seems smutty, but the few inches of stomach shown in a saree are not? Our mentalities are holding us back.
This project is a catalyst for change in the way that it compels you to look at the woman in the pictures as a person with her own choices and opinions. Nothing gives us the right to judge her for her choice of clothing or her decision to do the shoot. But how many of you think this way? You’ve seen what you had to; tell us what’s on your mind.
On 15 September 2014, a day before the Rajasthan poll results were announced, about a thousand Banjaras from 6 districts of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh came together to demand justice for the victimized Banjara community of Dungari Basti at a protest organized by the Banjara Sangharsh Samiti at the Collector’s office in Bhilwada. “We are demanding the prosecution of the still at large main conspirators, provision of a relief package of Rs. 10 Lakh and return of the stolen jewellery to each family, as well as hastening the allocation process of the promised BPL cards and pattas. We will not stop till the people get justice” said Paras Banjara. He is the president of the Samiti that was formed in the wake of events of 19th august, when all 42 houses in the Banjara Basti of Dungari in Dhikola Panchayat of Bhilwada district, Rajasthan were burnt and looted of all valuables by a mob of about 2500 people.
About 2 kilometres away from the main village of Dhikola, the Banjara community settled in Dungari about 40 years ago. Now working largely as farmers, buffalo traders and labourers, they broke away from a traditionally nomadic nature to live more stable lives. Classified as a De-Notified Criminal Tribe, a hangover of the Criminal Tribe status imposed on them by the British, they remain a heavily stigmatized and oppressed community.
What I saw when I visited Dungari on 31st August was horrifying. All 42 houses had been burnt to rubble. Everything from the houses had been looted, and what was not, had been broken. The people were frightened, angry and in disbelief. Many were still wearing the same clothes they had been on the 19th, as they had none others left. In the habit of buying gold and silver with dispensable cash, and not keeping money in a bank or on them; the Banjaras had lost all they had- savings in the form jewellery carried over many generations, accumulated over decades and decades.
Each family took me to their house to show me how much had been destroyed, and have me photograph it. Even 12 days on, it seemed the village had not got much attention.
All houses had been destroyed with the same precision and hatred. The door broken down, jewellery boxes looted, cots, trunks, utensils, switch boards- smashed ruthlessly with rods; and finally the house sprayed with kerosene and set alight.
What remained was piled outside – Charred motorcycles, burnt grain, broken pots, plates and glasses, charred beds, burnt mattresses and blankets; smashed trunks, burnt bamboo, burnt bricks, disfigured grain canisters, broken jewellery boxes…
The mob had even vandalized the few tube wells the basti had- the pipes leading to them hacked, motors broken and thrown, rocks dropped into the bore to block water. Nothing left in the village had any value or use.
Not grain, not a cloth, not a cup, not a well.
According to eyewitnesses, the mob came from Dhikola, down the main highway towards Dungari in the morning, in full view of all. The rioters were armed with guns, iron rods, sticks and swords; many on foot and some on tractors and motorcycles. This was a strategic time to attack, as a majority of the Banjaras had gone on their annual pilgrimage to the Ramdev temple in Jaisalmer district, leaving their houses unguarded.
At a meeting in Dhikola on the eve of the attack, it was allegedly announced that any household not wanting to participate in the destruction would need to pay Rs. 11, 000 as a fine. Only two families had the money and paid, and thus many people in the mob were there without choice.
A police chowki is located right on the main road between Dungari and Dhikola. According to the Banjaras themselves; the police had prior information about what was planned. They warned them to flee that morning, and also aided in their evacuation- maintaining they would be unable to stop the mob; and could only help them flee. The police allegedly stood by throughout the mob’s activities, from 8.30 AM to about 4 PM.
Kamli, a woman of about 28 was unable to flee, as she had an eight month old child with her; and her husband had gone on the pilgrimage. She described the riot to me- of the men climbing on her house; clubbing on the roof and walls with rods; breaking down her door and the locks of all her trunks; stealing the money and jewels before her eyes; and finally burning her house and motorcycle. They threatened her that if she protested, they would burn her as well, along with her two children.
“The mob had fit one tractor with a tank of kerosene oil, and the spraying machine normally used to spray pesticide in farms was used to spray kerosene on the houses.” An eyewitness recounted.
Three fire brigades which tried to come in to put out the fire were blocked by the mob, and so were people from nearby villages wanting to help the Banjaras. It was only after the Tehsildar and District Collector reached in the afternoon that some attempt was made to douse the fire.
The mood of the violence can be understood by the fact that after setting the houses afire, the mob members roasted chickens reared by the Banjaras on the same fire, and ate them.
Suresh Banjara, a spirited boy of 8, had been in the fields that morning and was unable to flee with his parents. When he returned, seeing the thousands of people around and the mob burning houses, he ran into his house to save his family’s money and jewellery. On seeing him running away with the box- the rioters hit him with sticks on his hands and feet, and snatched it from him. His dog Sheru protected him and attacked whoever came too close. When Suresh tried to save some other things, the mob locked him up inside his house, sprayed kerosene and put the house on fire. On hearing his screams some present people broke down the door and saved him. A man from Dhikola itself, who knew Suresh, took the courageous step of taking him away. A six year old boy, Batul Banjara, was also saved like this.
The children present in the primary school located in the village were saved by the courage of their school teachers- two women of a different caste who belong to another village. Having taken full responsibility of the children that morning, they hadn’t even allowed parents to take their children with them while fleeing. They both fought fiercely with the mob and saved the children from assault, getting injured themselves.
The strength of these individuals was in stark contrast to the impassivity the administration displayed.
The reasons for an attack of this scale are not understood properly. The construction of a new highway near the basti had caused the demand of the land to increase, and powerful men in Dhikola had allegedly wanted to occupy the land themselves and sell it to developers.
Further, opposite the Banjara basti some land belonging to the electricity board is given on lease for grazing to someone every year. This year, a Banjara had got the contract instead of a politically influential man from Dhikola, who had had it in all previous years. A major upset to the social status quo, a fight had ensued.
Many are of the opinion that since the same man had wanted the Banjara’s to move from the basti to allow the expansion of his factory, he had used this to instigate the mob.
“Such a criminal incident has taken place in his constituency, and neither the MLA nor the MP has even visited us. It is clear that they were party to it.” Sardar Banjara said.
It is ironic that at the time of the attack, an elaborate ‘Aapki Sarkaar Aapke Dwaar’ program-in which representatives from various ministries were visiting panchayat’s to address problems-was in a nearby village.
In a similar incident just two days later on 21st August, 6 kilometres from Dungari, a small settlement of the Kalbeliya tribe-another nomadic community-was attacked by a mob. Individual families of Kalbeliyas being displaced is not unheard of in Rajasthan.
Till date, these attacks have not had the national media coverage they need.
“No prior threat had ever been made to us. We knew some people had been eyeing the land, but our relations were okay before this. The police told us to flee, so we just locked our houses and left. How could we have known something like this would happen?” asked Mohan Banjara.
“Look at the brutality. Had we been here, we would have been burnt as well. We are very scared now.” said Anichi, who returned to the village the first to find her son, Suresh Banjara.
Despite the District Collector and other officials having visited the village, the only relief that the families have received so far from the government has been a one-time grant of Rs. 50,000, and that too following the intervention of Mazdoor Kissan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS). The Sangathan facilitated a meeting between the Banjara’s and the Chief Minister of Rajasthan. It was only at her behest that the administrative machinery stirred.
FIRs have been filed by each household, and 43 people have been arrested so far, though the chief instigators are still at large. Bail petitions have been refused in the lower court; and the decision of Jodhpur High Court is awaited. The police are a continuous presence now; and will be deployed in Dungari for the coming 3 to 4 months.
There is an eerie silence about the issue in the area, and no one from any other community has visited the Banjaras to express their concern. On our way out, we drove through Dhikola. The entire village was deserted. Most people, terrified by the arrests and attention, had run away for the time being.
It is clear that the masterminds of this attack never thought that the weak Banjara community would ever get support from anyone.
“Constitutional morality is not a natural sentiment. It has to be cultivated. We must realise that our people have yet to learn it. Democracy in India is only a top dressing on an Indian soil which is essentially undemocratic.” as Dr. B.R. Ambedkar has said.
The crushing influence of the intolerant feudal system on the fate of this finally prospering marginalized community, an emerging trend of displacing the weak to make profit from rising land prices, and the ambivalence of the police’s response are questions that arise and must be addressed.
Note: This is an updated version of a previously published report here.
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