ByÂ Raju Moza:
Behind the arc lights of Gurgaon, lies the story of several villagers whose land was acquired .This interview with Ram Krishan of Islampur village, who was one among several landlords who sold their lands to private developers, raises several questions about urbanization, land acquisition and social upheaval.
RM-Please tell us something about you.
RK- My father died when I was a kid and my mother used to work in our fields to feed us. I studied till 8th class and then started assisting my mother in the field and used to sell milk as well. Later on, I bought a tractor model HMT 3511 in 1990 on a loan against my land, and completed my instalments by 1997. It was a contented life.
When did you sell your land, and at what cost?
In year 1995, sold around 4 acres for Rs. 20 lakh each.
Why did you sell your land?
In those days there was a wave and we used to hear that village after village people are selling land. One fine day, the Sarpanch (village head) called me and several other villagers. In this room, a representative of the buyer of land had come to meet us .Those days the only conversation in our community was around developers and the cost of land. The discussions went on and all those present in the room agreed to sell their land. I also acquiesced.
Now how do you look at events retrospectively when you hear that the cost of land is in the multiple of hundreds of what you sold it for?
How will you feel when you have sold the land for 1 crore an acre and now on the same land, just one flat (apartment) is selling for few crores. Tell me?
Do you regret selling your land?
Of course. Not only because the values have increased but our lives have been devastated, we are aliens in our vicinity. Because these Gorai (foreigners) despise us.Â (He meant those who are living in apartments and have moved to Gurgaon from other cities or states.)
Why do you call them Gorai (foreigners) when they are from India? They might be from, say Delhi or Punjab but they are Indians.
Their culture is completely different than ours. Their lifestyle, what they wear and look at what their women wear. It’s almost naked, and has “polluted” our atmosphere (here he used two Hindi words empathically, pradushit and vatavaran) .Our kids have started following them.
Now that you have to coexist, isn’t it imperative to have dialogue?
They think of us as jugi jhopdi ( slum dwellers )people ,want us to obliterate from here , use bull dozer on us , for them our neighbourhood is not a good sight. How will you feel when in your own land , you are being despised .Tell me. Sometimes it’s emotionally agitating when you see people in apartments calling you names and unfortunately those apartments are made on your own land. (While telling this, eyes turned moist).
Was village life better or this big bang millennium city?
Oh I can’t explain how much I miss my village life. There was no traffic, a calm life, the community had bonding; today one rarely speaks to each other in our community. I wish I could reverse history.
Do you want to shift to some other place, perhaps a village?
My son, I can’t explain; sometimes I get so frustrated from this surrounding that I just want to escape to some rural hinterland but then I think , the way developers are buying land , there won’t be any rural place left . So let me spend whatever time has remained in this life here, where my roots are.