This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Siddharth Tiwari. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Tribals Pay For Our Development With Their Lives, Lands Says Director Of Koi Chand Bhi Nahi

More from Siddharth Tiwari

The Schedule fifth and sixth of the Indian constitution recognises the rights of tribal communities over the forest land, and mandates the Centre and state governments to consult the community before allotting the land for ‘development projects’. Forests Rights Act stems out of this constitutional provision that has never been implemented in true spirit. As a result, over 100 million tribal populations in the country have paid the cost of development and are now the most marginalised section of the country.

Renowned filmmaker and human rights activist Ajay TG spoke to Youth Ki Awaaz about his upcoming short film, Koi Chand Bhi Nahi, that highlights vulnerabilities of Chhattisgarh’s tribal communities and impact of ‘exclusive development’. The movie is scheduled to be screened during the ongoing Public Service Broadcasting Trust’s (PSBT) annual documentary film festival at New Delhi’s India International Centre.

Here are the excerpts of the conversation:

Q1. Tell us something about the movie and how was the entire experience?

TG: I am an activist and have been working for tribal rights. Koi Chand Bhi Nahi (There is no moon) is an attempt to provide much-needed space to the voices and concerns of tribal groups in Chhattisgarh. The movie is a story of thousands of people who have been marginalised and exploited by both public and private sector institutions and authorities. The public sector is tasked with the responsibility of ensuring inclusive development and progress of the country. Problems arise when public sector interacts with the private sector. The movie aims to explore the dynamics of this public and private sector relationship and how it affects people who are already at the lowest rung of the society.

Q2. What inspired you to take up a topic that is lesser or seldom talked about? What are the challenges in making a film on a subject that is critical of people at power?

TG: In 2012, when I went to Kaspur, Gedra, and other villages I realised how state authorities have displaced so many people. Their lands were taken, electricity connections were disconnected, schools were shut down, and health services were stalled. People complained that their lands were taken and they weren’t even compensated. Many families were left without the roof and weren’t even given chance to collect their belongings and make other arrangements. After listening to many such stories, I decided to conceptualise a short film that brings out these realities.

Coming to challenges, there are several challenges involved when you are working on a topic that is critical of many powerful forces of the society. In 2008, I was sent to jail for my movie titled Anjaam, which showed how in the name of development rights of the tribal community are subverted. I was slapped with sedition charges after that. I was wrongly arrested in 2008 under the draconian Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act even went to jail. The case is still continuing.

Also, there’s fear of public officials among the people. The tribal people are so scared of them that getting them to speak and share their stories is another challenge. For this movie, it was very difficult to get people on camera to speak. People refused to even come out of their houses and talk to us. I had to visit so many times just to convince them and later had to take help of local social workers and activists.

Q3. The movie deals with the cost of development on vulnerable sections of the society. Do you think our ‘idea of development’ is inclusive, especially in the context of tribal people’s rights? If not, why?

TG: When we talk about development in the context of so-called ‘national interest’, some people have to pay the cost of this development. Who are these people who pay this cost and how are they defined and recognised? These are the indigenous tribal population of Bastar, Odhisa, Jharkhand and several other tribal belts

. For the prosperity of a few people, they are displaced, killed, and exploited. Villages have been cleaned overnight for many development projects such as coal mines. And, when they resist the authorities target them.
For instance, why this entire narrative of ‘Naxalism in Bastar’ popped up in 2005. Chhattisgarh never had Naxalism problem before that. But, because major mining projects were to be commissioned from 2006 onwards, huge lands had to be cleared, and when there was resistance it was painted as ‘national threat’. Since then the state has grossly violated rights of these people. The troops killed children. Were these children Naxals? In fact, even after the intervention of judiciary, journalists, and human rights watchdogs, the state continues to oppress these people. We cannot justify these atrocities under any definition of development.

Q4. What kind of constitutional and human rights violation happen in tribal belts and what is the status of institutional provisions to address their grievances?

TG: The Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 is not implemented. Had it been applied, the government wouldn’t have been able to give tribal lands to corporate with such ease. Secondly, the FRA is also not implemented. And, in a few areas where it is existent, authorities are brazenly violating it to pass of the lands to private companies without adequately compensating the people.

Apart from constitutional infringements, there are stark human rights violations as well. People have to take permission to leave or enter the villages. They even need permissions to go to their lands for cultivation. Women need to prove their motherhood if they leave the farmlands to feed their newborn. The situation is such that none of the democratic institutions like the judiciary, media, police, and even elected legislatures are also not on their sides. All these institutions have failed them. We never hear elected MLAs voicing these issues in parliament. Even the media hasn’t included these issues in the national narrative, and those who do try report these instances they are censored and pressurised. People know that none of these institutions will stand with them.

Q5. The movie shows the changing paradigms in development models. Based on your research for the movie, what kind of development model do you think would take care of the community demands?

TG: We started with really good development model under Jawaharlal Nehru. The Nehruvian approach towards development was all inclusive. But, somewhere down the line we diverted from those ideals. We cosied up with big corporations and the entire definition of development changed. Suddenly, everything was about profit. Inequality is so gross that 1% of Indians hold 99% of country’s wealth. We need to change our outlook towards development and go back to socialist and Nehruvian ideals of inclusive development. The real development is when every citizen gets food, shelter, and social and economic justice. There’s nothing wrong with development and everyone’s wants progress. But, development needs to involve the people, especially who are at the receiving end of the development.

Catch “Koi Chand Bhi Nahi” on September 16, at the India International Centre, on Max Müller Marg, New Delhi.

You must be to comment.

More from Siddharth Tiwari

Similar Posts

By Rakesh Nagdeo | Adivasi Awaaz Creator

By Khumtia Debbarma | Adivasi Awaaz Creator

By Varsha Pulast | Adivasi Awaaz Creator

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below