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Kashipur Solidarity
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Amit Sengupta

Gold Rush

It’s like Fallujah before the mass murders. Inside the Kashmir of western Orissa. A primordial paradise under siege. At this moment when the sudden twilight becomes a winter night of longing.

You won’t believe it, until you see these pristine eastern ghats, untouched by the ravages of man or machine, hidden in the interiors near Koraput and Kalahandi, surrounded by dense forests and hills where the fog moves like Mozart’s 42nd symphony and dark adivasi women with big black eyes sing the erotic songs of love. The streams move into the rivers and forest flowers grow wild with the vermilion dawn. The huts are mud-walled, thatched spaces of a de-schooled society, with five big stones in the village courtyard, the tribal assembly. Simplicity is virtue, everyday life is hard and honest, feelings are still soaked with a sublime, subliminal sensibility. As if nature has caressed a little miracle in a world of deceit. The nights are pitch-dark, and when the magical mohua enters the intestines, the nocturnal drums move with the wind, and girls and boys circle around the fire, one step forward, two steps back.

There is a graveyard inside every heart. A boy wakes up Bhagwan Majhi, the young tribal leader. It’s a midnight knock. The police is coming

But these days, there is a graveyard. Inside every heart. A boy wakes up Bhagwan Majhi, the young tribal leader. It’s a midnight knock. The police is coming.
All village roads are blocked by the paramilitary forces and police, adivasi boys are picked up and imprisoned, village Kucheipadar, the epicentre of this quiet, unarmed revolution here, has been circled with guns and jackboots, local leaders are picked up, village haats are hounded, sarvodaya workers arriving in solidarity are strip-searched, non-embedded journalists are stopped from reaching the interiors (others have been beaten up in the past, including a senior editor from Mumbai), not one MLA or MP has spoken a word in support, all socialist centres, including its famous office in Bargarh, eminent socialist late Kishen Patnaik’s HQ, has been raided, there are police barricades everywhere and State terrorism is in the air.

For thousands of adivasis in the Kashipur block, famous for its starvation deaths and mango kernels as hunger ‘delicacy’, it’s not only a state of Emergency. It’s the classic example of how the State-Contractor-Big Business nexus, chasing neo-colonial loot and plunder in third world countries, operates in the time of globalisation; how short, nasty and brutish it can get when it comes to dogged, peaceful protests by the poorest in the remote twilight zones of India; and how, with stunning contempt, they can turn the ‘largest democracy’ into a damned backyard of a banana republic. And thereby systematically devastate an eco-paradise: preserved, nourished and loved for centuries with great passion by the indigenous people.

That’s why this Gold Rush for Bauxite. Unprocessed aluminium. Hidden in the ghats. Used in the international arms industry etc. Extracted by big companies and its contractors and goons in alliance with the State. That’s why the state of Emergency.

That’s why, the ravaged future. The Wasteland.

December 18, 2004


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