The Introduction of the book ‘Walking with the Comrades’ is so compelling that I wanted to share a snippet of it here:
“The Minister says that for India’s sake, people should leave their villages and move to the cities. He’s a harvard man. He wants speed. And the numbers. Five hundred million migrants, he thinks, would make a good business model.
Not everybody likes the idea of their cities filling up with the poor. A judge in Mumbai called the slum dwellers pickpockets of urban land. Another said, while ordering the bulldozing of unauthorized colonies that people who couldn’t afford it shouldn’t live in cities.
When those who had been evicted went back to where they came from, they found their villages had disappeared under great dams and quarries. Their homes were occupied by hunger and policemen. Their forests were filling up with armed guerillas. War had migrated too. From the edges of India, in Kashmir, Manipur, Nagaland, to its heart. So the people returned to the crowded city streets and pavements. They crammed into the hovels on dusty construction sites, wondering which corner of this huge country was meant for them.”
Another excerpt from the first page of the first chapter of the book “Chidambaram’s War” –
“The low flat topped hills of south Orissa have been the home to the Dongria Kondh long before there was a country called India or a state called Orissa. The hills watched over the Kondh. The Kondh watched over the hills and worshipped them as living deities. Now these hills have been sold for the Bauxite they contain. For the Kondh it’s as though god has been sold. They ask how much god would go for if the god were Ram or Allah or Jesus Christ.
Perhaps the Kondh are supposed to be grateful that their Niyamgiri hill, home to their Niyam Raja, God of Universal Law, has been sold to a company with a name like Vedanta (the branch of Hindu philosophy that teaches the Ultimate Nature of Knowledge). It’s one of the biggest mining corporation in the world and is owned by Anil Agarwal, the Indian billionaire who lives in London in a mansion that once belonged to the Shah of Iran. Vedanta is only one of the many multinational corporations closing in on Orissa.
If the flat topped hills are destroyed, the forests that clothe them will be destroyed too. So will the rivers and streams that flow out of them and irrigate the plains below. So will the Dongria Kondh. So will the hundreds of thousands of tribal people who live in the forested heart of India, whose homeland is similarly under attack.
In our smoky crowded cities, some people say, “So what? Someone has to pay the price of progress.’ Some even say, ‘Lets face it, these are people whose time has come. Look at any developed country. Europe, the United States, Australia – they all have a ‘past’. Indeed they do. So why shouldn’t “we”?