It is often said that “home is where the heart is”. German poet Christian Morgenstern, inspired by English literature nonsense, further went on to state, “Home is not where you live but where they understand you.” But in Dantewada, which presents a classic example to English literature students about the definition of ‘irony’, the notion of ‘home’ is quite blemished. Two significant ‘non-developments’ on the last day of the year made us realise the frugality of the reality of belongingness and the need to be understood.
Delhi University professors Nandini Sundar and Ujjwal Singh were on their way to meet the four rape victims from Samsetti village on Wednesday, December 30. Around 7.30 pm, their was accosted by cops. They checked the papers of the car and then asked the duo to step out. The cops then told them that they could not proceed any further. When asked why, Sundar was told, “We have received such orders from our seniors. You will have to comply with us. You cannot proceed further, but you will have to leave Dantewada.”
Sundar later told us over phone – even though we are all aware that our all our telephonic conversations are now tapped – that when she and Singh tried to go around that village and its adjoining town looking for a lodge to spend the night. But none of the lodges would accommodate them. Of course, the lodge must have been well-fed or well-threatened to forgo the business that they could have gained from the duo’s night stay. It is more likely that they were threatened. After all, this is the land where power flows from the barrel of the gun.
The cops continued to stick by Sundar and Singh, even following them when they stopped by to eat some dinner. Finally, they found refuge in the boy’s hostel of a college. “However, at midnight, some SPOs came knocking at our door and then asked us inane questions rather inane questions rudely. Some time later, they left us alone but stood guarding the door outside all night long. In the morning, on December 31, they said that they will escort us out of Dantewada, northwards to Jagdalpur,” she said.
Here was one woman who wanted to meet four others whose dignity and liberty had been gravely assaulted. And this woman, whom we may assume to be empowered because of her education, was also relegated to be yet another victim of this state’s dirty games. All she wanted to do was understand what prevented the four women from taking the collateral route to get justice for themselves. But in Chhattisgarh, every person is made to stoop.
In the morning of December 31, Himanshu Kumar wasn’t expecting a certain person as his visitor. It was the landlord of the house where Himanshuji had ben living and working from, since May 2009, when the Vnasvasi Chetna Ashram near Fasrspal village was razed down by cops. The landlord was already being pressurised by the state administration to get Himanshuji to vacate the house. But on Thursday morning, the landlord came to tell Himanshuji that he hadn’t been sleeping too well at nights because of the constant fear of being pressurised by the Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM), the Collector and the CEO of the Zilla Panchayat. When Himanshuji asked the landlord if he was contemplating on selling the house, the landlord denied any such intention. Although a lease agreement of a year had been signed for the occupancy of the house, it was clearly heard in the landlord’s nervous voice that the administration did not want the presence of Himanshuji within the state. This resilient man, on the sixth day of his fast with body adipose depleting, is seen as a threat to its macabre ways with which it is playing with many human lives.
Himanshuji now has to vacate the house in about a week’s time. He has also learnt that even if there was land available in Dantewada, the administration had issued a stringent warning stating that nobody could sell him any pience of land – be it for his residence or VCA. In the evening, Himanshuji decided that all the shelves containing various books and journals on Vinoba Bhave, Gandhi, revolution, education, religion, etc., be thrown open for the few of us here. We ransacked the shelves and found a copy of the Holy Bible. Himanshuji insisted that he would keep that for himself. He wiped the thin layer of dust and just opened the book midway. And he laughed aloud. We looked at each other, and then at him. He said aloud, “I open this book, and the lines that stare at me are, “Love your enemy as you love yourself…Reconcile with your enemy.” And we laugh too at the practical joke played on Himanshuji by god himself. But who is the enemy? What is the enemy?
Why is a citizen of this ‘independent country denied residency? Why does he want to continue his fast despite the fact that he may have to go hungry on the street? Why are you still reading this and only sighing? Why are you silent still? Do you, dear reader, have any suggestions to this man who is struggling to smile as he sees his countrymen killing its own people? Do you, dear reader, have any answers to your own impotency?
This impotency of the civil society (no, I don’t indicate the ‘civil society’ here to be the Fab India-clad, Che Guevara-obsessed, Scotch-drinking ‘liberals’) and the fiery potency of the administration is the New Year’s gift to this man. Think for a moment how he must have slept on the last night of 2009. Think for a moment where were you on the last night of 2009.
January 1, 2010 – Himanshuji decided to meet Kopa Kunjam in the jail. He went to Dantewada jail, met Kopa, who broke down upon seeing Himanshuji. It was a moment of strengthening each other and letting the other know that the cop were ehre to only break the morale. “Kopa told me that he had been told that he was deliberately framed in a murder case which he hadn’t committed. He also said that he had been ebaten up many times; he was even hung up from his feet upside down and beaten,” said Himanshuji, trying hard to camouflage the thought of the horrid way in which his friend was being treated, as a punishment for their friendship.
“Among the meagre equipments that they possess, the tribals don’t have a white flag.” That’s the hope for 2010.