True Colours of Holi in Narmada Valley: Toranmal and Jalsindhi
Ration Cards to thousands for the First Time after ‘Independence’!
7th March, 2015: Toranmal/Jalsindhi: As the rest of the country splashed in a riot of colours, more than 500 adivasis from the interior tribal villages of Narmada Valley gathered at Toranmal, tehsil Shahda, district Nandurbar, yesterday. Toranmal is not just a ‘tourist place’ but a center of various activities for tens of adivasi villages in this area. This year Holi, was special for them for various reasons. One, they were joined by hundreds of supporters from different parts of Maharashtra including a few officials, intellectuals, activists, media persons etc.
However, the main reason for the jubilation was that more than a thousand poor tribal families from villages Jhapi, Falai, Khadki, Kundiya and hamlets of Toranmal; received ‘ration cards’ yesterday, for the first time after independence. While this brought immense happiness to the adivasis, it shocked the supporters and media persons, who were blissfully ignorant of the magnitude of state neglect and apathy in the interior hilly tribal belts of Narmada valley.
Holding the cards in their hands as entitlements to a new form of freedom, the resolute adivasis asserted their rights to land, water and forest. As the younger generation danced and sang to the drum beats and conches of the traditional Holi, the elders received the ration cards with dignity, a scenario which brought tears to the eyes of many; a reality to witness by all those who are concerned about the disparities and injustice here.
Ration cards could be achieved only after perseverant follow up by the villagers and activists; yet thousands more remain without right to PDS even today. This is only a glimpse in the unfortunate saga of the government of not having up-to-date records of these original inhabitants in spite of the Supreme Court’s order since 2011 that government must not to leave out any citizen hungry in the whole of the country.
The adivasis also pledged to consolidate their united struggle against the medium dams proposed to be built on the tributaries of Narmada river which would create large-scale displacement, in the backdrop of the fact that thousands of adivasi families displaced by Sardar Sarovar are yet to be rehabilitated lawfully.
These villages living there since decades and even generations are yet to get their rights to land, water and forest and survive mainly only on the meager resources that they have with simple living and self-reliance. They are thus least dependent on government; however, the government has not even reached out to them in order to implement the laws and Supreme Court’s judgments whether it is on right to food or forest rights. Living on the rain-fed agriculture and whatever forest produce they have, these families and villagers are on the other hand left without forest individual and community rights that were to be granted under the Forest Act, 2006.
Large number of them on the other hand has received rejection orders in spite of having submitted applications for their rights to forest land under cultivation along with Gram Sabha resolutions and whatever proof they have. The rejection orders unjustifiably refers to the Google maps of 2006 while admitting that their cultivated lands in the hills and mountain ranges were measured with GPS machines. Huge extraction of money by the forest department employees on the other hand continues. Thousands of such adivasis families are fighting this battle with commitment and support of the youth team that has emerged from Narmada Jeevanshala and 30 years old movement-Narmada Bachao Andolan.
This celebration was witnessed by number of students and activists from Mumbai, Dhule and other nearby places to take inspiration and become the part of this historic event.
Around the same time, hundreds gathered from the nearby villages of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat to celebrate Holi in the Narmada river-bank village Jalsindhi, in the Alirajpur district of M.P. known world-over for its sacrifice not just at the altar of ‘development’ but also for its intense satyagrahas. Holi continued, with the adivasis singing and dancing all through the night, small vendors selling their wares, drum-beat competitions and the huge bonfire lit in the wee hours, propitiating the Holi Dev.
The activists and villagers here are now busy organizing the adivasis as members for fish workers co-operatives in the villages of Jalsindhi, Akadiya and Chilakda. The farmers, adivasis and other communities in the Narmada valley shall continue to struggle for their rights to natural resources in different forms.
Vijay Valve Sunil Pawra Latika Rajput Chetan Salve
Bhagirath Kavche Kailash Awasya Medha Patkar
Contact: 9420151384 | 9423965153