Monday, March 21, 2005

Honour and sacrifice in the hills

Just a curious observation:

When I was traveling up to Tehri (where they've been at that dam(n) project for the last forty years), I noticed a series of 'inspirational' quotes painted on the hillsides, or else, engraved on metallic plaques and nailed into the sides of the cliffy roads.

One of these says -(I translate) 'Give your life to your country and your society'. Another says, 'Honour lies in scarifice.'

And all the way up to New Tehri - while I saw, from thousands of feet away, the ruins of a once-beautiful town, Old Tehri, looking like a bedraggled ghost, struggling to it's knees... though, who knows why?

And it seemed so ironic.
If dams are good for the country - as the administration claims they are; anyone who's anti-dam is also branded anti-national, in the same breath - then these people have, indeed, given up their lives for their country.

Giving up lives is not about death. If you give up everything that comprised your life - your house, your garden, the marketplace, your favourite rock by the rivers' edge, the school, your memories, your ancestors' graves and finally, your livelihood, your farms and your grazing grounds and your little shop - then, you have given up your life, have you not?

And what honour have we given the people of Tehri? Or the people of Narmada, or those who lived where Bhakra Nangal now sits, sprawling?

We have not even given them new lives, to replace the ones we took away.
No new jobs. And often, no land. In places like Dehradun, those who were displaced by Tehri and resettled near Dehradun, at the site of the Jolly Grant airport, are once agains being uprooted.
They are, practically speaking, giving up their lives a second time.

And what honour will we give them?

And you know what I thought was the most ironic bit of inspirational wisdom up on the hills?
"Anger is the enemy of awareness."

And I thought: Not so. Not always. Anger is also an offshoot of awareness.
Anger comes from hurt. And the awareness that you've been cheated, lied to. That there is so much injustice around us, and that we don't know. Many of us don't want to know.

Organised anger is sometimes a friend of the people.... if only you can muster enough anger, in time.

PS : I don't know whether all dams are bad, or whether Tehri dam will lead to any good at all. Or at least, will lead to enough good to justify the drowning of Tehri and the subsequent hardships.
But standing there, looking at the ruins, the edginess of the people who might be displaced, the beauty and natural poise of the farms, the calm in the hill people's eyes... it felt wrong.
All wrong.


Morquendi said...

All Bigs Dams are bad. It's been statistically proven (since statistics are what a lot of the pro-Dam people are about) that they have been unsuccessful around the world. The Chinese damns being the worst.

They f*ck things up for the people and the environment, and don't really do anyone any good in the long run.

But they are BIG. And governments think BIG things are bloody cool. Big = Modern = Awesome!.

They're going to Dam one of the rivers here where we whitewater raft. I'm on the lookout for dynamite.

Know where I can buy some?

annie said...

Actually, I have heard that guns and gunpowder are freely available in my ancestral village in UP. Come right over and we'll go shopping (grin)

livinghigh said...

its a horrible dilemma, isnt it? dams are important and necessary, they say - and so are people. we simply dont have the resources to rehabilitate everyone, so wat on earth are we to do? double edged sword.

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