Thursday, November 21, 2013

Questions of light

I don't know if I've mentioned this booklet, published by Vikas Samvad two years ago. It is really just a reporter's diary, but it came from me wanting to take a closer look at the places and people I had been reporting about while writing for news magazines.

As is the case with many reporters who are based in cities, I traveled into villages only when there was some crisis unfolding and I could never stay more than a couple of days. Even then, I stayed in the nearest small town, looking for some lodge or hotel within the budget the magazine afforded me. There was never enough time to talk to someone at leisure, not bothering about taxi bills or trains to catch or deadlines to meet.

When I quit full-time journalism, I went back to the group that had helped me source stories before, and asked if they'd help me stay in a village for a week or two. They first sent me to Chutka, a village that had been displaced before - to make way for Bargi dam - and was once again facing the prospect of displacement due to a nuclear power plant proposal.

This was the first time I was going into a village with a desire to just figure out how these things were playing out, and what I found surprised me, educated me, distressed me. It wasn't the difficult questions of environment or health or 'development' that worried me so much as the constant undermining of democracy at every step. It was also very scary to see just how hard people have to fight to hang on to their rights. It's a wearying battle. But they fight it. And mainly, they fight peacefully.

The wonder of this, and the simplicity and justice of the solutions that people themselves come up with, went into a diary that was printed as 'Who Will See the Light?"

Recently, it has also been translated as 'किसके हिस्से आएगी रौशनी?'

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