Living through the pain

A tribal who is trapped between the “purification  drive” andthe Naxals in BastarMany tribals like young Sambhu Istam want to go back to their villages in Bastar. Around 20,000 of them have been living in cramped shantytowns or camps set up by the government. Since the Salwa Judum force was formed in 2005 to counter Maoists, the tribals have been cut away from their villages and their livelihood. Sometime ago, the force was termed a tribal uprising against Naxalite terror, but later the hand of the state in its formation was acknowledged. The tribals are trapped in the camps, caught between the warring sides — the state and the Naxals. Their villages have turned into battlegrounds where loyalties are difficult to prove.   

A farmer who lost his 1,000 acres to India’s ‘dream’ car and could not survive the tragedyBhonath Patra, 42, tried to survive losing his 1,000 acres to the Tatas and the car India was said to be waiting for, the Nano. He worked in a cold storage for a few weeks. But the sorrow of losing his tilled land and his failing health that made him unfit for his new job, got the better of him. One morning, he hanged himself. The police decided that the he killed himself because “he was suffering from depression because of failing health.” It was soon forgotten, but there was another death that was politicised — of 78-year-old Haradhan Bag. He is said to have consumed poison out of despair. The State Government sought an enquiry into the incident.A Kashmiri student who waited anxiously for the election results after the Amarnath clashesParvez Majeed, a postgraduate student in Srinagar University, was saddened by the clashes. When over 40 acres of forestland in Kashmir valley was to be transferred to Sri Marnath Shrine Board by the Jammu and Kashmir State Government, there were violent demonstrations both for and against it. Most political pundits and laymen like Parvez were worried that at the recent elections, the results will be based on this communal division. However, Parvez was pleasantly surprised, even stunned, by the high turnout of voters and  the election results. “People are looking at a more positive role of the government,” says Parvez, with a smile. The family that lost everything for choosing a faithOnce the mobs were through, Bipin Digal and his wife Dubojin and their three children were left at a relief camp with a bucket and mug to their name. Many Christians in Orissa’s Kandamal district lost their homes and their neighbourhood when Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati was murdered on August 23. The 19 relief camps were overflowing with over 23,000 refugees and Digal was impatient to return to his village. But he knew that no family was safe on their own. Churches were being torched and ransacked and people being hacked and burnt to death. Residents at the camp had heard that saffron flags now fluttered over their homes and churches. Even when the Centre sent 53 companies of paramilitary forces to Kandhamal, people were hesitant to return. They had been warned by the lynch mobs “to return only as Hindus”.A BPO employee who lost his job to recessionOne morning, 26-year-old Siddarth Cherian was called by his boss. Siddharth had been in the call-centre industry for the past five years and had joined this office six months ago as a project-in-charge. He knew that the recession had begun and was not surprised when the boss told him that the project was to be closed and that Siddharth will have to leave. Siddh­arth accepted it without a fight, but told the management that they should pay him a month’s salary as compensation. Things turned sour and he had to threaten the company with legal action to get what was rightfully due to him. The following months saw his savings down by half. Thankfully, his wife works. Now Siddharth has found another job, but with a pay that’s 40 per cent less than his previous package of Rs 28,000. “I am keeping my fingers crossed,” he says.The daughter that was sold to a stranger for three square mealsA baby girl of Andhra Pradesh’s Nalgonda district, was sold by her parents to someone they have never heard of — for Rs 2,000. Lavdiya Bheetni’s ninth child was luckier than thousands of the other girls in the several mandals of the district. Most girls are killed at birth. “We had to sell her,” says the helpless mother. The family of six — four daughters and a son — had nothing to eat and the sale of the their anonymous daughter, rescued them from begging on Hyderabad’s streets and saw them back to their Jodubai tanda. Bheetni’s daughter has a right to a healthy and happy life with her family under the Directive Principles of State Policy and the Convention on Rights of a Child of which India is a signatory. But the baby girl is among the thousands who were given away.  A young Indian whose life has come under the shadow of fearWhen 27-year-old Saif Imran invited his friends for Eid celebrations to his house in Jamia Nagar, three km from the spot of the September’s terrorist encounter, they were hesitant. “They were afraid if they would come under surveillance,” says Imran. Life has come under the shadow of fear since the shootout. There is the fear of the terrorists. “What if more terrorists are hiding in this area?” asks Imran. Then there is the fear of being suspected by the state. Imran’s uncle, a businessman in Uttar Pradesh, used to be a frequent visitor. These days he finishes his purchase before dusk and returns home. Youngsters like Imran, who has a degree in engineering from Jamia University, are particularly vulnerable to being suspected with reports on the changing face of terrorism — young and educated. A first-time investor who lost 90 per cent of her savings in the crashEveryone sat around candle-lit dinner tables and spoke about doubling their incomes through the share market, and a 43-year-old homemaker got excited. Let’s call her Ranjini Sharma. Well, she was a greenhorn in investing, but decided to follow her friends’ suggestions and take the plunge. She put a large part of her savings one lakh rupees in the market. Ranjini didn’t breathe a word about it to anyone in the family, expecting to give them a surprise when the fortune poured in. She was in for a big disappointment the Sensex dipped from 20,000 points to below 10,000 points. Her one-lakh investment was worth less than Rs 10,000. She is yet to share her shock with anyone in the family, afraid of the repercussions. Ranjini  has not let go of her stocks or her hope yet. A Bodo youth who is still waiting for an elusive peaceWhen serial blasts rocked Assam on October 30, Bipul Brahma’s hopes came crashing down. Till then, the government and the Bodo insurgent outfit National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) were negotiating to address the long-standing demands of the Bodo community — from autonomy to statehood. With statehood, every average Bodo youngster hoped, would come a better future. “What has the Government of India done to fulfil our demands in the last 22 years since we have waged an armed struggle against it?” says Bipul, a post-graduate in English but still  unemployed. Then the bombs went off in and around Guwahati and as the proverbial spanner jammed the peace effort between the Government and NDFB. Police say the NDFB along with ULFA had carried out the blasts with assistance from an external force. “Peace has been affected,” says Bipul.A young couple who has to start from scratch Lekha Anand, a 35 year-old housewife, has three worries. First, the falling real-estate prices. She and her sisters had bought houses worth tens of lakhs, but its value has dipped to by more than one-fifth and she fears it may fall more. Second, there is no job security. “Whenever someone has been benched, someone has been fired, everyone thinks that they could be the next to go,” says Lekha. One of her friends was waiting for the car to pick her up for work one morning. When it did not arrive, she called the office and came to know that “her services would no longer be required.” The abruptness weighs heavily on everyone’s mind. Lekha’s third worry is the couple’s retirement fund. They had invested it in a mutual fund, which has drastically fallen in value. “We need to start again,” says the mother of two.