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Kesav Rao - Demo-Cry-19
The March of Land Orphans

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22.5'' x 15'' - charcoal on paper

The march of land orphans. It's unprecedented. Why are 40,000 tribal walking to Delhi?
“We have been living inside the forests for ages. Now the forest ranger wants to throw us out. They deliberately let the stray cattle run amok in our fields and destroy our crops. They beat and threaten us, saying that, if we don't leave on our own, we will be forcibly kicked out”. 'Bihari Singh, 65. Madhya Pradesh'

“40 years ago, the government gave us some land for cultivation. However, 10 years ago, the sarpanch (elected village administrator) and the village mukhiya (Village chief) forcibly evicted us. I have approached the police, Tehasildar (administrative officer for a group of villages) and Collector (revenue collector for a district) but nobody listens. In 2007, I had protested in Delhi but nothing happened.'   
'Lagni,55, Chhattisgarh '

“One of Asia's biggest power plant is to come up in our village. Last year, district officials sent a proposal through the gram Sabha (Village decision making body) for acquiring land. We said no. Then they made people from other villages sit in our place at gram sabha. They are trying to illegally usurp our land.””      
'Amarnath, 40. Chhattisgarh'

“We were living in the forests for a long  time but we were kicked out. Now we are forced  to live very close to where the municipal corporation dumps waste. That area is unsuitable for living. We are working as bonded laborers in a mango orchard. We want our land back.”
'Dhanalakshmi, 23. Tamil Nadu'

The case of Sargun Masomait (a tribal woman) is symptomatic of what hundreds of thousands of tribal, Dalits and other land less people face all over India. These people are a stark reminder of the limits to notions of development. For them, state oppression is not distant, textbook trauma. Rather, it is an everyday and close-to-the-bone verity. The police officer, the forest ranger, the sub-district official--- these are the local tyrants who have helped a neighborhood overlord grab their land.

'And why is this land important? It is not necessarily because of its economic value-- some of the holdings are too tiny for anything more than subsistence agriculture. Yet the very ownership of this land, the ability to touch it, play with the dust in her hands gives Sargum and many like her a sense of dignity and entitlement. These are people and families, remember, that have never owned land, not for 5000 years of Indian history. That is why it is emotionally empowering them.
Brijesh Pandey, Tehelka 35, 20.Oct..12

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