After winning political Independence in 1947 at a heavy cost, India chose the path of economic development. No doubt successes have been many. Yet, all does not seem to be well with the development path. For the divide between the urban and rural was never bigger than this. Wada District that falls a little ahead of Thane District is a complete contrast of the urban and the rural. Monika Bhosale reports on how the tribals united to give them justice when the government and leaders failed them. Over a km drive from Thane District takes one into the Wada District that has several tribal hamlets. Tribals represent a large and diverse group of marginalized communities that live mainly in hilly and forested upland areas. Due to isolation, tribals speak distinctive languages, look different and have different and distinctive mode of look, dance and dress. Because of land hunger on part of the larger society, tribals have suffered severely from exploitation, loss of traditional land and habitat and from general disrespect. Although technically not a part of India’s case, creed and society tribals are often treated as untouchables. The reality of Khurda – a tribal hamlet in Wada District is no different. Without power, water and even roads, the adivasis of this hamlet represents poor India, downtrodden India, socially disadvantaged India. There are a number of schemes declared by the State and Central Government for development of Adivasis. However these schemes remain on paper and do not reach for whom they are meant for. Forget schemes, tribals of Khurda village had to travel from dangerous heights to come out of the hamlet. The trial was so treacherous, that one slip would mean death by falling from the height of an over 1 km into the river below. But despite the dangers, the forest dept. never paid any heed to the appeals of tribals to make a road for them. Angered out of injustice, this is what the tribals did – they united to make a road on their own. Like A River The movement gathers strength…. As it flows Relentless… Giving life and energy To a vision… Previously passive and powerless tribal groups like Khurda in Maharashtra are now unionized to serve their rights. Their self confidence is flowing by leaps and bounds. They want to fight for their rights – rights for water, rights to forest cultivation products, rights to graze animals, rights to gather fruits and firewood and rights to live life like any other citizen of Independent India. And their struggle for independence is not with the British but from their own people, leaders and system.
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