……as to which side should I take. There is a non violent side, which I feel will not be heeded in our cause. Then there is violent side, which I strictly oppose, but I feel that this side has some hopes of winning as against the other side. But considering all, I still feel that which ever side I am on, our cause will be the ultimate looser, unless proper authority takes a notice of us.
It all began a few months back, when it was decided to include our 53 villages into the newly formed Vasai-Virar municipal corporation. This proposal was brought forth few years back, but due to huge resistance from us, the original residents of this area(who have fought against the administration, land mafia and anti-social elements throughout our life to preserve our culture and our environment), the then chief minister of the state of maharashtra, Vilasrao Deshmukh, chose to withhold the formation of the corporation. Then in december 2008 Ashok Chauhan was selected as the successor of Vilasrao Deshmukh, and appointment didn’t seem to matter to our villages in any large manner(because we have a phrase here in our place, “Kavre aale aan kavre gele, aami hai tahe hao”, meaning, many came and went but we are as we were). Little did we know that this change in the political scenario at the state level would lead to this huge turbulance in our peaceful vasai.
Here are some pictures of my Vasai….
(p.s. Photos shown above are not a mere sample items but the actual representation of the beauty that our villages are. Keralites, on seeing this photos, go nostalgic. Source of photos http://onevasai.com)
Somehow, the land mafia managed to get the proposal cleared and the 53 villages were included in to the newly formed corporation. 49 villages which had been opposing this move, united to fight against this undemocratic order. Peace loving people as we are, we choose the non-violent path of the great Mahatma, for our struggle, and our united leaders chalked out few protest plans which were being carried out in the august of 2009 in peaceful and organised ways. But as the protest was reaching its height, it was disrupted by the actions of the well known land “grabber” mafia and the then member of legislative assembly(I doubt whether he knows what MLA stands for) Hitendra Thakur alias “Appa”. The result of this was innocent people being beaten brutally by the police and jailed for two days.
This incidents lead to much stronger unity in vasai localites, and they elected Mr. Vivek ‘Bhau’ Pandit in the assembly elections that immeditaly followed, as he was seen as the only candidate having a real chance in the elections. After few months of inaction from the government about this issue, it was decided to intensify the protest again, and other rounds of non-violent methods were chalked out. One of it included the decision of Mr. Pandit to go on a fast until death, till the issue was addressed by the government. Fearing a propoganda of this issue, the government did the most inhuman and cowardly thing we could imagine. First of all Mr. Pandit was picked up by a large police force and the other protestors were brutally lathi charged. Then a particular village, wagholi, about 10 km away from the place of protest, was targeted by the police force in large numbers. A curfew was ordered for that area, but was never announced to the public. As most of the male population of that area was out in the city for their jobs, the only people in the villages were old men, women and children. This police force brutally lathi charged on anyone and every one they could find in the village. Doors of the houses were broken down, glass panes were broken, inner doors were broken. Old men were dragged out of the house and repeatedly assaulted with the stick. Women were dragged out of the house and beaten. Children were slapped. And I am not recounting a fake incident. It was recorded by tv channels who were present in that area. This videos were later aired on national television which we saw in the evening. You can see some of the police brutallity here. Protectors of the society turned in to perpetrator of a the crime. Friday, the 9th of march turned out to be our Black Friday.
Even after seeing the video, one of the minister chose to label it as mild lathi charge on protesters. While the chief minister, on one side said that an enquiry would be made in to the incident, on other occasion was caught on video telling a reporter, who was questioning about this incident to “forget it”. I am not so good at expressing my feelings, so I feel you all should have been here to feel the anger and the hatred.
All my life I felt that I would grow up to be a man, lead a normal life, untouched by anything really bad if I played my cards right, and so on. I would go to my work daily, and come back in the evening, and my life would have nothing to do with the problems of the naxalites of the gadchiroli and such things. But now I know, my life is always affected, its just a matter of time before I realise it. This village could have been my village. The old man being beaten brutally could have been some one I love dearly. And all this even after I cared less about politics, politicians and their ways.
The family members of the affected are very angry. A small spark is enough for the ever impending explosion. Political leaders on our side are asking them to refrain from any violent way, but I think I know how they feel. And I think I know now what it takes to convert a normal human being to a naxalite. We were fighting for our rights, but the non-violent ways were not acceptable to the caretakers of the worlds largest democracy.
The government had promised to conduct an enquiry and present the report by the end of this week. But knowing the state of affairs that this state is in, I do not have much expectation form them. But our people feel there is some hope. And its hope that has kept us kicking throughout this struggle.