Mobile Mics of Chhattisgarh

People

Mobile Mics of Chhattisgarh

Illustration: Namaah/Arré

O

n a pristine morning in Chhattisgarh’s Kabirdham district, a confident forest official strode into Bhangitola, a village comprising 33 indigenous Baiga families. The primitive tribe, concentrated in the ancient, fragrant woodlands of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, is considered one of the most isolated in the world. Their lives, their economy, their culture, their religion have all evolved from, and continue to depend on, the sacred sal forests where they live – a fact that the Indian government formally recognised only in 2006, when the landmark Forest Rights Act was passed.

The act accords the adivasis, a right to the land they were cultivating before 2005. The forest officer knew that even though seven years had gone by since the act had been passed, none of the families in Bhangitola had received their land deeds. He went to each of their thatch-roofed houses, talking to the men who told him that they had already filled out dozens of forms. But as befits Indian bureaucracy, nothing had moved. The officer promised to help them out – but there would be a price.

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