Monday, 5 May 2014

Bhula bhai - the price of integrity

When I was in Narmada, decades ago , the villages were due for submergence. The first house to be submerged was Bhula bhai’s in Vadgam.

The unity was complete. The people of the doomed villages, and those who had moved in
to be with them Medha, Shripad, Nandini, Himanshu, Arundhati, Sanjay, Silvi and many others were together in the ‘doobenge par hateenge nahin’ . (‘We will not move out, even if the rising waters submerge us.’).

The unity had to be broken.

The wife of the erstwhile CM came in the dark of night to Bhula bhai’s home and secretly offered him a lakh rupees as bribe, to ‘accept government compensation’. With that the 100% unity would weaken, and the government hoped, the struggle would weaken.

Bhula bhai, told her that such deals are not part of the village culture. He said she could come in the day, and place her offer before the village publically and it would be discussed. She left.

She did not come. The dam was built, the dam water submerged Vadgam. Bhula bhai and the others joined the ranks of the displaced people.

I saw him again years later in a dharna where the displaced were sitting in a protest, asking the government for land in lieu of land they lost. From a respectable if poor farmer, he was now a destitute.

I had no words. I have no words. I only hang my head in the collective shame. At the cost our country is taking in its march of development.  

Bhula bhai retained his integrity … and paid the ultimate price for it. Integrity comes with a price. A heavy price.

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