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Monday , January 28 , 2013
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The story of Nowhere

- Three travellers tell heartrending tales at Jaipur fest

An 11-year-old girl was abducted in Manipur because police wanted to trap her parents.

A poor, penniless farmer hanged himself with a red dupatta, the same his wife used to kill herself a few days back, because of extreme poverty in Chhattisgarh.

On a starvation death in Bastar, a political leader clarified “the victim suffered from a disease of hunger”

Jaipur, Jan. 27: These unknown, untold, heart-rending stories were put forth, ironically, on Republic Day at Jaipur Literature Festival here by three travellers, whose journeys took them through India’s fractured and forgotten lands and brought them closer to reality — the truth about almost-absent states in these regions, the parallel governments run by militants, the stories of anguished, restive people and an insight into how India has failed as a nation even after 66 years of independence.

Three authors and highway trekkers — Sudeep Chakravarti, Nilesh Mishra and Rahul Pandita — got together on a session titled “Highway to Nowhere” to shed light on why India still has to debate over marginalised voices and dysfunctional social and political spaces behind the shining veneer of economic reforms and liberalisation.

The session was moderated by Urvashi Butalia, co-founder of Kali for Women, India’s first feminist publishing house.

Chakravarti said he was amazed to find how people in the Northeast continued to live in a system that is almost non-existent. While travelling through these conflict zones, he found the absolute absence of governance and state.

In his book, Highway No. 39, Chakravarti said he has tried to bring out the stories about these brutalised, tortured, maimed and raped people, who survive in these conflict zones despite years of political conceit and deceit.

Taking on the role of a sutradhar, Chakravarti said his book is asutra that binds the outland to inland. An extremely complex and conflict-ridden region, he said, in the Northeast the hurt runs deep but still there is incredible hope that these conflicts would be resolved. Talking about Manipur, he said he found absolute failure of governance in the state by continuous intrusion of the military. And the people deeply affected by conflict want to come out of it and look to India to cure it of its ills.

Urging for concrete steps to end the uncertainty in these regions, Chakravarti asked the people present at the session, a number of them from the Northeast, “Before you look east, look Northeast, it would help.”

Neelesh Mishra, co-author of The Absent State, a book on insurgency, said while travelling through 40,000km of India’s states in three years, he found that 50 per cent of the Centre’s funds given to the states are not being used and that “insurgency is often a convenient excuse for misgovernance”.

Rahul Pandita, co-author of The Absent State and of Hello-Bastar: The Untold Story of India’s Maoist Movement, said he, being a Kashmiri Pandit himself, could identify with the uprootedness, homelessness while travelling through these lands. He said as these regions have faced long-term conflict, a sort of blurred line now exists between the state and the opposite parties and there is nobody really to tell who is on which side.

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