“Aapke Gaon Mein Kya Hua Tha?”

Devi Mangdroo sleeping next to her son and the remnants of her burnt home, as well as her newest settlement. She lost around three quintals of rice in the fire that was started by the security forces.

Devi Mangdroo sleeping next to her son and the remnants of her burnt home, as well as her newest settlement. She lost around three quintals of rice in the fire that was started by the security forces.

I had spent the night at Tatemargu – the village cut-off from the mainstream – no roads go to Tatemargu. And there is no electricity – in the dark recesses of the night one can mistake a lone firefly for a shooting star.

News-wise, their only window into the other world was through the radio, through month-old newspapers that are sometimes carried there.

Considering that I spent two nights with a few villagers, we often spoke about things that weren’t related to Naxalism or Salwa Judum, or the attack that took place on their village. We’d often speak about our families, ourselves – our pasts. A particular favourite story was about how one of them would go to school before the Judum started. He apparently used to travel two days, just to get to school.

“Phir SDM saab ke saath mein mila tha ek din.”

And the district magistrate would listen to how he’d travel for two days to get to school and two days to get back home. This was the time when government did try to exist at Bastar and the Magistrate made arrangements for him to study closer to home.

Of course then one of them asked me about 26/11.

‘Aapke gaon mein kya hua tha?’

And I described it to them.

In vivid detail.

I told them how the gunmen got off and started to shoot at everyone and anyone. I told them about Victoria Terminas Train Station. I told them about the Taj.

And they were horrified. Genuinely horrified.  Why were they doing that? How can people do that?

I replied they ceased to be human beings.

‘Woh insaan nahi the.’ – that’s all i could say.

Interestingly, they didn’t know that there were many poor people among the dead. They knew little bits about it. They knew something happened but they didn’t know it like we did.

The story about VT affected them the most.  Throngs of travellers waiting to return home, being confronted with madmen who shot indiscriminately in every direction – at everything that moved.

One particular villager would softly gasp when I described the attacks.

Empathy.

Just ten days ago their village was attacked by the security forces and they lost their homes and four of their people, and yet they genuinely felt  sadness for what happened in Bombay.

I don’t grieve the human race.

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