A village where no one goes for campaigning

P. Manoj |Rahul Wadke | | Updated on: Apr 08, 2019
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The air is still and enervating in Nelgunda, a village with 600 inhabitants on the Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh border, which is at the heart of Naxal activity. So far, none of the candidates fighting elections have come to the villages for canvassing.

Residents of the village are the Madia tribals, who still build megalithic structures, to honour their dead.

On April 11, the residents of the Gadchiroli-Chimur constituency will vote to send their MP to Parliament. It is the largest constituency in Maharashtra.

Despite 70 years of independence, the village has no electricity and tar roads. Landline, optical cables and mobiles have still not reached the village. The dense and dry deciduous forest is home to Naxal Dalam (squad) camps.

Land ownership

Farmer and former sarpanch (village chief) of Nelgunda Vale Dogevaddi said: “Other than rice, nothing is cultivated in the fields. The land in the village is not in the name of the farmers, very few land ownership titles have been handed over to them. The State Government is holding the land titles but is not transferring them. The local revenue officials have all the records, surveys and applications. Still, no action has been taken.”

“Whoever comes to power, whether it is the Congress or the BJP, should ensure that the land titles are handed over to the people. Tomorrow if the government changes its mind about the use of land, the farmers should at least have some claim,” Dogevaddi said.

He said that unemployment is driving the youth towards Naxalism, “They ask what have we achieved after getting educated, therefore they take to guns for their rights.”

A retired forest official on condition of anonymity said the Madia tribal’s way of life remained untouched by the arrival of the British and even after independence they never joined the mainstream . “It is a land and people, which has been forgotten,” the retired official said.

The road to Nelgunda from Hemalkasa is marked by sites of Naxal violence and counter-action by the police. The village has a clinic but it functions once in 60 days when the nurse makes her visit.

Mahendra Chetu Vachame, who has less than one acre in the village, said none of the party workers have visited the villages to seek votes. The local MP Ashok Nete has never visited the village, he said.

Former sarpanch Dogevaddi added that police harassment is also a constant fear here. Villagers can speak only Madia language, which the policemen don’t understand. “If villagers don’t give proper answers to the police about Naxals, they get beaten up for no reason,” he said.

Published on April 08, 2019

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