The long walk home
In 2012, 50,000 farmers and adivasis from Orissa, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh undertook a silent protest march (Jan Satyagraha) from Gwalior to New Delhi to protest against massive infrastructure projects in their villages that were displacing them from their homes. Their demands included that the landless and the homeless get land for building and agriculture and the 2006 law on forest rights of the adivasis should be applied. A year after the protest, 80 per cent of their demands were fulfilled by the Central government. Swiss director Christoph Schaub and Indo-Swiss director Kamal Musale captured this protest and the life stories of the protesters in their documentary titled Millions Can Walk. The documentary will now be shown in India for the first time this week as part of the Mumbai International Film Festival at the National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA).
Pankhi Bai from Kalhari, Madhya Pradesh, who was driven out of her home with her husband and four children due to the construction of the artificial lake, Ban Sagar, also participated in the silent protest march
The film tells the stories of some of the protesters such as Pankhi Bai from Kalhari, Madhya Pradesh who was driven out of her home with her husband and four children due to the construction of the artificial lake, Ban Sagar and Anil Kindo, a labourer from Hathidarsa, Odisha, whose family was driven out of Rourkela, when giant steel works were built there.
Musale, who was born and raised in Switzerland, says, “We were keen to document this protest as we wanted to capture how people in India manifest their democratic demands. We were intrigued by the idea as to how can one fight for one’s rights without using violence?”
Musale and Schaub, who own Curry Western Productions and have in the past made documentaries on Brazil’s traditional healers and Japanese Butoh dancers did a lot of research by doing a recce of the villages from where these protesters hailed. He says, “It wasn’t easy to find people who were displaced. But we spoke to activists who told us about the villagers who were displaced.”
However, he maintains that contrary to popular perception, the locals, when confronted, were very co-operative and wanted their story to be told on the big screen. “With no help from the police and the local government bodies, the villagers had nowhere to go. Watching their plight was seeing a chapter in modern day slavery. We had two crews filing the documentary — one that shot them during their protest march and the other in their natural surroundings. We wanted to give viewers an idea about the abysmal conditions these people lived in and the brave step they took by attempting a silent protest march.”
When: February 6, 7 pm
Where: Little Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point