Three decades ago both we the activists, who had renounced modern development and the people of Khodamba village, who had not seen much of it and were instead sufferers of its negativities, pledged to develop the village as a bulwark against this development based on a mixture of Adivasi and theoretical anarchism!! Those were the days when we walked on foot, had no bank accounts, had no computers and rarely visited the towns and cities unless it was to hold some protest or rally. Once we walked seventy kilometers from the banks of the Narmada River to Alirajpur to organise a sit in.
Fighting the state as we were against its unjust forest laws and the forced displacement of people for the Sardar Sarovar dam on the Narmada River it was not long before we faced the hard hand of the state's repression and were summarily dumped into prisons time and again. This by itself was not very disconcerting but what followed was. We had to fight numerous cases, sometimes all the way up to the High and Supreme Court and this cost money. Also this continuous fight against repression distracted us from our efforts to build up an alternative anarchist economy based on sustainable agriculture and village industry.
So by the mid 1990s while the villagers of Khodamba began to migrate to Gujarat seasonally to work as agricultural and construction labourers to earn more money, we activists had to use computers to do consultancies for the very capitalist system that we so loathed to get funds to defray the increasing expenses of the organisation and in the process we got bank accounts, motorised vehicles and also began living in cities. All the utopian fervour of the early years of KMCS went up in the smoke of the capitalist onslaught what with the economy being opened up for neo-liberal development from the early 1990s.
Yet, I continued to harbour the dream that one day we would be able to develop our anarchist utopia in Khodamba and the villages nearby because they continued to be cut off from the mainstream due to lack of roads and electricity. However, over the years this dream was there only in my heart as the people of Khodamba slowly became enthusiastic votaries of the fruits of modern development. Possibly if I had stayed in Alirajpur we might still have swung it in a modified way. But residing as I did in Indore all of 250 kilometers away it was not possible to initiate decentralised rural development in Khodamba.
When I drove my car to the village the other day I found the people there very kicked that the road and electricity had reached Khodamba. They were enthusiastically making plans for irrigating their lands. Like many other villages in the area, the shallow aquifer does not have much water but the deep aquifer is abundant. Now that the road had reached their village they would be able to bring in a boring machine to sink deep tubewells and then draw water from them with submersible pumps run by electricity. Mobile connectivity is still not there but one can climb up on one of the many hills surrounding the village to get that also. There were not many people around in the village except the elder ones like the old war horse Inder Singh who had grown up along with me from youth to old age. All the young people had gone off to Gujarat to labour and earn money.
Coming back from the village all the memories of those heady years of the late 1980s crowded my mind. Many young people who would come to the KMCS as interns were sent to this village to teach the children there and we used to land up from time to time to see if everything was going alright or not. The walk through the hills from Vakner used to be very picturesque. The village itself was an idyllic heaven as shown in the picture below.
All that is now gone with the wind of modern development. It is not long before the ugly box like modern brick and concrete architecture will come to dominate this idyllic scenario now that the road has reached the village. I had ofcourse left Alirajpur two decades back and become immersed in modern living in Indore despite my dreams but the people of Khodamba had perforce remained cut off from the mainstream and so fed my utopian dreams. Now justice has been done and they too are enjoying the benefits of modern connectivity!!