However, with time the situation has become a little dicey. One by one or in groups of a few most people in Alirajpur have agreed to go to Gujarat over the last fifteen years since the Supreme Court judgment was given in 2000 and now only twelve families remain who are still hanging on to the demand to be rehabilitated in Madhya Pradesh. Khajan and three of his brothers (two other brothers have opted for land in Gujarat) are the only ones from Anjanwara village who are still holding out.
In these fifteen years Khajan has fought tooth and nail along with other affected people to get land in Madhya Pradesh but to no avail. Twice he has led people to forcibly occupy Government Agricultural Research Farm land and gone to jail in the process. The Government has consistently showed them barren land or those in adverse possession by others and refused to give them either good unencumbered land that it owns or buy good land from farmers and give it to them. The Supreme Court has time and again heard contempt petitions from the Narmada Bachao Andolan about this negative attitude of the Government of Madhya Pradesh in not giving the affected people land and rapped it but even so in the end this has not resulted in anything positive. So one by one the stalwarts of the fight against the dam have accepted land in Gujarat and only a few like Khajan are still holding out (The Gujarat Government of course is eager to give land to the people from Madhya Pradesh because it can construct the gates to the dam and complete it only when all affected people are resettled).
Finally today Khajan is dispirited even though he swears that he will not go to Gujarat under any circumstances. He says that after all these years he is without any money in his pocket and hope in his heart. He survives on the forest land up on the hills in his village which he has encroached and to which he does not have any legal title. His legal agricultural land has been submerged in the dam and even the small farm behind us in the picture above is one for which he does not have legal title. He is able to farm the forest land because the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath (KMCS) has fought a long battle to ensure access to forests for the Adivasis in Alirajpur and has considerable strength in the area.
Khajan recalled that the River had been so beautiful flowing majestically through the gorges very clean and great fun to swim in. I too have great memories of the River in its pristine form. Now the water is dirty and stagnant and infested with crocodiles so that it is neither possible to swim in it nor drink its water. A man who has given his all to fight against destructive modern development has lost the battle.
I couldn't but reflect on the dire situation of Khajan and the comparatively better situation that I am in. We have both failed in our fight but I am in a much better situation financially at least because of my money earning skills. I harked back to the days of our youth when he was such a handsome guy with a twinkle in his eye and a spring in his step as we fought our battles thinking we would never lose. Looking at the old man that Khajan is now, a deep sadness engulfed me. Fourteen years back after a particularly hard battle against the State that I lost, I decided to stop fighting the State full tilt as I had been doing till then and toned down my activism. However, I had something to fall back on but Khajan not only continued his good fight but now when he is exhausted he does not have the luxury of an alternative source of livelihood. Of course he gets considerable support from both the KMCS and the NBA and that is why he is able to continue his fight but he is a lonely tragic figure like many great Adivasi fighters before him who have made huge sacrifices in the fight for a more socio-economically just and environmentally sustainable world.