Hot. Dry. Quiet. So very different from
Bombay. The last time I was in Raipur, Chattisgarh was a
3 day frenzy. This time, I am here for a month, doing my block field work with
an organization called Dalit Mukti Morcha. I am staying in a house in the
outskirts of the city, a place that looks out at a large brown dirt ground where
boys play cricket, sniff glue, play cards, and generally wile away their time.
Women are a rarity on the streets, and if a few are seen, their forearms are
covered with fitted gloves and their faces with knotted dupattas. This is not the kind of 'field work' where we live in a rural setting and get immersed in the community's reality. Here, we are living in the organisation's reality, contributing to their work however we can in the short span of time that we are here. In many ways we are privileged - a home to stay in, food security, running water, regular electricity, even internet. In other ways, we are limited in the lack of direct exposure to the Dalit reality, kept inside during evening and night hours as the organisation is responsible for our well being, and learning what we can about three issues that the organisation is currently focusing on: child labour, 'ekal mahilas' or single women, and 'tuhni-pratha' or the practice of witch-hunting. My focus is the latter. Before I even dare to speak to the victims of these atrocities, I am reading transcripts of interviews that DMM has done with them, and translating these interviews. It's a tedious, often unexciting process, but the stories that emerge are rich with emotion, sometimes ending in tragedy. I am not in the position to divulge these stories just yet, but again and again I am coming face to face with a reality of exploitation and unjust accusations. And it's quite disturbing.