The young rebels of Jhumra hills

Babita Mahto, who has been with this Local Guerrilla Squad of CPI (Maoist) a year, said that joining the party gave her a sense of purpose and immortality.

“So many women in the Mahto community kill themselves due to the stress from dowry, tilak [social ceremonies]. If I die at home, my parents will mourn for some months; we had a daughter who died, they will say. But here, there are so many of us who will remember — there was such and such didi [older sister], our comrade; she died for the people.”

An article based on this and other interviews with Maoist rebels in this area appeared in The Hindu.

in life as in a strange garment

Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Tireless traveler
Like the beam of a lightless star
Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what

For the Anniversary of My Death, WS Merwin, 1967.

River basins


manual for drought management.

On India’s biometrics ID Aadhaar debate


7-year old Abhishek Bairwa enrolling in Aadhaar in a shop in Bagru, Jaipur district after being asked by his school teachers to do so. photo AnumehaY

JAM in Jharkhand: ‘Apply lemon juice, flour, Boroplus on fingers and pass biometrics test’
Fact check: Will restricting Aadhaar now affect crores of welfare recipients?
Supreme Court ruling on Aadhaar leaves both government and critics unsatisfied
An audit of ration shops after the introduction of Aadhaar revealed that many genuine beneficiaries couldn’t collect food grain due to system glitches.
Student battles for right to obtain voter card without having to enrol for Aadhaar
How the government got the Supreme Court’s approval to link subsidy schemes with Aadhaar
India’s Unique Identity Dilemma isn’t about those who enrol in Aadhaar, but those who don’t
No benefits for beneficiaries
She returns empty-handed, this time too
To pass biometric identification, apply Vaseline or Boroplus on fingers overnight
Direct benefits transfer: Why direct transfer may not put money in people’s pockets


Sly book

“At worst the Africans saw the Indians as illiterate, barefooted, clannish heathens, misers who hoarded coins under their bed, who had strange uncivilized costumes, who spread dung on the walls  and floors of their homes, stunted, thin-limbed and shifty-eyed. At worst, Indians saw the Africans as the condemned: ugly, black of skin, with wide noses and twisted coir for hair, mimics of the white masters, without a language, culture or religion of their own, frivolous, promiscuous, violent, lazy.”  p 120

…”I had thought of chutney as a music without pain, but I had begun to see I was wrong. Reggae was the music of slavery. Its impulse was resistance, confrontation, a homeland severed so absolutely, seized back by the force of imagination or ideology. Chutney was the music of indenture. Its impulse was preservation, then assimilation. There was a pain in this act of attempted preservation— a homeland part remembered and protected, part lost and lingering.” p.212



Nepal blockade may have created an enduring problem on the border: Fuel smuggling

This post from Raxaul-Birgunj border when the Nepal blockade ended, in early February.

A four-month blockade on the India-Nepal international border by Madhesi protestors left the Himalayan nation with lingering travails.

The blockade, started in September and ended on February 4, and caused enormous shortages and price rises in most parts of Nepal. As imports were disrupted, fuel scarcity pushed people to take to illegal logging and deforestation, creating a real threat of floods. Particularly hit during the four-month period were hospitals and schools. Reconstruction efforts after the deadly April 2015 earthquake too came to a standstill as loaded trucks were prevented from crossing the open border.

In Kathmandu, confronted with cooking gas shortage, most residents switched to firewood and induction stoves for cooking and heating. But this gave rise to further trouble. The widespread use of induction stoves caused electricity transformers to explode, disrupting power distribution.

A full recovery from this impact of the blockade, including from the slowdown of Nepal’s economy, may take long. Even a week after the blockade was lifted, there was little immediate relief for citizens.

Switching trades

Many fuel stations in Kathmandu remained closed. During the blockade, the government provided fuel only to emergency services vehicles and to private vehicles as per lots based on registration numbers. Now too, some rationing continues. The government announced that from next week, all vehicles will get fuel but within limits – 5 litres for motorcycles and 15 litres for four-wheelers.

The blockade by the Madhesis – a term for several communities living in Nepal’s central and eastern plains who have close cultural and family ties to India – also led to widespread smuggling of fuel along the border. The question now is: will the black market syndicate fostered by the illicit business continue in the coming months?

During the blockade, in Raxaul in Bihar’s East Champaran district, protestors didn’t allow four-wheeled vehicles on Maitreyi bridge, which connect the town to Birgunj in Nepal. Yet, thousands carried fuel from Raxaul to Birgunj in cola bottles and plastic jars of 15 litres or 20 litres on foot. Young men on motorbikes zipped back and forth multiple times every day, filling their tanks in Raxaul, selling the fuel in Birgunj, and returning for a refill.

Phoolvati Devi, who lives in Pashupatinagar, a border village near Maitreyi bridge, said the hectic ferrying of gas cylinders and cans went on through the night.

On the Maitreyi bridge, Sheikh Azad, who runs the Golden Gate Academy, a private school in Birgunj, was negotiating the price of 21 litres of diesel with Sohrab Ansari, a fruit seller. Since the blockade started, Ansari had switched from selling fruit to selling fuel, and had hired two children – Rukmini and Rambabu – to assist him. Selling fruit he earned a profit of Rs 5 per kilo. Selling fuel, he managed a margin of Rs 40 per litre on good days.

Hum jhola min bech rahein hain, woh bora mein bech rahein hain (What we are selling in bags, they – the smugglers – are selling in sacks),” said Ansari, hinting that the network was much larger than appeared.

‘Tel ki kheti’

In another part of Parsa district, at the inland depot at Sirisiya, Pitamber Patel, a farmer, had brought 50 litres of diesel on his bicycle to sell to truck drivers at the depot. “Ab tel hi kheti hai (It is a harvest of fuel this year),” he said.

Chain Kishore Chaudhary, a former staffer of the depot, was now a “dealer”. Boys in India bought fuel from gas stations and stored it at home, explained Chaudhary, and he paid local boys Rs 200 per trip to bring it to the depot. “We buy from Indians at Rs 65 a litre and sell it to truck drivers at Rs 75 per litre,” said Chaudhary. “On good days, it earns us thousands.”

Cooking gas cylinders too were smuggled at large profits. Dealers buy cooking gas cylinders of 14 kilo from Indians at the border at Rs 2,300 and transfer the gas into an empty Nepali company cylinder by simply overturning it, using a nozzle. Till last month, they were selling it to freight transporters for Rs 2,800, who then sold it in Kathmandu for up to Rs 5,000 per cylinder.

“This is Nepal’s progress,” said Chaudhary. “No, I suppose, this is India’s progress. They must have recorded fuel sales worth a year in just six months.”


Farmworkers and rag-pickers walked through fields with fuel bought in India


Nepal’s Armed Police Force posted in a border village said they allowed those carrying fuel since it helped tide over the shortages.


Sheikh Azad, who ran a private school in Birgunj, negotiated the price of fuel with Sheikh Ansari, who sold fruit before the blockade.



At Sirisiya Inland depot, dealer Biswanath Patel (left) bought fuel from locals who brought it here on motorcycles and bicycles. Patel then sold it to truck drivers.


Manu Kumar, who is 15, had quit work as a labourer at the Dabur factory. He loaded a bicycle with 40 litres of diesel.


Several truck drivers stored the fuel to sell it at even higher rates in Kathmandu and elsewhere.

More reports from on the Nepal blockade in here.


Those who will serve time in prison

If instead of of being hanged by the neck
you’re thrown inside for not giving up hope
in the world, your country, your people,
if you do ten or fifteen years
apart from time you have left,
you won’t say,
“Better I had swung from the end of a rope
like a flag”-
You’ll put your foot down and live.
It may not be pleasure exactly,
but it’s your solemn duty
to live one more day
to spite the enemy.

Part of you may live alone inside,
like a tone at the bottom of a well.
But the other part
must be so caught up
in the flurry of the world
that you shiver there inside
when outside, at forty days’ distance, a leaf moves.
To wait for letters inside,
to sing sad songs,
or to lie awake all night staring at the ceiling
is sweet but dangerous.
Look at your face from shave to shave,
forget your age,
watch out for lice
and for spring nights,
and always remember
to eat every last piece of bread–
also, don’t forget to laugh heartily.
And who knows,
the woman you love may stop loving you.
Don’t say it’s no big thing:
it’s like the snapping of a green branch
to the man inside.
To think of roses and gardens inside is bad,
to think of seas and mountains is good.
Read and write without rest,
and I also advise weaving
and making mirrors.
I mean, it’s not that you can’t pass
ten or fifteen years inside
and more —
you can,
as long as the jewel
on the left side of your chest doesn’t lose it’s luster!

–Nâzım Hikmet, Some Advice To Those  Who Will Serve Time In Prison, May 1949 (found while interviewing him.)


vo log bahut Khush_qismat the
jo ishq ko kaam samajhate the
yaa kaam se aashiqii karate the
ham jiite jii masaruuf rahe
kuchh ishq kiyaa kuchh kaam kiyaa

kaam ishq ke aa.De aataa rahaa
aur ishq se kaam ulajhataa rahaa
phir aaKhir tang aakar ham ne
dono.n ko adhuuraa chho.D diyaa