The constructive power of nonviolence: My experience with Marpo Village

by Renji George Joseph

Marpo Village is situated in the Kauwakol Block of Nawada District in Bihar State of India. This is a remote, highly underdeveloped village in the valley of two adjacent hills which borders Jharkhand State and Bihar State. After this village the bordering areas are hillocks and thick forest areas. Even to day one has to travel nearly two hours from the Block Head Quarters of Kouwakol through mud and kachha (not concrete) roads to reach this distant village.

This area has experienced repeated confrontation between the violent forces of Naxallite movement and the armed forces of the Bihar State. The people living in this area have been victims to both the impacts of combing operations by the State Forces and the violent activities of the Naxallites. In the 1990s and in the beginning of 2000 period these social tensions have been at their peak.

The village and its sub-hamlets together hosted more than 2000 families. The small villages around this main village added another 2000 families making a total population of more than 20000 persons occupying this entire valley and the hillocks There was exactly no other livelihoods to this large population other than agriculture. The area was (is still) a drought prone area with the entire rainwater running off the hillocks and drained in to the rainfed rivers towards Kouwakol. The entire irrigation of all these villages depended on a Check Dam built joining the two major hills down the valley. Toward the end of 1990s this Check Dam had broken and the people in this area had been frequenting the relevant government offices for reconstructing their only water source for agriculture and drinking water through recharge of the drought hit water table. The relevant officials hardly responded.

The Naxal Forces occupying the forest areas above the hills at the borders used to employ violent interventions occasionally to deter the police and para military forces from their camps and training areas. Unfortunately, one of these operations misfired during this period resulting in the death of some Monks of the Jain Community which suddenly pushed the area in to national media. Suddenly there was lot of blaming, counter blaming, combing operations, armed combats, suppressions, searches and a lot of structural violence and social tensions in the entire area making life all the more difficult for the villagers…

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