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THE VOICE OF SANGRUR, PUNJAB

By Natasha Ahuja

"Freedom was my inheritance but I cannot give it to my children. I built a home; I searched for peace and now have nothing to call my own."

Sixty years ago a village in Pakistan was wrenched from its roots and forced to shift to a place of unknown relations and an uncertain future. Why they paid for the partition of their state, they did not know but united they charted a path through the high and the low and created what we call the Bimber village today. The emigrant people were allotted land in the Sangrur district (Punjab) where they started a new way of life, in a new country and a new dream for their future; a future which was not to be. With thirty years of struggle and hard work, an area overrun by sand hillocks was converted to give one of the highest wheat and paddy yields in the state but only to be the victim of history's unrelenting cycle bringing the village back to a despairing dead end.

Located in the Bhawanigarh block, the people of Bimber and its neighbouring but equally affected village Majhi sit under the cruel sun and battle the lashing rains in their last attempts to save what they call home. And their enemy is none other than their own government again which aspires to construct the Nabha thermal plant in the heart of their adopted motherland which had sheltered them sixty years ago.

Villagers recall that fateful day when officials from the state Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) informed the farmers that their land was being acquired for the thermal plant .Thirteen hundred acres was a small sacrifice for the development of the nation and nothing was more important than that. More would be required later but not presently. After all they were getting a hefty price for a piece of land; much more than the expected. And later industries using the ash from the plant would be set up in the surrounding area and give them jobs. All they ask them is to sit quiet while they plunder their homes and pollute their land; while they ravish the very bosom which had held them in their hour of need.

An ominous silence now surrounds those fields as the farmers suddenly unsure of their future, sit huddled on the road, not allowing any official to enter their fields. Afraid that this may be their last time together till what the partition had threatened would be finally carried out by their trusted and elected representatives , the 200 families of Bimber and 800 families of Majhi run hither and thither searching for help and looking for support to save them from the clutches of "developmental terrorism". Worse are the landless labourers dependent on these lands who would not even get compensation. More than 80% in Majhi and 50% in Bimber wake up everyday praying for mercy and begging for a miracle as they would be all left jobless and homeless with no compensation if the plant was to be set up. 22nd May, 2007Punjab government), chairman (PSEB) and 38 companies including Tata and Reliance to bid for the contract but no farmer representation was deemed necessary while making a blue print. spelled disaster for these people when a meeting was called by the government with chief secretary (

The villages are fighting back but to no avail. No one beyond the borders of their district is even aware of their plight while they sit on guard everyday prying off an advancing enemy with its talons deep inside their heart. Why a prime land is being wasted for such a ghastly purpose they cannot understand; why in times of global warming they choose to build a Thermal Power Station that to at place with hardly any geographical advantages, their simple minds cannot decipher; Why their small pieces of lands are being targeted rather than the 2000 acres or more of their former chief minister Badal for the "supreme sacrifice", they do not wish to understand. But they do know one thing: their mother land is in danger and needs them and till the debts of the land run through their veins they will stand and fight. No amount of coercion or coaxing can convince them to part with their homes. They were left helpless once but history will have to change its course this time and bend in front of their love for their land, their homes and their new families.

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posted by Resistance 7/20/2007 10:00:00 PM,

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