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'Whatever Small Voice We Have'

Visit November, December 2011

for bigger picture click on this photo Sushila Bhandari from Radi village: "Our forests are our bank accounts."

"Our forests are our bank accounts", says Sushila Bhandari from Radi village (Jakholi Block, Rudirapray District) in Uttarakhand. "When we think about 'development' we don't think about electricity. We ask ourselves how we can get enough fodder from the forest for our cows and have good milk. We think about our rivers and springs."

Sushila is stressed and doesn't feel at ease. Since five years she is struggling against a dam and tunnel project in her village: spontaneous actions, demonstrations at Dehradun (the State capital), sit down actions, a visit to the minister in New Delhi and interviews for the television. "We did already so much, but it is difficult to sustain a movement like this for years. For example: I have two cows and a bull. When I go to a meeting, I have to arrange something to get fodder for them. And my old mother in law is there. I have to take care for her too …"

for bigger picture click on this photo "We have to protect our culture, our livelihood."

65 days Sushila was in jail. She told her relatives and friends not to bring their documents for getting her released on bail. "I told the judge 'Why should I ask for bail? I didn't do anything wrong.' In the end they set me free unconditionally. The judge even apologized I was so long in prison without any serious charge."
Friends organized a demonstration for her release and raised the issue at every meeting. Another three court cases are running.

Years of struggle made it clear for Sushila the powerful of this country want to have the water, electricity, wood and stones. They don't care about the poor mountain people, their forests and rivers.
Sometimes Sushila feels tired. "But I will go again and again to the poor people in the mountains to explain them what is happening. I will tell them: 'When you want to drink water, you have to safeguard your streams and rivers. When you want to eat your roti you have to safeguard your fields. We have to protect our culture, our livelihood. What small voice we have, we have to go to the poor people."

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Photo: Peasant Autonomy- Creative Commons