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Fight for justice pays off for girl injured in crossfire

Bhan talking to an elderly village woman in Nagrabeda - a village where Maoists are very active. Despite many challenges, somewomen in the vilage have now started a community welfare group - Stella Paul | Panos London

To be a social activist in a place where there is so much poverty and suffering is very challenging. In my past blogs I have shared many of those challenges. Today, however, I want to say that despite all the challenges, being an activist is also very rewarding. It gives me a great chance to understand my community better and to highlight their problems to the world. Above all, it fills my heart with joy when people consider me as one of their own and put their trust in me.

Sometimes, they share with me impact stories that I was previously unaware of. For example, a year ago the state police fired at a group of suspected Maoists inside a village called Manpur. A teenage girl was caught in that exchange of fire and was badly injured. We fought for proper compensation for the girl and her family. Recently the government paid for that compensation, and it was the villagers who told me this. The news has increased my faith in people’s fight for justice; if we stay organised and oppose any wrong, it is indeed possible to right that wrong.

In a conflict area like my state Chhattisgarh, this trust is very important; without it, villagers will never be ready to make an extra effort to bring real change. Because, they will view the social activist or the group he/she represents as outsiders.

Let me explain:
There are several NGOs working in our state. But most of them stay active only when a specific project is on. After the project is over, the NGO members seldom visit that area again.

On the other hand, villagers love it we also meet them outside our work schedule; it makes them feel cared for. So, just a visit once in a while, sharing a cup of tea or asking after their families can go a long way to help us earn the love and trust of the villagers, which, I think, is key to our success as change makers. So, we must be consistent in building relationships with the community members. I have been, despite financial struggles, taking turns to visit each of the 156 villages in my district. The villagers know that I am not there to provide any financial or technical support. Yet they welcome me and share with me whatever problems they have.

As told to


  1. Christina Mac

    I have heard a lot of such horrific stories where innocent tribals are caught in the violence and tortured. But I think this is the first instance of justice that I have come to know of. Again,hats off to Bhan for bringing the news of hope from a very dark region.

  2. Angelika Knapp

    Dear Panos

    I was told about this blog series of Bhan Sahu by my sister Annika and I must say that this is one of the most original and powerful grassroot voices that I have ever heard. I give you Panos a big applause for this great idea!
    An anthropologist by qualification, I have a special interest in social movements led by women in developing countries,especially in regions with social and political complexities. This is why this blog series (I also liked the blogs of Pakistani teacher Maimoona) has been particularly of interest as I plan to make an audio-visual chronicle of such stories in future. I have a request: is it possible for you to publish a blog series on the ‘Dalit’ issue in India? I am deeply intrigued by the subject and would appreciate if there were some grass root stories of how people are dealing with it. Many thanks!

    • Rob Safar

      Rob Safar

      Hi Angelika, we’ve started to look for some sources for grassroots stories about Dalit communities in India. Thanks for the suggestion!

  3. Gabi Mucatta

    I came back, hoping for yet another great blog and I wasn’t disappointed. In fact I like this one even better! I like the simple lesson that can not only work for social activists, but also journalists and writer like me, or, anyone involved/intends to involve in public sphere. We should not adopt the hit-n run strategy, but be consistent in building relations. Lovely!

  4. Joshua Madhur

    I have been hooked to Bhan’s blogs since she wrote about earning opportunity! I agree with here here, social activists must be rooted in their community, project or no project.

    I noticed the comment above by Ms Knapp and I think it will be very good to highlight that issue. I come from UP – the heart of all caste-based injustice.But in media, we don’t get to hear stories from women.It always presents a male perspective. I also would like if you could publish a woman like Bhan who works on caste issues. Thanks very much!

  5. Chandresh Meravi

    I greatly admired Bhan after listening to her reports in CGnetSwara and watching video footage of video volunteers. She is an Inspiration to many grass root workers from the conflict area.

    Thanks for giving Bhan much needed visibility that mainstream media of India has failed to do.

  6. Manjari Singh

    I am a student of conflict transformation and peace building in Delhi. I seem to have received this a little late. Nevertheless, reading this blog and a few other ones really made me remember what Mahatma Gandhi said: look towards villages. Bhan’s blogs really made me feel that we can indeed find both ideas and inspiring action in remotest of our places. Thanks for sharing this!

Bhan Sahu






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