A perennial source of conflict

The politics of power and caste structures have a hand to play in the water situation in villages where Sahariyas reside.

In most villages, the dominant castes control access to water and the Sahariyas who live in the peripheries are excluded. Sometimes the exclusion is the outcome of strong powerplay exhibited by people at authoritative levels (Sarpanch, Secretary etc.). The degree of indiscrimination is sometimes so high that the tribal people live a life of subordination and fear.

A typical case of conflict arising from water is seen in the village Doorseni, which has nine handpumps, out of which only one is functional especially during summers. The existing functional handpump is the only source of water that can satisfy the needs of the community. Doorseni is an agricultural village. For this purpose, the village received a sanction for three tubewells. Till date, only one of the tubewell is installed. Tubewells in this village is synonymous to security for agriculture. Villagers describe how even before the tubewell began giving forth water, the discussion in the community revolved around who would get the water - one who is closer to the tubewell or the one away from it. The tubewell had partitioned the whole village into two groups. The older men of the village apprehend that in the near future as this tubewell starts operating and as water becomes scarcer, more conflicts would result in disintegration of the community.

Within the Sahariyas too water is a sensitive issue. Today, water has become such a pivotal issue that it is slowly becoming an issue of conflict even within this peacable tribe. Shy, submissive, resigned to their fate, till now feelings of frustration and anger are not really noticeable among the tribe members, who retain the innocence and purity of the forests. However, as water becomes scarcer, fears are that the suppressed emotions will come to the fore and conflicts might turn to be violent. Even such conflicts can lead to disintegration of the complete tribe.

Hence, it must be considered that ensuring water availability is important if development of this tribe is aspired otherwise water availability would lead to progression rather than retrogression.


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