By Rito Paul, dna

Putting on a brave face
The killings have struck fear deep in the hearts of the villagers. When Kopa Kunjam entered the area along with the rest of the fact finding team, it was his first visit there since his imprisonment.

Kunjam is somewhat a local hero and leader for the people of these villages. His work for their rehabilitation has left the villagers with immense gratitude and respect for him. Even then, upon seeing Kunjam, the common refrain was, “We came back on your word. You assured us that we would be safe. But they’re killing us again.”

At night, sitting by the light of a solitary battery charged lamp, Kunjam delivered a sort of rallying speech to the villagers. “If we want to live well we can’t depend on the largesse of others. If we don’t unite we are doomed.” Kunjam was asking them to unite as a voting block. He went on to say that if the tribals don’t unite and vote in leaders who will work for their welfare. Kunjam, it must be said, is planning to contest the legislative assembly elections from Bijapur in 2013.

But where there is fear there is also courage and defiance. Running away again, it seems, is not an option for them anymore. A villager whose nephew was killed in the shooting incident said, “They shot us with bullets. They hacked our bodies with axes. If we had to leave we would’ve gone by now. But this time we won’t leave. We can’t leave. And they can’t make us.”

In the pic: The spot where shooting happened