River Shabari flows through the Dandak forests. Along its banks live people from many tribes, the Adivasis – Gond, Kondh, Koya, Koitur, Shabar, Soro… so many names have history given to them. The epic Ramayana tells the tale of Shabari, the lady from these tribes who had turned into stone. But this is another tale.

Below the bed of river Shabari, below the hills and forests that surround its shores, lie much iron, much bauxite. Today, the state of India and the Maoist Revolutionary guerillas are fighting along those shores. The first group wants the minerals, the second group wants the people to be. There is no counting how many people have died. Once there was a tiny village by this river. It was called Dornapal. Today, it has turned into a camp – owned and operated by the counter-insurgency forces of India. So have many other villages around. And countless other villages have been burned into oblivion by the madness that greed unleashes. So have their people been. Ever since the Salwa Judum days (2005-11), Dornapal has perhaps been the most notorious of all the camps that has sprouted like poison mushroom in Bastar.

Inside camps such as Dornapal there lie strange wooden shacks. Those shacks are called Pota-cabins. Adivasi children from families that have been ravaged by this madness are stuffed inside these cabins, like animals. These Pota-cabins are placed strategically, mostly around the compound-walls of the camps, so that these children can also serve as human-shields.

This song belongs to these children who have lived by the river Shabari since times beyond the reach of written history.

by the river shabari
i wander and i sigh
a thousand faces in the waters
a thousand in the sky


by the river shabari
sad breezes blow
sad birds sing no song
fireflies never glow


by the river shabari
guts curl in fright
cursed wizards cry all day
banshees wail all night


by the river shabari
history makes no sound
just the waters flowing by,
and humans hurled hellbound


by the river shabari
silence cuts through bones
tales of life ever lost
humans turned to stones


by the river shabari
sunset rides the waves
my children there never dream
they sleep in unmarked graves


by the river shabari
i bend my knees and weep
and pray my atheist prayers to
the earth that runs so deep

Atindriyo Chakraborty is a poet from Kolkota

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One Comment

  1. K SHESHU BABU says:

    A great poem

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