If you want to travel from Bhawanipatna to Khariar or Nuapada, choices are limited. A six hour bus ride or a roundabout of bus and train journey. In the six-hour bus ride, if you are early you might get a seat, if you are starting from the source you might get inside, if you agree to the conductor’s condition you might ride roof-top. “You are on your own” the condition is set while collecting ticket. Of course, I arrived just as the bus pulled off the bus-stand, didn’t even know the name or number of the bus and still was assured a seat. Problem for me was though to usurp its current and apparently unlawful occupant, an emaciated rural woman breast-feeding a less-than one year baby.
In Nuapada, my sister and host, explains the belligerence of her saag (edible leaf) vendor. “In less than a decade after the town was declared district head-quarter every prime land, every shop in the market now belongs to completely new faces. The people who ploughed this land, toiled in its roasting sun, produced all consumable (what you really need to consume), spoke its tongue-chhattisgarhi for generations are now displaced and dis-endowed. The country in its many tentacles- the law, the market forces and so on, encroached their hinterland. Their ancient root was auctioned off for some ethereal currency. The town is still a gram-panchayat, it has not reached the required population to be declared NAC. The town’s govt. officials are from other districts, the business persons are from other states, even the political representatives bear no distant relationship with the locale.
As I passively observed the colonization “conducted” by the state, leaving the people “on their own”, through the narration of the saag vender, I realized my own small act of occupation enroute. About 15 mins that the bus runs its engine in-futility, people in the bus-stand rush in. Seats are grabbed by first-come first-serve basis and tickets are bought later enroute. Unless of course, townsfolk like me who can’t rush and grab, goes ahead and ‘reserves’ the seat. Now, I can unseat a weak, rural woman carrying a child, and it is legal since I have a ticket with the seat number on it.
The new colonisation in Nuapada is also legal. That is the most damning part.