Bastar - Healing the Broken Land

Trauma Relief for Naxal-Affected Chattisgarh

  • Immediate trauma relief through breathing techniques and meditation for Naxal-affected Chhattisgarh, India
  • Long-term rehabilitation through individual emancipation and responsible leadership; better health and economy
  • Action for peace in progress, work done towards bringing Naxalite leaders to mainstream politics

“I feel so good after the Breath-Water-Sound workshop. I can sleep better now.” These are the words of Lakhuram from Chattisgarh, India who was rendered homeless by Naxalite violence. Lakhuram is just one of the thousands who has been displaced and afflicted by Naxalite activities in the state of Chattisgarh. The Art of Living has provided trauma relief by conducting Breath-Water-Sound (BWS) workshops for the people of Chattisgarh.

Broken Bastar

As per reports, Chhattisgarh is the ‘worst-hit state’ by Naxal violence, with 242 deaths in 2008. The district of Bastar which has 70 percent tribal population is one of the most damaged areas. To defend themselves, the tribals have started living together in camps. The Chhattisgarh Government has helped them by providing building material and rations plus police protection as well. Nevertheless, the camps are being attacked by the Naxals causing death and destruction. According to K P S Gill, the President of the Institute for Conflict Management, the conditions are so dangerous there that the policemen themselves don’t want to get posted in Bastar.

Immediate Trauma Relief

In the workshops, the participants were taught powerful breathing techniques to release the fear and the trauma and focus on contributing to the society through service. 21-year-old Seema of Abhujmad can’t stop smiling after the workshop. No stranger to mental and physical turmoil, she had witnessed her brother being abducted by the Naxalites and released after days of harassment. She shares her experience of the workshop, “Jammai assal lage ( I feel good). I feel as if all the pain and stress in my body and mind has been washed away.”

The workshops enabled the participants to let go of their shock and sorrow, thus preparing them to restart their lives with resilience, strength and calm. Ladu Ram Leikam, 22, is one of the many whose suffocation and mental tension has been lifted and now feels a sense of release, “I feel so light after doing the Pranayaams and the meditation in the course. It is wonderful. I feel free.”

Holistic Long-Term Approach

The Art of Living aims at health and harmony for everyone. The work being done in Naxal-affected areas is not alone for the victims of Naxal violence, but also for the Naxalites, who according to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar are good and committed people but only fighting against corruption and apathy from those in power. Those who were working with the Naxals and went through the program felt a great transformation in themselves and felt a change of heart and direction. Sudruram Netam is a native of Niram Abhujmad, and was a worker in the Sangham Dal – the committee that organizes meetings and arranges food supply for the Naxal movement. “I was under constant stress and fear when I was working with those people. Now I am free and after doing the Pranayaams, the meditation, the chanting and the Satsang, I feel relaxed. There is an inexplicable sense of protection as if someone is taking care of me,” he says.

 

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says that he does not support violence and would urge the Naxal leaders to leave arms and come forward to join the mainstream elections. Consequently, having dropped their guns, three Naxal leaders have come forward and decided to stand for Assembly elections.

Sustainable Rebuilding

The Art of Living focuses on sustainable development through awareness and responsible leadership from the grassroots. BWS workshops were held in 5 villages of Bastar- Bahmani, Kurandi, Chapka, Khorkhosa and Jaitgiri including other areas of Chhattisgrah. Besides addressing the core issue of Naxalite aggression, the focus was also on personal, social and economic well being of the villagers. After the workshop, interpersonal relationships have greatly improved in the area. Consumption of alcohol, tobacco and pan-masala (local intoxicant) has reduced among the villagers. The camps on organic farming are helping produce greater yields. Free medical camps are benefiting by spreading health awareness and diagnosing and treating diseases.

25-year-old Baliram hails from Bangapal and stays in the camp. “After the Breath-Water-Sound workshop, I have lost the physical heaviness that had been plaguing me for so long. I feel fresh and energized and am ready to work. I am much happier after I took this beautiful program,” Baliram declares.

The Naxalite Movement started from the Naxalbari district in West Bengal, India from where it got its name. It is inspired by Maoist ideals and the Naxals are often referred to as Maoists as well. They have spread to 160 districts in India in the states of West Bengal, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. They work outside the parliamentary system by organizing uprisings among landless workers and have a force of about 15,000 soldiers.