Bastar – Healing a Broken Land
“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. Naxals are groups of militant insurgents that are fighting a war against the government. Lakhuram is just one of thousands that have been displaced and afflicted by Naxalite activities. The Art of Living has conducted trauma relief workshops for many of the affected people in Chattisgarh.
Bastar – Struck by Naxal Violence
As per reports, Chattisgarh 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 Chattisgarh Government has helped them by providing building material and rations plus police protection as well. Nevertheless, camps are attacked by the Naxals, resulting in 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.
In the workshops, participants learn powerful breathing techniques to release stress, fear and trauma. 21-year-old Seema of Abhujmad can’t stop smiling after the workshop. No stranger to mental and physical turmoil, she witnessed her brother being abducted by the Naxalites and released only after days of harassment. She shares, “I feel good. I feel as if all the pain and stress in my body and mind has been washed away.”
The workshops enabled participants to let go of their stress and sorrow, preparing them to restart their lives with resilience, strength and calm. Ladu Ram Leikam, 22, is one of the many whose mental tension has been lifted and now feels a sense of release, “I feel so light after doing the Pranayams and the meditation in the course. It’s wonderful. I feel free.”
Even those that were working with the Naxals after going through the program felt a great change of heart and direction. Sudruram Netam, a native of Niram Abhujmad, was a worker in the Sangham Dal – the committee that organizes meetings and arranges the 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 Pranayams, the meditation, the chanting and Satsang, I feel relaxed. There is an inexplicable sense of protection as if someone is taking care of me,” he says.
Breath-Water-Sound workshops were held in 5 villages of Bastar – Bahmani, Kurandi, Chapka, Khorkhosa and Jaitgiri – and in other areas of Chattisgrah. Besides teaching powerful techniques to remove stress, the workshop focuses on contributing to society through service. After the workshop, social relationships have greatly improved in the area. Consumption of alcohol, tobacco and pan-masala, a mild narcotic, has reduced among villagers. The camps on organic farming have helped produce greater yields. Medical camps have spread health awareness and diagnosed and treated diseases.
More than 70 percent of the population of these villages has attended the workshop and experienced remarkable changes. 25 year old Baliram is 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,” declares Baliram.