In the first week of September, the ‘Initiatives of Change for Life’ team had come to Tura, the first time for most of the team. A lively town, we were accommodated at the SMELC (Social Mobilization Experimentation and Learning Centre) quarters. After spending 13 days in Bihar this was a good change. We were excited and looking forward to the different programs planned. For the 15 days there, we were scheduled to interact with schools, colleges, surrendered militants and front line officers. Below is the report of our interactions with the surrendered militants and the front line officers.
Friendly, nervous and young is how we would describe the young men that we met in 2 groups on the 13th and the 14th of September. They had been at the camp for 45 days now, receiving skills training in the areas of animal rearing, agriculture, transport/driving, etc. The local church groups also interacted with them offering spiritual nourishment. Most of them had never completed their education and left school in Grade 8 or 10. Since they had very little English and Hindi speaking skills, with the help of a translator we spent 6 hours with them.
Our intention throughout was to make them comfortable and make it really enjoyable for them even get them to laugh. So while sharing our experiences and understanding of IofC, we tried doing this and made them speak up as much as possible. In the beginning we asked them to share one challenge at the camp; and some shared that staying at the camp away from family was a challenge. After some time of inner listening, many started opening up about what they should do but hadn't been able to convert it into reality.
Some of their sharing:
“Today onwards, I’ll change myself, work with the society, friends, mom, dad and live alongside God and try to forget past life and live a new life; earn and support my family.”
“Since childhood, I was in touch with society and church; I did not leave God even when I was in the group. For the government I joined this program (skills development) and live with society and neighbours to build a better life.”
“In 2011, I joined the militant group. In 2016 I surrendered. I was unhappy while in the group because I wanted to work for Garo Land, but could not achieve that aim. Now with friends, will work together and give more to society.”
“Because of the anger against my father for the way he treated my family, I wanted to hit back but left home and joined the group. When I go back home, I’ll say sorry for all the things I have made them go through.”
Group 1 – Goeragre Camp
After speaking to the translator who also has been interacting with them while they have been at camp, we understood how many of them are lured into becoming militants. For some it was the prospect of easy money while others were scared into joining it and still others have had bad experiences with the local police that made them want to join the other side. There were also some who shared that they were fighting for Garo Land and the ideals of the militant group was what they believed in too and so joined it; but after a period realised that it wasn't the case.
Group 2 – Jhenjhal Camp
When we were with them we discovered that one of the most important things this group felt was how the society could care for and love them. What is most important for them is not only groups working with them but local people mentoring them and caring for them.
Next we conducted a two day workshop on the 15th and 16th of September on ‘Ethics and Development’ for front line government officers on invitation from the Integrated Basin Development and Livelihood Project and DC of Tura. Front Line Officers included people from different cross section of the Tura society. There were representatives from the Tourism Department, Education Department, trade unions, medical profession etc. To be honest we were quite nervous, as it was the first time for the 4 of us to conduct a program for senior officials.
We shared our stories of change in our personal lives, our relationship with our families, we shared our convictions and why we are doing what we are doing. Through skits we portrayed what it means to care for the family and the society. We played team building games and laughed and came out of our comfort zones. And most importantly, together we listened to the inner voice and shared our thoughts. We spent 20 minutes in silence, writing down our thoughts and from the 48 people present, 37 shared. We truly believe that something beyond us was at work there. Most of the sharing was very inspiring. Here is some of that:
“Today I want to share that I always think that I am a good person, a good doctor, a good wife, a good mother but I think that I am wrong to think that way all the time because whatever I do I may not be right all the time; and it will be good to listen to others opinion too.”
“One minus point I’ll share, one fault that I have is being judgmental of others, and be it of my colleagues or my friends. I am quick to judge and in this program I have learnt that I need to accept and love others as they are, to consider thegood in a person as a part of that person and not just look at their flaws, their negative side, their minus side. Doing that will also make me a better person, to consider the good that person has as part of the whole of that person because I too have flaws, I too have many negative points and if people look only at my negative points then I will have nothing to show. I have learnt to change my perspective by looking at others to consider that the person is good and that the good in her or him is all of him and not the negative points.”
“After attending this program I have decided to change my indifferent attitude towards so many problems and issues that we are facing every day. I have decided to be more sharing and caring to other people in the society in order to feel closer to other members of the society. I have also decided to be strong enough, to stand up against what is wrong; and I will also try to do more good. I will practise hard work and try to live within my means. Besides working in the office, I do agriculture in the village and I used to get very angry with the villagers because they don’t do hard work; since in the agriculture that I do, I get more production than them. After attending this program I have realised that it is wrong of me think of them in this way. I have decided to give away to the poor in my village some of the products that I get from agriculture. Sometimes I use abusive language especially with my helpers. I have decided to stop that and I will see that they are properly clothed, fed and educated because it is through them that I and my children are where we are now. Also I should be tolerant to my old mother and brothers and because I am in a more privileged position, I should share more with them what I have. I am very short tempered by nature and I have decided to be less hot- tempered. Then I am also very selfish and I have decided to stop that. And I decided to accept people as they are. Then my greatest concern is also for the environment. So I have decided to contribute more for the conservation of the environment. All this I have decided after attending this program. ”
“I only have one thing to share: I have a daughter who is 2 years old, she just started talking. But whenever she calls for something our helper or her father or someone else then she will scream at the top of her voice. I would correct her that there was no need to scream for small things. Then my husband would tell me that she is copying that from you. You need to change that in yourself first. I realise that it is me that is the problem: I used to scold our helpers for small things and instead of correcting myself, I used to correct them and even my daughter. I will change myself first.”
“After watching the video I was asking myself what are the masks that I wear, because I know that I wear a lot of masks but the biggest mask I wear is I hide behind my shyness. I realised today that my shyness prevents me from going and talking to people first before they come and talk to me. So I think it’s a form of pride, because I do not want to go and humble myself and talk to someone whether he or she responds or not; but it is actually my duty. I am very shy to the point that it stresses me out. When I have to deal with people I fret about it and I think about it a lot when I need to meet
someone. I can’t say that I will change today onwards but I will take small steps and change little by little. I have been wearing this mask since I was little and it will take time to take off. One more thing, because of this shyness, I have a senior here from my school, I have been seeing her a lot in other training programs as well but because she is also shy and I am also shy, I have never spoken to her or said hi to her, today I would like to say hi, so Hi.”
It is moments like these that push us ahead to do what we are doing. We have also been touched by the kindness of people that we have met. The simplicity and humble kindness that we have been shown reminds us not only to look at things that are not right in the world but to appreciate and rejoice in the good.