Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Europe Tour

Dear friends near and far,

 I hope this recap will not be boring. I am aware of Daniel Defoe's words, "The secret of being a bore is to tell everything."

I am back at my desk after our five week tour of Europe (22nd March to 25th April 2011) in which much was accomplished and I am convinced that our art from the mine  affected areas of Jharkhand which had been the spur of our various activities, is a great facilitator of our campaign,  and must not be taken lightly. I am making a short resume of EVENTS in Europe during our tour attached below. An accident in which Gustav damaged the lens of his right eye caused by firecrackers while celebrating India's World Cup victory on April 2nd which  led to replacement of the lens of the right eye. Fifty percent vision has been regained and further improvement is hoped for by the surgeon in Ranchi. Thank God he kept it from us until our return.

 In the foreign programme report which follows we have to thank for support of airfares FIAN, La Sapenza University of Rome, INTACH, TWAC and the Charles  Wallace Trust. I also have to thank for land travel in Europe and accomodation in various places in Europe FIAN, Christian Doctrine Fathers Rome, and Daniela Bezzi and Peter Popham  in Milan.I have to thank my wives Philomina and Elizabeth for their constant support and am to report my broken bones mended while tramping the cold mountains of Europe and gathering spring flowers among the chalk hills and megaliths of Wiltshire. I hated dull London but was enraptured by the music of the mountain  country of Austria , Czech and Italy.

On 23rd March we landed at Vienna where we stayed five days with Erwin Neumayer who showed us the cultural and natural heritage hotspots of the beautiful city. From Vienna courtesy of FIAN we proceeded to Linz the capital of Upper Austria where Elizabeth Koeltringer and her husband  met us and drove us to see Edi's sundial (he is famous in Austria for his unique sundials apart from being a published archaeologist who discovered the neolithic of the Danube near Linz. At the  Catholic Institute in Linz I gave a talk and slide show on Karanpura valley mining and the artwork. A small exhibition was organized here.  Then Elizabeth and Edi took us to their home in the highlands for  five days. We had a rare opportunity to go to the home of the great organizt Gustave Auzinger who played for us on his rare old organs. We also one day  visited the Sumova Mountain National Park in Czech which was a marvel of nature conservation. Here I interacted with nature protection groups who have supported our anti-roadside tree felling campaign.

27th March we attended the FIAN programme organized on the Danube between Linz and Passau (titled TWO RIVERS- ONE LIFE) where about one hundred and fifty FIAN members were present for a cruize down the river to the famous snake bend on a boat, the Lillofee, and we mixed the waters of the Damodar in the Danube which received front page coverage in the leading Vienna newspapers next day. Water of the Danube was collected and we have brought it back for mixing with the Damodar river. This has struck a deep emotional cord and it must be strengthened around the twinning of the rivers. This is a great campaign strategy and it is reflected in the art campaign. The common element in different cultures is a strong bond between people around the world and in an increasingly  globalized world cannot be taken lightly. "Sudwind" in Austria  has published a report and a short film has been made on the Event. There was a conference where I gave a talk and Philomina and Elizabeth painted murals on large hardwood boards. The mining of the Damodar valley was presented through a CD projection and we made a joint declaration signed by FIAN members to be given to the Indian government. This kind of concern in Europe gets attention notwithstanding the opinion of detractors hobbled with pressing regional considerations which must be accepted as valid in their own way.. Let it not cloud our larger judgment in campaign strategy.

 The Event was jointly sponsored by FIAN, DKA-Austria, Luggi Frauenberger, Katholische Jungschar (organization of youth), YTAE (youth taking action for the earth), etc. An exhibition of Jharkhand tribal paintings was held. The mixing of the Damodar and Danube waters was felt widely. I hope we never underestimate the role of youth in our campaigns for slowly the elders are about to drift into oblivion and they are the B-Plan. Let us not forget this. In fact most pof us elders are only fit to inspire not work much as we used to.This is the mingling of the waters of Youth and Age. To show their solidarity the following organizations attended: DKA-Austria; Katholische Jungschar; Kultursprung Lembach; Landesmusikschule; YTAE; Natura 2000; Gruenes Herz Boehmerwaldnatur Sumava; Naturschutzgruppe Haibach; Atelier Wolf Ruprecht; Landschaftsschule Donauschlinge; OBV-Via Campesina; Erde and Sat; Wetladen Linz; Statgemeinde ENNS Arbeitskreis Fair Trade;  Frauensolidarit; Amnesty International Austria;ARCUS Sozialnetzwerk; Pfarre Rogrbach; Pfarre Sarleinsbach; Osterrichische Bergkrauteer Genossenschaft;and individual supporters. Obviously the message gets note in the publishings of all these and the thousand petal lotus of activism emerges in its true strength as I have pointed out earlier in my appeal for The Satyagraha of the Mind  (see home page, - from this meeting emerged a document to support resistance against opencast coal mining in North Karanpura Valley signed by delegates and FIAN Austria now The appeal is addressed to the Prime Minikster of India, MInister for Environment Jairam Ramesh, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Chief Minister of Jharkhand Arjun Munda. I think copies may also be sent to Mrs Sonia Gandhi, Mr Rahul Gandhi, and the Minister for Coal Sriprakash Jaiswal. This signed document of collective will in Europe is an achievement which cannot be underrated and my compliments to the author of this document,  Elizabeth Koeltringer, founder of FIAN Austria,  who has devoted her life now to success of our campaign (Elizabeth Koeltringer, Ohnersdorf 11, A-4/152, Scarleinsbach). I have seen the potential of the Internet in channeling futrure actions and I appeal to you all who read this to try and understand how important our individual contributions as serious campaigners can be in the present and future world. We must not be intimidated by the mass of unnecessary materials before us and go to the necessary actions only. Elizabeth Koeltringer has epitomized this quality in her work and life and I am grateful to her for teaching me so much about networking in so short a time.Above all LET US STOP SPLITTING HAIRS. This is a negative action every time.We are aiming at an ALLIANCE to support people in Karanpura to resist coal mining, eviction, destruction  of their environment, lands, houses and means of livelihood. We cannot afford to undermine any individual action or method for it is the cloth with which we are concerned not the thread.

Besides, the mixing of the Danube water we have brought back with the Damodar river  is now to be done,  and I will discuss this with my local contributers in the manner it may be most successfully done and we can look forward to this as another strong link in our forward-going campaign. Any suggestions are welcome.

 Elizabeth and Edi drove us to Passau from where we took the long train ride to Heidelberg were I attended an important FIAN meeting on 30th March at the FIAN office at which Johannes Laping , Sabine Pabst and Flavio  were present. I spoke about the Save Karanpura Campaign, and the present position. The meeting reviewed the Karanpura current situation and the signed document prepared at the Danube for forwarding to the Indian government. Suman from FIAN India arrived the night before from India and went on to other work in Europe. FIAN has consultative status at the United Nations and hence these interactions FIAN is supporting are important. The meeting decided FIAN would support the Danube signature petition to the Indian government about which there had developed some reservations and Elizabeth and Sabine were strong about its finalization. What we are seeing in the mining displacement is little short of ethnogenocide and we have to be hard-headed about strong resistance to it both in India and abroad.  Binayak Sen has shown us how far to go. I believe the Kusum Tola campaign of FIAN is important but other threatened villages must be adopted also.

From Heidelberg we went again by train to Bad Honnef near Bonn where Pollyana Thomas and Mohan Damotheran had organized a big exhibitiopn of our art from 31 March for one month,  and where Elizabeth and Philomina painted a large mural in the FIAN office, lecture by Bulu. Then we were due for a break and the next day we flew Frankfurt-London and were soon in Wiltshire for ten days to spend tiume with Elizabeth's sisters who live in Calne in the White Horse Hills area. So it was archaeology and romancing at the famous prehistoric sites for which England is famous. I have to thank my friend Giles Quinan for a guided tour of Avebury, West Kennet Long Barrow, Silbury Mound, West Kennet Long bBarrow, and Barbery Castle of the iron age and his old school Marlbororough College.I have to thank my neice Jane for taking us to Stonehenge.

  On  the 10th we reached Oxford by bus and spent three delightful days with friends David and Erika Geary. David is connected with the University and we had a look inside the Bodlean Library and Mark, who is a local historian took us on a walking tour of the University colleges and places of historical interest for which Oxford is famous and great names hung everywhere like apples on an apple tree. Being a man of the water (Author of "Alice in Waterland")  Mark took us ten miles up up the Thames in a special boat, explored the canals where he lives in a "narrow boat " called The Lizard,  and visited the  Pitt-Rivers Museum among others. This was a day well spent.

On the 12th we finally reached the onetime capitalk of the civilized world, city of the sun. On the 13th was the opening at SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies, Univ. of London) in its Brunei Gallery, which exhibition continues for nine weeks uptil 25 June. The exhibition showcases the awesome collection of photographs by Robert Wallis shot over two years with our guidance in the coal belt of the river Damodar from Dhanbad to the western Karanpura Valley. It shows the awful situation which has taken place through the mining and the state to which the helpless Adivasis and their  natural environments and livelihood have been reduced." A picture speaks a thousand words" the old Chinese proverb says, and this is clear in Robert's magnificent photo documentation which deserves all the credit it can get. Justin Imam's fantastic 2008 film documenting the rockart puja of the Tana Bhagats to the rockart of Thethangi in the North Karanpura Valley was continuously shown in a specially constructed room within the exhibition space, as if in a cave. There was another closed circuit video presentation (with earphones) running simultaneously throughout the exhibition. The labeling of the captions of each photograph and painting were of the highest standard. I must further thank Robert and his wife Jennifer for amalgamating in this exhibition our tribal paintings which are the expression by the Adivasi women of the Karanpura Valley expressing their ancient seasonal mural painting traditions of Khovar and Sohrai descended from the rmeso-chalcolithic rock paintings of the fregion.

In an aside, We had after the London and Rome events gone up to Milan at the kind invitation of our hosts Daniela Bezzi and Peter Popham to the famous rockart of the Italian Alps in Val-Carmonica where I saw the wonderful work done by Professor Emmanuel Anati in documenting and bringing to light the rock engravings (and some paintings) done by the ancestors of the Carmuni peoples. Professor Anati succeded in having UNESCO World Heritage status gained  for these amazing petroglyphs. I foresee through the vision of Daniela Bezzi a twinning of our rockart with those of this beautiful Alpine region to draw both the attention of UNESCO (for which I had applied unfortunately without success  to UNESCO with regard to the Karanpura rockart in 1993-4).I would have liked to have seen more of the palaeoarchaeology and rockart connections with the present-day art and cultural traditions, and I was disappointed that the message  of the contemporary village murals connected with the prehistoric rockart could not be more strobgly brought out in this exhibition which focused on indigenity. The focus on indigenity I found was challenged afterwards in the second. These things I felt were not expressed adequatelyin the SOAS exhibition and seminars and a forum for debate created which is more popular in critical academic circles. Further these matters I felt  never received the incisive press coverage they merited. But again,  I will not split hairs, and commend the organizers on a splendid exhibition of the very highest standards possible in the full glare of the academic British circle.

 Friends from far and near in a revival reminiscent of 2008 at the Pigorini in Rome had assembled -- Susazanne Gupta from Berlin who made our film The One-Eared Elephant from Hazaribagh (who has eaten up many lettuce leaves and cabbages in Europe), Michel Sabatier, wife Beroze and daughter Lilya from La Rochelle, France ( expected to be hosting our next exhibition with the La Rochelle municipal council, in France during the coming Autumn),  The exhibition mentioned above at SOAS was organized by Robert Wallis and Jennifer Wallace of Cambridge under the expertise of gallery manager John Hollingworth. Robert's great photographs from the killing fields -- the coal mines of Jharkhand - were beautifully printed in large format and displayed beautifully. This was complemented by our specially prepared artwork on cloth and canvas by the Tribal Women Artists Collective under the INTACH  banner. Justin's wonderful film of the  puja by the Tana Bhagats to the Thethangi rockart in 1969 was shown in a specially designed room within the exhibition. Robert's film of the tribal women painting in the village was shown by closed-circuit TV with headphones for sound.  The guests were dazzling in their number and variety,  a great  many from the higher London  social circle, but one stood ouit - Bianca Jagger , who promised to visit us in Jharkhand this coming Sohrai festival at the end of October. The exhibition was titled: A Disappearing World: Ancient Traditions  under threat in Tribal India - Tradition, Continuity anmd Conflict in Jharkhand State. The exhibition continues for nine weeks uptil 25 June. It was introduced by the Director of SOAS. We have to thank for sponsorship of the exhibition and seminars The Gandhi Foundation, INTACH, SOAS, and the Helen Hamlyn Trust.

On the 14th two seminars were held at the SOAS seminar hall. The subject at hand was again focused on the Karanpura Valley and the harmful effects of opencast coal mining .The first panel discussion in the afternoon  on "Art, Ancestry and Tribal Identity was chaired by Jennifer Wallace of Cambridge University and on the panel were myself, my wife Philomina a much traveled Oraon tribal artist,  Daniel Rycroft lecturer at the University of East Anglia, and Rashmi Varma, lecturer at Warwick University. The issue focused on indigenous identity and  Dan and Rashmi held that this nomenclature identified with political rather than cultural groups. This led to lively interaction with a select audience.Philomina spoke eloquently of the festivals and pujas that her village held every year and spoke of the sacred lands and environment of the village and how these were related to development- displaced people forced to live in urban slums.

The second panel discussion was on "Mining, Displacement and Resistance, chaired again by Jennifer Wallace with on the panel again myself, Vinita Damodaran,  Robert Wallis and Richard Harkinson of the London Mining Network.  Robert's brilliant six-minute documentary film was shown before the seminar which discussed the present trends in the valley such as insrgency and the affect on Adivasis, the government's actions and  in the pushing forward of destructive development which unfortunately has become a neo-Adivasi form of local colonization by the Adivasi leaders and their political masters in the Centre.  I raised my  faith in the youth and the power of the Internet as being the way forward to combat despotism and usher in freedom from self-destructive forces exploiting tribal India. I also raised the issue of tribals being unable to see their ancestral lands as a way of deprivation by the government under the guize of protecting them and making way for the government and corporations to acquire mineral resources at low prices using the various colonial legislations of the nineteenth century including the  Mineral bearang Areas Act of around 1894. This I held was a government ploy to acquire mineral-rich tribal lands and denying the tribals the right to sell their lands at current market rates which are five times as much. Later I also had an opportunity in a special meeting with Lindsay Duffield  and Jo Woodman of Survival International and asked them to consult their legal experts in the matter. I believe tribals should have equal rights as non tribals to sell their lands. Of course there would be scoffers who would hold this would dilute tribal control over sacred lands like Niyamgiri but I beg to differ. My faith in Tribal India, like in the Youth of the World is just too strong. I wish that they can get a programme going with the Internet - the Satyagraha of the Mind, -- and the forerunners appear to me in young tribal intellectruals such as Gladson Dundung.

The 16th of April saw us land in Rome and our stay was organized as before with the Christian Doctrine Fathers,  Santa Maria, Monticelli where we had stayed three years ago. I thank Fr General Gian Mario for his personal hospitality and kindness and Brother Enzo for seeing to our welfare. On the 17th which was our thirtyseventh wedding anniversary for me and Elizabeth we joined a University of Rome sight-seeing tour and visited several interesting sights some not visited before (St Peter in Vincoli where we saw Michelangelo's Moses for the first time, and St Peter's chains;  and the Basilica of St Clement where we joined the Holy Mass service). It was our 34th wedding anniversary for Elizabeth and me. We also visited the Colosseum and the celebrations at the the circus Maximus where they were enacting scences in connection with The Rape of the Sabine women.   Next day 18th  Elizabeth and Philo began painting a sacred mandala lotus at the IsiAO (Italian Institute for Africa and the Orient) the prestigious venue of a superb exhibition of our artworks set up by Daniela and where the second day's conference organized by La  Sapienza, University of Rome would be held. We have to thank the organizers especially Dr Fabio Scialpi head of the department of Religion and Philosophy at La Sapienza and Dr Tiziana Lorenzetti for all assistance. The first day's seminar on"  Art History and Traditions in India" was organized in the grand precincts of La Sapienza on the 18th of April. I was happy to meet there my old friend Dr Adam Hardy of the Cardiff University who presented a paper on Indian Temple Typologies.  The next day's seminar sessions 19th were held a IsiAO where the exhibition of Khovar and Sohrai paintings by TWAC artists was held along with the continuous painting of the Lotus Mandala on the ground in cloth by Philomina and Elizabeth. After my presentation at five o'clock ( "Tribal Culture and the Oldest Artistic Tradition of India in Jharkhand") a slide talk  presentation simultaneously translated by Daniela in Italian, the delegates assembled at the Mandala for a moment of traditional Adivasi songs. The IsiAO premises is part of the zoo and so the environment was conducive to such an event.

The 20th saw us at the Vatican with our old friend Paolo Manzoni of Turin (Yatra) and his wife, and the next day Daniela arranged a meeting for us at the Bibliothe, a small exposition in the area of Santa Maria where we saw the photos taken by an Italian photographer named Giacomo Fe in the coal mines in Jharkhand near Hazaribagh last year. The photographs depicted the work and lives of the cycle coal carriers and I could give a talk on this urgent topic with which foreigners are unfamiliar.

21st we took the morning flight from Fumicino (Rome)  to Malpensa (Milan) with Daniela , and Peter met us at the local airport and brought us to their second house at Bergamo in a suburb of Milan where we would spend the last few days of our long Yatra before returning to India. While the plane was coming in for landing I got soom good photos of the Alpine valleys north of Brescia and Iseo into which we would foray in the next few days.

On the 21st Daniela had arranged an Event in Milan in an old traditional workers' quarter of the city where an exhibition of our artworks was displayed. any people came and Indian music was played live and a marvellous Bengali lady vocalist from Calcutta sang ghazals to the accompaniment of a German tabalchi (tabla player) who runs a school for handicapped children in Puri. The mandala installation from Rome was unveiled and I could give a small talk about our work which Daniela translated.

22nd Peter drove us all up (Gabriel, Daniela, Philomina, Elizabeth and me) in a big car to the Alpine rockart site of Valcamonica, Italy's first UNESCO World Heritage Site. From Bergamo we drove up the long way via Brescia, turning off the Milan-Venice Autostrade, up through over a dozen miles of tunnels some short some long, up the mountainto Capo di Ponte where we were awaited at the Centre of Prehistoric Study run by Professor Anati under the umbrella of UNESCO. Valcamonica rock engravings were declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1977. They were brought to light by Professor Anati's efforts from 1956-57 onwards. Unfortunately he was away, but we were welcomed by Claudio Gasparotii who made available to us lodgings at the Institute and showed us around the Centre run by Professor Anati where we spent the night. It was Good Friday and in the evening the local Mayor took us to the Church of the Way of the Cross in nearby Cerveno, where fourteen Stations of the Cross are carved lifesize in wood and which is an early pilgrimage site with a beautiful stone twelfth century chapel. It could not have been a more appropriate visit. The views of the Alps were terrific and the significance of the mountain formations on the east and west of the vally observed traditionally by the ancestral Carmuni valley dwellers wasI found  from an old  anthropomorphic tradition. The atmosphere of the placed was stiff with palaeolithic atmosphere and  the expressions in hundreds of thousands of rock engravings was a natural outpouring of this energy.

23rd we took a guided tour of the Naquane National Park of the rockart close to Capo di Ponte. We had an excellent guide in Martha Ghirordelli one of the enthusiastic youth who show visitors their prized rockart petroglyphs fund all over the open rock faces in the mountains around the town. The name Val (valley) and Carmonica seems to allude to the Celtic word Kar for stone found in Austria. The local people are called Cammuni which may be linked ? Though in another world, in a car Valcamonica is a couple hours drive from Bergamo where we reached in the evening and celebrated Philomina's birthday with cake and wine.

24th Easter Sunday was spent appropriately by attending Easter  Morning Mass in the great  Cathedral ( Duomo) in Milan and walking round the inner part of the city with Peter, Daniela and Gabriel.  They gave us a big Easter lunch of salmon, rice salad cheese xand wine and  so ended our great Yatra around Europe. This night Peter and Daniela drove us the great distance to the Malpensa airport where we bid each other goodbye - JOHAR ! till the next time ...

Arriving Kolkata 25th night we feasted on traditional Indian food  Daal, Bhaat, and Machor-jhol ! Back to the turmoil and strife that is modern India  we drove home to Hazaribagh  and the welcoming arms of Home. Thank you to everyone who helped to make our trip successful.

In Solidarity,


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