How did it all begin?
It happened when I was still studying. One day when I was going somewhere, I came across some village women who were on their way to attend a meeting of the Jharkhand Jungle Bachao Andolan (JJBA) at Khunti. They asked me to come along and I was curious enough to go. I was touched by their determination to save their water, forests and land. I too joined the campaign. Later, a JJBA activist told me about an email from IndiaUnheard inviting video volunteers from all over India. He asked me if I would be interested to do this work from Khunti. After some hesitation, I agreed. After my application was accepted, I was given some training and a camera. That’s how it began.
What is the biggest change that you have experienced since then?
The local communities have seen some empowerment. Here, innocent villagers are often taken into custody after being branded as Naxalites. In one such incident, the police picked up two persons from our village. I rushed to the police station with my camera and tried to talk to them. They didn’t talk, but the two villagers were released.
And how has your life changed?
People have started recognising me and I have earned their respect. The most significant change, however, is that I have become a medium for the voices of people who are not heard anywhere.
Vikas Bahuguna is Chief Copy Editor, Tehelka Hindi.