Their fathers had a showdown. Their uncles wanted revenge. The sons wanted vengeance. There was land at stake, there was property to fight for, and there were ideas to defend—like honour, izzat, and pride. In Hirnauti, a village in Uttar Pradesh’s Bulandshahar district, it meant only one thing: guns had to be drawn; people had to shoot to kill. Our cover story “Death in the badlands” tracks 34 years of a family feud that has left a score of people dead, killed always by a gunshot. The feud has left widows, abandoned houses, locked temples, and made many families flee this prosperous multi-crop village. Arpit Parashar, who has been tracking this story for four years, says that murders in the village coincide with the rise of gun culture in western UP. Hirnauti is not an exception: there are other villages and other feuds.
Our other narrative this month is from Manesar, the site of the Maruti Suzuki plant where things came to such a pass that workers laid siege to the shop floor, a situation that ended with the death of an executive. In the aftermath, the company’s version of the events have been extensively reported, a version the Haryana government seems to back, and in its ingenuity has even added a Maoist angle to the events. We bring you voices from the other side, oral histories of workers who manned the shop floor. They speak of the stressful, and the often humiliating environment they were made to work in, of poor wages, and a management that treated them with disdain.
We carry a report from Bhutan, on “Bomena”, a traditional way of match making, which has gone wrong in the modern times. The practice—where a man can “try” many women, no strings attached—has left behind single mothers. In Bhutan’s matrilineal society, the system had once given women the final say in selecting their partners, a prerogative which is quite eroded now.
Our photo story this month looks at the subculture of desi cross dressers, and gays in New York, a more liberal space for expression of sexuality than perhaps their homelands.
Don’t miss our interview with Vishwanthan Anand, the man who recently won the World Chess Championship for the fourth time. Anand discusses the exhausting mental grind of chess , how it doesn’t really get easier ever, and all the talk about computers as competitors in future events.
Saurav Kumar, Editor