The exploits of the various Indian sand mafias has long been a topic of fascination ’round these parts. As the subcontinent’s construction boom has lead to an escalation in sand prices, miners have become eager to accumulate the granular material by any means necessary. In practice, that means excavating any strip of land they wish, and using a combination of bribery and violence to deal with those who might object.
One women from Kerala, who goes by the sole name Jazeera, has recently become the public face of opposition to the mafias. She first spent over two months sitting in at the state’s capital, telling anyone who would listen that the illegal miners were destroying her private property. Now Jazeera has moved the show to Delhi, with her kids in tow:
On a bright blue tarpaulin spread out, the 31-year-old crusader is camping with her three children, the youngest Mohammad barely a year-and-a-half old, in this unfamiliar city…
An autorickshaw driver by profession, Ms. Jazeera is also fighting against a part of her own family. Her brother, she says, is part of the mafia that illegally dig sand, so the pressure to call off the protest has been immense even at home. “My husband, a madrasa teacher, supports me. He couldn’t come to Delhi, but my children are here,” she says.
Her daughters — 12-year-old Rizwana and 10-year-old Shifana — have been through the worst, but are not complaining.
They miss being at school, but would rather be with their mother. “Some students from Jawaharlal Nehru University have offered to teach them while we are here. I couldn’t have left them behind,” Ms. Jazeera says.
There is certainly an education to be had in all this, primarily about the interplay between politics and money. Here’s to hoping that Jazeera’s children veer more toward idealism rather than cynicism once the affair is settled.