For the last one month, the people of Abreu Vaddo in Saligaon village, North Goa have been united against the construction of a cell phone tower in their neighborhood which threatens their peace and well-being. If constructed, the tower would be an outrage not just to the health of the people but also to the old school sensibilities that make the neighborhood the beautiful and serene place that it is. Over the last month, the community has filed RTIs, written petitions, held dharnas and protests. These peaceful protests had the voices, the numbers and the truth on their side. But the team behind the tower took refuge by replying to the people's demands in silence. The community needed a tool to break this wall of silence. The people of Abreu Vaddo called IndiaUnheard's North Goa Community Correspondent Sulochana and asked her to make a video on their issue.(Watch her previous video here)
Last night, the 4-min IndiaUnheard video made by Sulochana was publicly screened at an open air press conference at the illegal construction site in the presence of the local MLA, Mr. Dilip Parulekar. A group of more than 200 people watched the video. The 4 mins chronicled the entire struggle. The illegality and outrage of the tower was juxtaposed with the data on the grave dangers of cell phone tower radiations and the voices of the community people demanding the right for them and their families to live clean, healthy lives. Within 4 mins, the video made an irrefutable case for the community.
Local activist, Mario Mascarenhas who played a pivotal role in the struggle led the community discussion and consultation. As the dialogue progressed, it became clear that it was the Panchayat that had been responsible for the oversight. The MLA embraced the people's side and promised that he would attend the sessions court hearing next week in person, where the case is presently being investigated. He also agreed to take up the larger legal issue of ensuring consultation within a community before the construction of any such potentially dangerous towers, with the Chief Minister.
Sulochana and a team from the Video Volunteers office attended the screening and watched as the power of community voices on video enabled the people to address an issue and collectively and peacefully come up with a solution.
For Community Correspondent Sulochana, the making of this video was very different from her experience on other videos. "For one, the shooting was quick, unplanned and on the go," she says. "I focused on spending time with the people of Abreu Vaddo and understanding their struggle. When I listened to their voices, I told myself that these are the people I am representing and I began to think how I was going to put the voices and issues and the images together and tell their story convincingly."
She is proud and happy that her video has managed to help the community put its case across vividly and convincingly. "The big moment was when the video was shown at the community screening. The effect is undeniable. The purpose of the campaign was established. The people's voices were affirmed. Unlike petitions and press releases, the video kept the fact intact that more than a legal or economic issue it was an emotional issue for the people. The video preserved the emotion."
The struggle of Abreu Vaddo is an example of how in today's media saturated world, people's movements can create their own media and a space for their voices and demands. Community media is a witness and an archive. It is dialogue and debate. It is peaceful and dynamic. It is open and accessible. It is for the people, by the people, of the people.
We at Video Volunteers stand in solidarity with the people of Abreu Vaddo.