Community Correspondents

Deena Ganvir


Deena Ganvir is an Adivasi rights activist and Community Correspondent form Kawardha, Chhattisgarh.

Ganvir was apprehensive of failure when she started out at Video Volunteers, she felt that it was impossible for her to hold a phone, let alone a camera. She was certain that her low level of education would create barriers in the work. She felt that working through the medium of videos was just not meant for her. But over time, her apprehensions left her and she developed the interest and the acumen for video journalism. She credits her motivation to the support of her mentors who encouraged and pushed her to achieve all that she has achieved.

Money is certainly not enough motivation to work, and few could be in a better person than Deena to bear testimony to that. Belonging to a poor family, Ganvir worked tirelessly for three years for the Baiga community,  with no desire for remuneration. She led them, motivating them to not give up their traditional and legal rights to the Forest Department, and supporting them at every step.

“The tattoo art that Adivasi women sport is quite fascinating, they are trying really hard to conserve their culture, the nomadic communities have lived in the forests for generations. The forest is their habitat and source of livelihood. However, such communities have completely been ignored by the state which has failed to acknowledge their rights, and is instead leaving no stone unturned to take away their forest land, leaving them with no means of survival. In some villages, there is no anganwadi (child care centre), no school, no water! It is simply ruthlessness!”

Deena was not allowed in her own house and was asked to leave since when she refused to get married, but that was when her grandmother stepped in and encouraged her to work with the community. Her perseverance was rewarded with the small plot of land her community gifted to her as a token of appreciation, one where she could build herself a safe haven to live in.

“My work has given me a lot. I remember being so frightened assuming I was a failure already, without actually trying. I was rather embarrassed when I was asked to do something during a VV workshop I attended in the beginning. But what I earn today has saved both me and my mother. Both her kidneys failed, and I didn’t have to knock on someone’s door to borrow money, my income was sufficient to support her in all possible ways. I am so glad that my mentors pushed me in every possible way,” says Deena.  

Demanding land rights for her community, she has stuck around ensuring that the community keeps fighting for land and other rights. In the absence of basic amenities, the community relies on a canal for water and walk miles to fetch it. There are no basic provisions for the children in the anganwadi either, so instead of learning and playing, they spend their time fetching water. Deena reported on the issue and showed the video to the concerned authorities; within months, the handpump was repaired. Although a small change in the larger scheme of things, for the community, it meant a better and safer future for their children.

“After all these years, talking to the community comes easily to me and they have no qualms about sharing things with me either. But back when I had just started working with the camera, they were not very comfortable, it took a little time to bring them out of their comfort zones, and for me to step out of mine! But now my camera is my tool of power and it is equally so for them. Earlier, Adivasi movements would go unnoticed by the administration, but now these videos have not just empowered the community but have also become a tool to pressurise the concerned authorities with.”

Deena believes that the fight against the Forest Department is going to be a long-drawn on, but she is prepared for it with her community. She wishes to continue working for the people, irrespective of whether or not she gets enough remuneration for survival; her community will always be there to support her.

Videos from Deena

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A Dowry-Free Community in a Country of Dowry Deaths

/ July 25, 2018

The Baiga community, like many Adivasi communities, does not follow the patriarchal dowry system, setting an example in a country where women are killed for dowry every day.

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First Stop Education Matters

/ June 11, 2018

This anganwadi in Chhattisgarh’s Bhurbaspani village in Kawardha was built in 2000, but in 2018, it is still functioning without even a building.

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Can a Thread Tie Modernisation and Tradition Together?

/ May 25, 2018

As more and more communities become ‘modern’, a civilisation as old as India runs the risk of losing its age-old cultures. Is there a way for societies to progress without getting stuck in the past?

Bridging the gap between Adivasi communities and administration

/ September 24, 2014

The Baiga people are one of the many tribes in Central India. Community Correspondent Dina works closely with this reclusive tribe and in this interview she details how she & her camera bridged the gap between adivasis & administration to bring water for 35 children in an anganwadi. Traditionally referring...

Forest Officials forcibly keep Tribe’s Legal Land Papers

/ October 7, 2016

The Baigas, an indigenous community spread across central India were, according to folklore, God’s chosen ones to carry forward the human race in India. The Baigas consider themselves to be servants of the earth and the king of the forests. The peace-loving tribe is known for its’ respect for nature,...

Awaiting Justice: Chhattisgarh’s tribal residents’ FRA rights under attack

/ September 26, 2016

The ancient tribe of Baiga has been residing in Chhattisgarh’s jungles since times unknown treating the Earth as their mother, and nature as their Gods. The earliest written records of the tribes’ existence in Central India, was recorded in 1867, by a Captain Thompson. Ever since Chhattisgarh was carved out...

Without electricity, a village suffers in darkness

/ May 30, 2016

A remote tribal village of Chhattisgarh has never seen electricity. While government schemes such as Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY), worth $11 billion, have visions to provide continuous power supply to rural India, the Parevachapa village in Pandaria district of Chattisgarh, a village established 16 years ago, is...

Parched district not yet declared drought affected in Chhattisgarh

/ March 21, 2016

In Hatkacharama village, 15 km from Narharpur tehsil of Uttar Bastar Kanker district, Chhattisgarh, farmer Vishnuram Sodhi is worried that his crop may fail, adding to his already mounting debts. His tehsil, Narharpur has received negligible rainfall in the monsoon, putting futures of many farmers in a similar jeopardy. However,...