The Sisters of Charity have been working with the Indigenous people of Wayanad, Kerala under the project Prathiksha. This is the story of when we intervened at Thangalkunnu colony, which has 11 Paniya tribal families and a total of 62 people. There was no water source in their hamlet, so as part of the Rajeev Gandhi drinking water project, the Panchayat (assembly) allotted Rs.10 lakhs for safe drinking water in 1996.
The Panchayat approached neighbor Mr. Hamed, who belongs to Muslim community, and asked him to sell a very small piece of land for digging a well for the indigenous people. This was agreed and a pipeline was installed through Mr. Hamed’s property.
Over the years the pipe began to decay and water began to leak. The Paniyas were not able to go to the well as Mr Hamed didn’t like them to enter his property. Due to his objection, the repair work using the PVC pipe sanctioned by the Panchayat was not able to proceed and the Tribes were not getting water.
Various government officials intervened until the matter was shared with our staff person, Valsa, who collected all of the facts and history. Valsa met with ward members and neighbors and talked to both parties, but the attempt failed. Then, one day she met Mr. Hamed on his way to the mosque for his daily prayer. She challenged his religious faith and why he was denying drinking water to eleven families, which included 62 persons. This made him reconsider, and he agreed to go to mediation.
Mr. Hamed signed the agreement to allow the officials to put the pipeline through his land so that the tribals would receive drinking water. The pipeline and other facilities were installed and drinking water availed. This process made both parties peaceful and happy. The old enmity and anger were dissolved, and peace was restored.