Mr. Santosh Mahapatra, a photo journalist, based in a small sleepy town of Sonepur in Orissa, treats photography as a powerful medium to record various facets of men, history and contemporary time. Most of his photo exhibitions are social commentary by nature.
Spending six months, spanning over four seasons, inside Orissa’s Raigadha District wherein lies a conglomeration of 191 villages living with existential dilemma-their existence yet to be acknowledged by the law of the land and authorities alike. Marooned by two big reservoirs- Chitrakonda and Uppar kolab- the 20000 primitive tribal continue to struggle justifying their existence.
The first orphans of free India, before the news of Independence reached them, reached the order to vacate their land to make space for one of India’s first hydroelectricity projects. And hardly before reconciling a new place, wholly created in remote hilltops by themselves, another dam dashed their hopes.
Thrown by kilometers of water they made unprecedented shift from mainland to become islanders! So remote from the mainland, and civilization, the Government has named them “cut off area”. A rusty steamer, taking 8 hours to cover a distance of 68 kilometers to the main land, is the only connecting medium with the outer world reminding them of their civilizational loneliness. One has to spare three days and spend Rs. 100/- to fetch half kilogram of salt and oil!
The photo exhibition, consisting of 60 photographs carefully chosen from among 400, is a virtual essay on this epical tragedy. The project was sponsored by Smile jointly with National Rural Development Council (NRDC), Sonepur and Manav Adhikar Seva Samiti (MASS), Sambalpur.