Garjontola, Satjelia, India

Author Annu Jalais sources much of her information about Sundarbans villages from first-hand experience living in the Garjontola locality of the Toofankhali village on Satjelia Island. We will use this information about village demographics and cultural life in our “Local” topics.

Satjelia is situated in the middle of a ring of islands, including Sajnekhali to the southwest, Gosaba to the west, Rangabelia to the northwest, Mollakhali to the north, and Kumirmari to the northeast. It is about 615 square-kilometers and is a part of Sir Daniel Hamilton’s “Gosaba Block,” referring to the islands that were a part of Hamilton’s cooperative society until the 1960s. Approximately 42,000 people live on the island.

Similar to the geographical-social hierarchies discussed under “Regional” regarding the South 24 Parganas, the village itself operates under the same model; those people who live closer to the edge of the forest are socio-economically “below” those who live closer to the interior of the island, where there is a school and more traditionally cultivated land. Thus, the community is geographically and socially divided amongst the “riverside people,” known as the “gramer lok,” and the “village people”, known as the “bhadra lok.” The gramer lok consists mainly of forest fishers, prawn seed collectors, and poachers, whereas the bhadra lok is comprised of government employees and wealthier and more educated landowners. For the most part, these two groups do not mix because they live very different lives despite their shared environment. While the bhadra lok think of the gramer lok as poor, uneducated, and primitive in their cultural beliefs, the gramer lok refer to the bhadra lok as greedy and arrogant. They have differences in religious, political, and economic values, revolving mainly around how the parties consider their relationship with the forest itself. These differences are further discussed in the topics below.



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