Monday, April 02, 2007

Blood and Wine - both flow freely near Bijapur

The ancient city of Bijapur is the home of the Gol Gumbaz, the second largest dome in the world unsupported by pillars, after St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. (Photo by Dilip Nerlikar). A seat of power in South India since the 10th century, the monarchs of the Chalukyan Dynasty gave it the name of "Vijayapura" or the "City of Victory". Later the Adi Shahi Nawabs of the 14th Century constructed the dome and many other exquisite monuments in the Indo-Saracenic style. During my visit in 1997, I found it to be a charming spot, sleeping quietly in the lap of time. Lately, though, Bijapur has been attracting attention of a more contemporary sort.

On March 24, the Deccan Herald carried a report of the 110-acre Maya vineyard on the outskirts of Bijapur. Under the supervision of an English vintner who has worked for Moet et Chandon in Champagne and prestigious Chateau estates in Bordeaux, the Maya estate is turning out world-class Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz and Cabernet varietals. "Crafted with French expertise", and aided by the vine-friendly climate of the Krishna Valley with its long sunny days and cool nights, the wines show "superb tannin development and excellent aroma and color" and the vintages are expected to get better year by year, per the Deccan Herald.

A week earlier, the Deccan Herald and other newspapers (including the New York Times)reported that 65 km. from Bijapur across the border in Chattisgarh, in the village of Ronibodilli, 54 policemen and auxiliary police officers were murdered after a long gunfight during a night attack by Maoist Naxalites. The whole area has been seething for years as Moriyas and other Adivasis continue to fight a losing battle for habitat against the official land acquisition of their ancestral fields and forests for logging, mineral and industrial development and other manifestations of the march of progress. Violence against the Adivasis by landowners, police and other agencies has given rise to an active Maoist movement that has retaliated in kind. The Government's answer has been to form auxiliary armed police forces, a sort of official vigilante group, to counter Maoist action. The latest attack in Ronibodilli was the Maoist answer to the formation of the auxiliaries.

The incident had eerie echoes of events further North, in Jharkand, Singur and Nandigram in West Bengal and as far afield as Nepal. Will these events creep across Bijapur to the Maya vineyards ? Or will blood and wine continue to flow side by side, in the contradictory mosaic that is the face of development in India ?

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