Introduction / History
The Pawari were one of many tribes that were evicted from their homes and forced to relocate when construction of the Sardar Saravor Dam (the "Narmada Project") began in 1989. Many moved to cities in Gujarat's Northern Dhule district. Others still live in villages that lie in the submergence zones of the Bhopal district (the area of the future irrigation canal).
What Are Their Lives Like?
The dam, which is one-fifth complete, will create the world's largest irrigation canal. At the same time, it will flood some 320,000 Indians out of their homes and deprive hundreds of thousands more of their livelihoods. Most have refused to leave their homes, successfully stalling work on the dam. Many others were forced to leave, but returned after three years because they were unable to make a living in the new regions. They now live with the threat that their crops, their homes, and the land that has belonged to them for centuries, will all be swallowed up by the new canal. The promised resettlement plans are still incomplete and lacking funds.
As the Pawari moved from their homelands during the relocation project, most were separated from their relatives. A majority of those who gave up their land were forced to live in cramped, dirty shacks. A few did report living in large shelters with medical facilities, electricity, and schools. At first, the people were eager to move from the submergence zones; but as they kept asking for forest land, the government refused. Within the last few years, eight hundred 2.5 acre sections of prime forest lands have been cleared in the Dhule district. This land will be used to house re-settlers.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Many of the villagers have refused to move, choosing to drown rather than lose their land. Some have agreed to move, but have nowhere to go. Others have been taken to new locations, but cannot make a living at the new sites. These have returned to their homelands and continue living in fear of the dam.
The houses in Pawari villages are typically made of bamboo and thatch with hard dirt floors. However, as finances allow, improvements are made. The first change is usually to replace the thatch roof with tiles or sheets of iron. Some of the reconstruction projects are now building bigger and better homes for the Pawari. The houses have more windows, separate rooms for cooking and sleeping, separate cattle sheds, better bathroom facilities, and stone floors.
Most of the Pawari are skilled farmers. They are dependent on rainfall to water their crops, since the ground is not very fertile. Some of the Pawari have jobs as carpenters, blacksmiths, or wood cutters. Each man makes his own field tools, serves as his own barber, and weaves his own baskets.
The Pawari speak Pauri, one of the Bhil languages; however, they claim no relation to the other Bhil tribes. Some of the Pawari also speak Marathi, a language spoken by the Hindu Maratha who established an empire in Gujarat during the thirteenth century.
The majority of the Pawari practice ethnic religions. They have no priests, temples, or idols; however, they are involved in witchcraft. They worship a supreme creator god named Bhavan, and strive to please with sacrifices and offerings. They worship a god of the harvest named Bava Kumba. Each year, this god is offered goat sacrifices in hopes that he will bless their crops. They also worship a tiger god named Vaghdev, and believe that he can provide welfare for their cattle. They are quoted as saying, "Our gods do not walk. We have to stay where they live."
What Are Their Needs?
Their tremendous fear of death has lead them to believe in strong supernatural forces. However, in regards to health many of them are now placing more faith in doctors than in black magic.
As the Pawari face the possibility of their lives being flooded away, they need hope. They must be told of the one true God-the God who walked on this earth and desires to walk with them through eternity.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will break up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go and share Christ with the Pawari.
* Pray that God will give them favor with all officials as the dam project progresses.
* Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the small number of Pawari Christians.
* Pray that God will give the government wisdom as decisions are made concerning the relocation of these tribes.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Pawari toward Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
Bethany World Prayer Center