This is about a day from our journey to the ‘angry mountains’ (Uttarakhand). Photojournalist V. V. Krishnan and I started the journey on June 23 to the places that were not touched by the media till then. While the focus was on stranded pilgrims, we tried to look into the plight of the neglected locals.

Though this story is of a particular village in the Pindar Valley in Uttarakhand, the plight of villages situated in other valleys that we visited was no different. Today, the news about the ‘angry mountains’ has reduced to a few columns but the story of neglect continues in the heart of Uttarakhand – its villages and its people.

On June 25 Mr. Krishnan and I reached the Narayabagar village in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district. All that remained in the flash floods that gushed through the valley was a pillar in the middle of the Pindari river; the rains that flooded the area on June 17 swept away the road connections on either sides of the pillar.

The villagers told us that the area now occupied by the river used to be a market. It was hard to believe because no trace of an existing building was present in the area where the river flowed. As we moved further to a place where we could see the two sides of the Pindar Valley, the mountains were crumbling. Mr. Krishnan clicked a photograph of a house which standing at the mountain edge and was just about to slide down, and it did; within half an hour from when we spotted it, the house tumbled down into the river.

The entire valley was sitting on a time bomb.

From June 17, when the landslips started in the area, to the day we landed there, the landslips continued, taking with it the roads, buildings, and agricultural land.

A large part of the agricultural land was swept away in the landslips. The fields that remained had developed cracks and it was easy to predict that a few more showers were enough for these fields to succumb to the landslips. While walking through the remaining agricultural land we spotted three women working in the fields.

People in Narayanbagar depend on the agricultural produce for self consumption. Now that all the fields were on the verge of sliding down, I asked the three women who were working in the fields, “What will you do if your fields slide down in the landslips?”

“We too will die,” Manwati Devi, another Narayanbagar resident who had just joined us replied laughingly.

She wasn’t exaggerating. It was an innocent and true answer.

The villagers wouldn’t sleep in the night because they would have to run for their life in the middle of the night in case the rainfall exceeded and landslips became exponential. To save themselves, the villagers kept shifting to places in the village – from a more dangerous to a lesser one.

“Can you do anything to help us?” One of them asked. There was an awkward silence and I said, “Now we should take your leave.”

“Come to our house, have a cup of tea,” another woman in the trio said. We humbly denied the offer as we had to see the rest of the place and go back before the rains would block the roads.

As we said goodbye to each other, Manwati repeated, “We will also die,” and she laughed again while she added, “Aur kar bhi kya sakte hain ('What else can we do')?” Her cheeks started twitching and tears welled up in her eyes. I turned my back to avoid looking into her eyes and kept moving forward.

Manwati drew a heavy breath and whispered to herself, “Aur kar bhi kya sakte hain?” This time nobody laughed, no goodbyes were said, and all that remained was the silence of sheer helplessness.


Manwati Devi who lost her house and fields explains the tragedy at Narayanbagar village as Pindari river changed its course and washed away fields, buildings and roads during the recent flash floods in Uttarakhand. Photo: V.V. Krishnan


Scene at Narayanbagar village as Pindari river changed its course and washed away fields, buildings and roads during the recent flash floods in Uttarakhand. Photo: V.V. Krishnan


Scene at Narayanbagar village as Pindari river changed its course and washed away fields, buildings and roads during the recent flash floods in Uttarakhand. Photo: V.V. Krishnan


Scene at Narayanbagar village as Pindari river changed its course and washed away fields, buildings and roads during the recent flash floods in Uttarakhand. Photo: V.V. Krishnan


The house that slid. Photo: V.V. Krishnan