Imagine if the government one day ordered you and your neighbours to tear down your houses to make way for ‘progress’. You are all forced to leave behind your jobs, houses, and ways of life. This has already happened to millions of people in India, and it will happen to many more.
Lat Does Not Exist is the story of one village in Chhattisgarh, called Lat, which was torn apart to make way for a pit mine meant to produce coal to fuel India’s growing economy. It consists primarily of the transcripts of 19 interviews, in which residents tell their own stories, in their own ways, at length.
A series of portraits and photo essays completes the glimpse this book provides into the lives of those Lat residents still bitterly hanging onto their homes in a fragment of the village remaining just metres from the edge of the coal pit, as well those former residents who have already relocated.
Co-editor Sam Tranum conceived this book while writing another: Powerless: India’s Energy Shortage and Its Impact. Researching the intersection of energy production and displacement, he searched for a book that would give unmediated, first-hand accounts of what it was like to be displaced. Unable to find it, he set out with Lois Kapila and Nikhil Roshan to produce it.
It is coal from pits like the one featured in this book that is fueling the economic growth of urban north-western India. It is people like the ones who tell their stories through Lat Does Not Exist who are paying the price of keeping Mumbai glittering, and ensuring the lights stay on in Delhi’s halls of power.
“Written in quite a uniquely unconventional, critical visual style, it projects an intimately personal portrait . . . [that] drives home voices of lamentation, sadness, poverty frustration, injustice, inequality, unfair play, unemployment, land dispossession, and indignity . . . Lat Does Not Exist will definitely attract the likes of practitioners, academics, researchers, policy-makers, lawyers, and social justice advocates, in particular.”
—Veronica Fynn, Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Internal Displacement.