Director: Utpal Borpujari & Bhaskar Jyoti Das
Two middle-aged men are witness to a grim battle against changing climate patterns to keep alive Dongs, century-old channels created through community efforts to get water to a chain of villages in Assam near the India- Bhutan borders.
Along the foothills of India-Bhutan border areas in Assam, in a region that witnessed decades of ethnic clashes and militancy that resulted in the death of thousands, a region where communities across religions and ethnicities have lived together for centuries, there is one thing that brings everyone together: WATER.
People in around 300 villages along the Indo-Bhutan border have risen above ethnic divisions to unite for one common religion: Water. They are united by their common creation – the Dong. Dongs are an intricate system of channels that are created, maintained and used by the communities in these villages to get water from streams and rivers uphill in Bhutan. They know that if Dongs die out, their farms and villages would die out.
But rapid climate change has made the future of Dongs uncertain.
Chandra Khorka and Sanjay Sarkar, in their mid-40s, are witness to the struggle of the communities around them, even as they diligently work as Dong guards who are responsible for keeping an eye on the Dongs and also regulating the supply of water to various villages in the area.
This is the story of Dongs, and of the toiling masses of people who live unknown to the world in a faraway, remote region, fighting an unrelenting battle to keep the Dongs alive as nature, and the world itself, changes around them. As seen through the eyes of Khorka and Sarkar, both belonging to communities that had migrated to the area over seven decades ago.
As people from Assam, we have grown up seeing a massive river – the Brahmaputra – around every aspect of our lives. We have seen how the river and its large number of tributaries sustain lives in the state and also create havoc through floods and erosion. So, it’s a dichotomy that in a state that is known abundant water, there is a region where people have to use a chain of channels created through traditional knowledge to get access to water throughout the year. People in Assam hardly know that such a water-scarce region exists in the state. It is this aspect – about people’s struggle get water even as they suffer from flash floods during Monsoons – that attracted us to the subject. Also, in a region with a history of ethnic clashes, the aspect that various communities work together to maintain the Dongs is a fascinating socio-political aspect of life for us. We want to explore these ideas through our film.
The story that we want to tell through “The Dong Story” is a story of human resilience and co-existence in the struggle against a changing nature. It is a story that is located in a remote part of Assam, Northeast India, along the foothills of India-Bhutan border. But it is a universal story, of communities fighting for access to natural resources in the face of rapid climate change. It is also a story of traditional knowledge that has helped sustain a community for centuries, and how they are fighting to preserve that knowledge. As
filmmakers, we believe that this kind of project can benefit immensely from
guidance by experts in documentary filmmaking in terms of the correct approach to storytelling (we want to make it an observational, characterdriven