The village of Chilla Khadar watched the World Culture Festival with a sense of bittersweetness. A good part of its crops, some ready to be harvested, was flattened to make way for the controversial carnival organised by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living Foundation. But in return, for three days from Friday, it got to behold a sight that it had yearned for so long: the electrification of the village, even if temporarily.

“Despite the fact that this event has cost us so heavily, it still gives me happiness,” said Pinky Yadav, 18, “because it’s so beautiful and bright.”

Chilla Khadar is among the handful of villages on the floodplains of Yamuna in Delhi where the main occupation is farming. Its residents say that, for decades, the village has been relegated to second-rate existence. The residents have all the necessary documents – including ration card, Aadhaar card, voter ID card – but Chilla Khadar is denied electricity because it lies on the floodplains.

“If providing electricity is possible for Sri Sri’s event, why is it not possible for us,” asked Inderdev Sharma, 45, a farmer living in the village.

Residents complain that Chilla Khadar, which falls under Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia’s constituency, is treated differently from other unauthorised villages on Yamuna floodplains, many of which have been provided basic amenities. Indeed, as per a report in The Indian Express, some of the villages have even made it to the list of unauthorised colonies for regularisation.

“Forget other unauthorised villages – Akshardham Temple is situated on the floodplains of Yamuna, almost at the same level as our village,” asked Sharma. “Why doesn’t the floodplain criterion apply there? They used to grow brinjal, cabbage and spinach on that land before the temple came up.”

Sharma had come to Delhi over 20 years ago from Jharkhand in search of employment. He never went back. The farmer says he worries now how he’ll recover from the impact of the World Culture Festival – a “celebration of The Art of Living’s 35 years of service, humanity, spirituality” – which ended on Sunday. The festival, for which a 7-acre stage was erected, pontoon bridges built, dirt tracks laid, and heavy equipment deployed, also required land to be flattened.

Sharma says 5 beegha of the 20-beegha plot on which he farms was bulldozed for the event. “If you ask me, around 500-600 beegha of the village’s land was ruined for this event,” he assessed.

While Sharma was talking, a young man interjected. “An acquaintance had grown cauliflower on his farm. It was about to be harvested in a couple of days. They crushed it under a bulldozer,” said Vikas Kumar, a Class IX student in Gyan Shakti Vidhyalaya, a school run by a non-profit where almost all the village children go. “If we weren’t going to this school, I can’t imagine what would have happened to us.”

Pinky Yadav, who is pursuing a diploma in elementary education and aspires to become a teacher, recounts her school days. “My friends and fellow students would simply not understand my situation. They would make fun of us and call us names. Even my teachers would refuse to believe that my village doesn’t have a road, drinking water or electricity.”

She added: “I have no problem with this event happening here. We are befriending the entire world by this festival, which is great. Had the government spent on us even a part of what they have spent on this event, our life would have improved. Today we are living like insects.”

While some villagers suffered losses, others got an opportunity to earn a quick buck. With an unprecedented number of visitors coming to the village, small grocery and fruit shops as well as eateries did brisk business. Nobody in Chilla Khadar was, however, oblivious to the reality. They knew that after the end of the three-day wonder, the electric poles would be uprooted, the blindingly bright lights removed, and the darkness restored.