The first impression that I could gather after reading and hearing a good number of experts on the Maoism and Adivasi, after the recent dastardly attack on political leaders by Maoist cadre in Chattishgarh, that even an articulate and intelligent experts seems to be misled and / or not fed with the wholesome information on Adivasi and Maoists issues.
On the other hand, it also signifies that Adivasi have not found the voice in the Indian Mainstream Media. They have endured the ignorance and apathetic attitude of Indian Media for more than six-decades, but it simply cannot and should not go on like this.
Having said that, I take this opportunity to point out a few assumptions and a few comments uttered by experts dominating our mainstream media, which I believe that their views do not reflect the real plights of Adivasis, especially those who inhabit in Maoist dominated states of Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, et al. I have, therefore, picked on a few critical issues from experts’ viewpoints and some popular misconceptions disseminated by our mainstream media, dissected them and here I am with the possible explanations and clarifications on each of them:
# Erroneus bracketing together of Harizans and Adivasis in the same category” by some experts
It is ironical that Indian Constitution / system tries to empower both Harijans and Adivasis with a single instrument and in the process it loses sight of the ‘unique identity’ that Adivasis enjoyed in the pre-partition era. The enlighten Press too have all along all these years played a major role in clubbing together of Harijans and Adivasis in the same category, for instance, look at any matrimonial advertisements in any mainstream newspaper, one can find SC/ST under the same heading.
The criterion followed for specification of a community, as Adivasis (Scheduled Tribes) are indications of primitive traits, distinctive culture, geographical isolation, shyness of contact with the community at large, and backwardness. These criteria though are not spelt out in the Constitution but have nonetheless been accepted as reliable indicators.
Adivasi in general have stayed in their own villages away from the mainstream Hindu community unlike the Harijans. Adivasis preferred staying near or in forest areas; hence they were also called Girijans / Vanvasis by those who would often club them under Hindu-religion fold.
Away from the caste-based system of the then mainstream Indian community, Adivasis managed to develop their own vibrant culture, distinctive languages; in fact many tribes followed their own religious beliefs heavily influenced by the natural resources surrounding their life.
In short, Adivasis and Harijans existed in completely different set of surroundings with absolutely diverse set of opportunities and threats existed for them.
# “Adivasis and Maoists are clubbed together in the current volatile scenario” by some experts
There is a famous African saying that states: ‘when two elephants fight, only the grass end up as dead’. In simple words, Adivasi are stuck in middle in the ongoing conflict between the Maoists and the Indian State; both sides are holding their guns on to the head of Adivasis.
The problem started when corrupt form of Indian State abandoned the Adivasis living in some distant forest areas at their own mercy. Officially, since Independence crores of rupees were pumped in these Adivasis’ areas for their welfare. Sadly, not much of the Government expenditure is evident in such areas. Even the basic infrastructure facilities like Bizli, Pani, and Sadak are simply missing; in such areas, to talk about Schools, Colleges, Hospitals, Police Stations, etc. is sacrilege.
To state the truth, in these Adivasis areas the Government machinery never made any serious, sincere and sustained efforts to usher in the fruits of development. Few schools were established, but the teachers from among the tribals were very few in numbers, the non-tribal teachers taught in an alien language while many of them simply stayed home and yet enjoyed the government salary. This was unlike the villages where the Harijans lived, though they faced other kinds of problems. Hospitals are still far and few in numbers. Sadly, Adivasis’ experience with police force too was of a kind of exploitative, where generally money played the decisive role.
Against the above stated scenario, the Maoist enters the Adivasis villages carrying arms and ammunitions. In the initial stage of Maoist movement, the Maoists probably promised corruption-free better governance to the helpless Adivasis.
Over the years, the definition and ideology of Maoist have undergone changes. Make no mistake, majority of Maoist leaders are non-Adivasis and they have conveniently forgotten about their promised corruption-free better governance. Now they are running well-oiled commercial ventures with turnover in excess of hundred / thousand crores and they would like to protect their money-making formula with all the gun-power at their command.
Would anyone care to know as to why the red-corridor is stretched in the forest areas of Jharkhand, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Maharashtra in particular and having no presence in other forest areas of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, et al? Well, the answer to this is rather straight and simple, the former set of states are endowed with the rich mineral resources when the stakes of industrialists and the States are naturally high and this also lures the Maoists to jump into the fray to have their own pound of flesh to flourish; the latter set of states however, do not have any significant mineral resources to offer and hence have so far failed to find any footprints of the Maoists there, inspite of the tribal population too inhabit the forest areas of these states whose plight is no different from their counterparts in other states. Well, what I am trying to hint at is, it’s not the ideology nor any desire to serve their tribal brethren that the Maoists are carrying the guns and are living in their jungles; it’s solely for economic gains to start with, with an eye on capturing political power subsequently.
In any case, these Adivasis are destined to be helpless victims when they are caught in crossfire.
# “Adivasis are actively and willingly supporting the Maoists” in view of some experts
With a gun-barrel placed on a head, one does not know how else any non-Adivasis would react, especially when police station is very far-far-away and police had other priorities to attend to, like guarding better-off people.
The successive governments have failed miserably in providing any semblance of security to the Adivasis areas, where their liberty and safety have been simply handed over to the ever-increasing marauding army of Maoist.
The state simply preferred to look the other way when Maoist armed to the teeth took administrative control of the Adivasis areas away from them. Now, what choices do Adivasis have in front of a gun-barrel that can fire recklessly?
# Some journalists have raised queries like “why the Harijans have accessed the political system, have thrown up the likes of vocal political leader like Mayawati while the Adivasis are without any strong political leader?”
Harijans gained tremendously and learned many things from the people belonging to the upper castes / classes as they always managed to live along the mainstream Indian society. Despite facing a host of problems, Harijans were always exposed, in fact, experienced art of politics from close vicinity. Whereas, the Adivasis followed their own political system and they generally lived in remote places dominated by their own tribesmen.
Majority of Harijans followed Hinduism as a result they formed a cohesive and homogeneous political force. Adivasis, on the other hand, are divided into heterogeneous tribes; each with their distinctive languages, culture, geographical identity, etc and in general these people like to stick with people of their own tribe.
Harijans always enjoyed better infrastructural facilities, like, schools / colleges with teachers, better roads, longer hours of electricity, etc.; as a result they were comparatively superior in terms of education and political awareness. Adivasis too have gained from affirmative actions but their growth has been slowed down because of the absence of infrastructural facilities. Strangely, Government provides Adivasis with reservation facilities but schools / teachers are missing in their villages.
It may also be said that the Christian Missionaries along with their educational institutions credited with bringing tribals to the fore in Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal, Chattisgarh etc.; but they served primarily a minority section of the Adivasis, however they are able to call the shots politically in a big way. More importantly, they have managed to split vertically, the Adivasis communities – this had further complicated the process of integration among the tribals to be able to throw up the likes of Babu Jagjivan Ram, Kanshi Ram, or Mayawati.
Now the political and social scenarios of Adivasis are changing fast, hopefully the positive results of the same shall be visible in coming years.
# According to some experts “the Government must start the military approach, start warfare to wrest control of the lost area and begin area domination in tribal areas.”
In not so distant past, the Indian Government has abandoned and left the Adivasis to fend for them. Thus Government left fields open for Maoist to take control of the Adivasis areas, now known as Red-Corridor. That was first grave mistake and now people blame the Adivasis for ceding control to Maoist.
Both social justice and rule of law should travel run parallel in the Adivasis areas, just like a railway track, any breach in such policy-track shall only worsen the already fragile scenario. Rule of law in the present context, does not mean killing of innocent and / or Adivasis caught in a cross-fire; it would mean, restoring democratic norms and approach, that our Nation has preferred to go along with.
People say that ignorance is bliss but in this case many innocents may continue to suffer due to such misleading assumptions as the ones spelled out by our so-called experts. May we choose the right path and help Adivasis in coming out of vicious circle of poverty and maoists’ violence, they find themselves now.
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