Poetic Rebuttal To The Anti-Adivasi Ad By Jharkhand Government

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On 9th of August, the United Nations celebrated the “International Day of the World Indigenous People” with an aim to empower them. In India, particularly in Central India, the people from the Indigenous community prefer to call themselves, the Adivasis. In plain simple Hindi language, Adivasis means the original inhabitants.

Now let me clearly define the Indigenous People by quoting the United Nation:

Indigenous peoples are inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of relating to people and the environment. They have retained social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live. Despite their cultural differences, indigenous peoples from around the world share common problems related to the protection of their rights as distinct peoples. Indigenous peoples have sought recognition of their identities, way of life and their right to traditional lands, territories and natural resources for years, yet throughout history their rights have always been violated. Indigenous peoples today, are arguably among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups of people in the world. The international community now recognizes that special measures are required to protect their rights and maintain their distinct cultures and way of life. (Source: UN)

In my Jharkhand state too, the state Government observed the “International Day of the World Indigenous People” with the great pomp and show.

But on 11th of August, the incumbent BJP Government forgot all about that. It went ahead and deliberately denigrated and deeply offended the Adivasi community, not only of my state but of our entire country by taking out this full page front page insulting advertisement in almost all the local newspapers of the state, as shown below.

Anti-Adivasi Ad by Jharkhand Government

Couple of days later, on 15th of August, our India celebrated 70 years of its independence. Yet, the said democratic government ad took us back to pre-independence era, when our society was divided along the lines of the despicable caste and class hierarchies. The over-use of the patronizing and the condescending words not only insults the Adivasi community but they also continue to propagate the typical stereotyping of the Adivasi society. The tone and the tenor of the message reinforce the deep-seated mentality of caste and class hierarchy in our Indian society. Even after the seven decades of independence, the mindset of the ruling class remains the same.

क्यों इन भोले-भाले, अबोध, अज्ञानी, गरीब और वनवासियों के धर्मान्तरण पर जोर देते हैं. Why are you pressurizing these innocent, chaste, ignorant and forest-dweller into religious conversion?
यह बेचारे तो ईसा और मोहम्मद में भेद नहीं कर सकते और न आपके धर्मोपदेश को समझने की पात्रता रखतें हैं. These poor do not know the different between Jesus and Mohammad; and they do not have the capability to understand your religious sermons.
यह तो गाए के सामान मूक और सरल हैं. They are like cow, silent and simple.
जिन भोले-भाले अनपढ़ दलितों और वनवासियों की गरीबी का दोहन करके आप ईसाई बनाते हैं

वे ईसा के नहीं ‘चावल’ अर्थात पेट के लिए ईसाई होते हैं.

You exploit these innocent, uneducated Dalit and Forest-dwellers to convert into Christianity.

They convert not because of the Jesus but because they have hungry stomach.

To quote a writer, Richelle E. Goodrich: “Their hurtful words are such that pierce the heart and weigh the soul.” Needless to say, there is lot of anger among the Adivasi community after the publication and the circulation of the said Anti-Adivasi advertisement in a state created for the welfare of the Adivasi population.

Earlier I wanted to write an angry rebuttal to the said ad, but then I came across an eloquent Hindi poem written by the brilliant poet Mahdev Toppo in 1997, let me share his two decades old poem here.

किताब: जंगल पहाड़ के पाठ

कवि: श्री महादेव टोप्पो

तुम्हे जो लिखना है लिखो,

तुम्हे जो छापना है छापो,


मैं कुछ नहीं बोलूंगा|


Whatever you want to write, do write,

Whatever you want to print, do print,


I am not going to say anything.

भला लिखना,

हल, कुदाल, तीर, चलाने वाले को शोभा देता है, क्या?



Does not befit the people who use Ploughs, Spades, Arrows

Does it?

तुम कहो,

जो कहना चाहते हो,

कहो मैं जंगली हूँ,

मैं मान लूँगा,

तुम कहो मैं वनवासी हूँ,

मैं मान लूँगा.

You say,

Whatever you want to say,

Brand me as wild,

I will agree,

You label me as forest-dweller,

I will agree.

इस देश मैं ही नहीं, पुरे विश्व में,

तुम्हारे पास कलम है, तिजोरी है, सत्ता है, कानून है, अखबार है,

सबसे बड़ी बात है की,

तुम्हारे पास पुलिस है, सेना है

आखिर क्या नहीं है, तुम्हारे पास?

Not only in this country, but in entire world,

You have Pen, Resources, Government, Law, Newspapers

Even bigger talking point is

You have Police, Army

और ऐसे में मेरी हिम्मत कहाँ की कुछ कहूँ?

तुम चाहे जो कुछ कहो मेरे बारे में,

मान लूँगा माई-बाप,

सिवा इसके की कहो तुम स्वयं को मनुष्य.

And then how can I dare to speak anything,

You can say anything about me,

I will agree,

Except for this point that you are human.

It is interesting that this poem written before the creation of Jharkhand state aptly conveys the feelings of the Adivasi society of our county.  To conclude, if BJP Government is really sincere about the religious-conversion of Adivasis in my Jharkhand state, then it should recognize their “Sarna-Dharam”, sooner rather than later.

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Sameer Bhagat

Written by

Social-Activist. Author of SALVAGING ADIDWEEP.


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