While moving from Kerala to Tamil Nadu as part of my Jansatyagra Samwaad yatra, it has struck me that a hidden politics is being played in re-organizing the state. There are several instances where you can find the same group of adivasis divided into two or more parts and settled in adjacent states. For instance, there are groups like Kuruba, Paniya in Tamil Nadu Kerala, and Karnataka. Bhil adivasis are settled in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarath andMaharashtra. On the hill top in Anaimalai in Pollachi, local adivasis told me that for them a town in Kerala is much closer than a town in Tamil Nadu. Often there are cross-border marriages as there is only a stream that is dividing two communities.
Because adivasi groups are split between different states it is more difficult for them to organize themselves as a single voice. In such a situation main-stream groups keep an upper hand in the politics of the state and hence are able to dominate adivasis. Any rational mind would recognize that an adivasi state could have been carved out of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. There could have been a governance system where adivasis will have a say in terms of their culture and resources. The language-based organization of the Indian state has been clearly beneficial to the mainstream and has been detrimental to adivasis. At the moment, they are constantly in confrontation with the non-adivasis and are struggling for their own survival.
The same thing has already happened in other parts of the country as well. Part of the tribal belt was in Madhya Pradesh and other part was in Jharkhand and Orissa. It was only after many years of struggle that a decision was taken to separate the adivasi belt into Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. By the time this decision was taken, it was too late and the so called main-stream population was already occupying important places of domination. Travelling to Bundelkhand I have seen how a prosperous region was cut into pieces. Part of it is in Madhya Pradesh and another part is in Uttar Pradesh. Bundelkhand that was at one time prosperous is now the poorest region in both the states. While there are very rich feudal lords, one can find large number of impoverished people struggling for justice. When I look at the number of places where you find instances of adivasi groups being split between two or more neighbouring states, I do not think this has happened unintentionally: its seems like a policy of the Government of India to cut them into pieces to prevent the emergence of a strong adivasi voice.
The reasons for this deep politics of division are not so difficult to see. Adivasi areas are rich in resources like forests, water, and minerals and they are ripe for exploitation. The resource rich Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh have become pockets of exploitation for national and multi-national companies. In the name of development, adivasis are driven out of their villages and this displacement has come to a level that there are both non-violent and violent movements trying to resist it. A total lack of respect for the adivasi way of living and their relationship with nature has led to constant conflict between the adivasi communities and the rulers of the state. I’ve seen similar processes of displacement recently in Attapadi. Adivasi land is being encroached upon by companies that are putting up wind-mills or others who are establishing resorts. Many plantation companies have taken much of their fertile land while the local adivasis are struggling for 1 acre of land.
In this competition for grabbing resources and making money, we have lost respect for people and culture. It appears that the so-called mainstream cannot tolerate plurality. Just like inAmericawhere immigrants are expected to behave like Americans, so also here the so-called mainstream Indians will not tolerate anything other than their culture and their education. Adivasis are losing their faith in a system that is being managed in the interest of the powerful. Despite their rich tradition and culture they find themselves in a situation where they are getting pushed into colonies in their own country, getting repeatedly displaced in the name of development, receiving a second class citizen treatment and are getting culturally divided.
Unfortunately this has also led to a situation in which the armed groups are finding a space to grow in the adivasi belt ofIndia. Even at this stage, rather than understanding their problem, rather than finding a solution to their problem, we are trying to use police and military to address the problem. In a recent workshop organized by Ekta Parishad inRanchi, leaders of adivasi communities who assembled from different parts ofIndiasaid, in an appeal, that “in the name of development you are perpetuating violence in our society. When we oppose it, you are sending police and military to perpetuate further violence into our society. When the naxalites arrive with their guns in the name of protecting us, they are perpetuating violence into our society. Every intervention by outsiders who do not understand our traditions and cultures makes our lives miserable. Why can’t you understand our aspirations and make plans accordingly.” The so-called civilized society has to learn to take into account the aspirations of people at the bottom whether they are adivasis, dalits or fisherfolks. A happy and a prosperousIndiacannot be created just by dividing and ruling people. It demands a lot more understanding and respect for plurality.
PV Rajagopal (known as Rajaji) is from a Gandhian family and schooling in southIndiaand he came to the northern part ofIndiain 1970 during Mahatma Gandhi’s 100 birth centaury. Rajaji began his work on non-violence when he spent 6 years working with the dacoits (outlaws) in Chambal region ofIndia. In 1976 more than 500 people gave up arms and moved into settled life and much of this was the result of hard work of Rajaji and others. From here he spent the next fifteen years building the capacity of rural youth through training programs and different initiatives. In 1993 became the Secretary of Gandhi Peace Foundation, and subsequently was the Vice-Chair. In the mid-1990s the work of Rajaji was galvanized into a mass movement. In 1999-2000 he began to carry out long-marches across the country in different states. In 2007 he carried out the largest non-violent march which was known as the Janadesh 2007. In this he led 25,000 on a one-month march fromGwaliortoDelhi. In 2012 Rajagopal will be leading a march of 100,000 people to the capital of the nation to demand peoples control over land and livelihood resources.