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Adivasis On A Razor’s Edge

Adivasis On A Razor’s Edge

India’s Adivasis are on a razor’s edge. That is how Jharkhandi Adivasi Gladson Dungdung would describe the precarious condition of his people in the wake of the CAA-NRC-NPR threat. 

Dungdung has a point. Researcher and writer, he is more of an activist with his ear to the ground. In a recent YouTube video, Dungdung calls attention to his fellow Adivasis not to swallow the BJP government’s move to count, recount and discount Indian citizens on the yardstick of religion and political compulsions.   

Dungdung points out that the Adivasis living in the 5th Schedule areas have much to fear if NRC comes into force. The Fifth Schedule of the Constitution deals with the administration and control of Scheduled Areas as well as of Scheduled Tribes in these areas. He advises caution while hearing PM Narendra Modi’s favourite oft-repeated claim that Modi and his party enjoy the green signal of 130 crore Indians. If the claim is genuine, then, would it not be foolhardy for Modi to launch a nation-wide program to tell the citizens to prove their citizenship, questions Dungdung with amusement.   ‘If they had voted you to power according to your claim, why do you doubt their authenticity as citizens? That goes to say that you are questioning your own authority as Prime Minister who was voted into power by people having suspected citizenship.’    Dungdung’s logical counter is valid.

But, then, logic and veracity are not the strong points of the ruling party. Pointing out such illogical and contradictory confabulations of Modi-Shah combine, Dungdung spells out the hidden agenda of the RSS. He thinks that, on the occasion of the forthcoming 100-year celebrations, the RSS ‘wants to show that all are Hindus in India and the non-Hindus have no place.’ Haven’t the Sangh Parivar devotees been shouting from rooftops that non-Hindus are not welcome in India which they call Hindustan?

The most chilling testimony is the Hindu Raksha Dal owning responsibility for the masked attack in the JNU campus on January 5th. The outfit leader Pinki Chowdhury, alias Upendra Tomar, has openly declared the agenda: “Our boys have done it. In future too we will take action in other universities if someone tries to indulge in anti-national ways. We take full responsibility for all the Hindutvawadi activities. Talk about the interest of the nation.” (https://youtu.be/NWVwvat3394)

Stressing the precariousness of the Adivasis in the face of the citizenship legislation and registration, Dungdung says that if NRC is done in the 5th Schedule areas, large numbers of Adivasis will be pushed out of these areas. The 5th Schedule areas, guaranteeing special legislative protection for Adivasis, are Jharkhand, Orissa, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan and Gujarat. These areas have special legislative protection for Adivasis and their place of living.    Once NRC is done, many Adivasis will be victimized. How are those who were displaced from their homes by outsiders, by the so-called development programs and by quarries, mines and factories, able to produce their ancestral papers?   Moreover, there will be large scale migration of non-Adivasis into the 5th Schedule protected areas. The land in these areas is protected by century-old Tenancy laws according to which land is not a commercial or transferable commodity for sale or purchase. The invasion of unregistered people, following NRC, will alter the demography and cultural contours. Tenancy laws may be drastically changed by an unfeeling government.  

Dungdung speaks about the forest dweller Adivasis who were expelled from Saranda forest in Jharkhand, for example. Occupants of 17 villages do not have land papers, not even voter ID or ration card. In 1880-82 the British threw them out of their homestead land, which was then a forested surrounding. The British interest was to claim rights over forests. In the 1980 Jungle Andolan, the thrown out people or their descendants returned to their land.  According to the Forest Act, those who occupied the forest before December 2005 were to get ‘patta’ (land registration). But, so far, they have not got it. What will happen to these people if NRC comes into force?

He has a strong point to make about the Adivasi identity which has its own distinctiveness and greatness. It cannot be surrendered to be sacrificed by the emergent Hindutva forces. These forces do not accord the aboriginal or earliest settler status to Adivasis in India. Rather, it is the Aryan Hindutva forces that entered India centuries later who claim today authority over India making it their Hindustan. Majoritarianism does not mean Indianness! Be warned, he says.   

Hence, Dungdung advises caution to his fellow folks and urges them to oppose CAA, NRC and NPR in toto which are not in the interest of the citizens in general and are drastically harmful to the Adivasis.

(Published on 20th January 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 04)