A sinister move to divide Adivasi Community and set them against each other is the unkindest cut of all.
A new ‘’back door’ has been opened to divide Adivasis and distance themselves from each other. India’s prime minister, on his official visit to Santal Pargana in Jharkhand on 6th March 2017, laid the foundation stone of a bridge over the Ganga that will join Jharkhand and Bihar. At the same time, he also inaugurated the “Special Primitive Tribe Police Battalion’, exclusively composed of men and women from primitive tribes. It has now come to light that this Battalion had already been constituted and has been functional, but they were just lined up again to make a show that the PM is himself inaugurating it. As many as 956 persons, including 252 women, of different primitive tribes were selected. The women will be posted as constables. The men will form the Special Primitive Tribe Police Battalion which will be patterned after Central Para-military Force. What exactly will be the nature of the task that it will perform has not been disclosed yet. The important thing is they will be employed by the govt and will have a stable income whereas the youth from the general tribes will still be hunting for jobs.
The strategy is to break Adivasi unity. There are 32 tribes in Jharkhand and nine have been tagged as Promitive Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs). These tribal groups are Asur, Birhor, Hill Kharia, Birajia, Korwa, Parahiya (Baiga), Sabar, Mal Pahariya and Souriya Pahariya, constituting a population of 2.23 lakh out of the total 70.87 lakh tribal population The differentiating factor is a matter of concern in so far as Adivasi Community will be distancing from each other and it will be more difficult for them to struggle together for their economic, social, cultural and political rights. This is precisely what the ruling class wants to see happen. A pertinent example is how two Paharia persons who had registered themselves as independent candidates in the by-poll for a vacant Assembly seat in Jharkhand have formally announced their support to the ruling party. This is just one day after the prime minister announced the formation of Special Primitive Tribe Police Battalion. So the govt can go on throwing freebies at these marginalized people and they will continue to fall for it.
Who are the ‘Primitive Tribals’?
First of all, the very labelling is wrong. Whether they come under general Adivasi or Primitive Adivasi, they all are Adivasis. So they are one people. The Primitive Tribal Groups are the most neglected section of the population. Being basically landless, they depend on forest produce for a living with very low educational levels and subject to endemic diseases.
It is a cruel injustice to not only segregate them from one another but also place them against each other to serve the political convenience of the ruling class. Seeing the present plight of the primitive tribes, the govt should be forthcoming with meaningful and effective efforts to lift them out of their dire economic poverty and social weaknesses. A speedy implementation of Forest Rights Act, 2006 whereby each family will have at least 2 hectares (5 acres) of patta land will go a long way towards a self-sustaining economy. The community as a whole cannot develop just by recruiting a few of them ( 956 from among 2.23 lakh) into police force. It will only create economic disparity within the community. In other words their well-being as a community can come about only through agricultural development. And for that to happen, each family should have a viable amount of land, boosted with irrigation facilities. The education of their children should take place in their mother-tongue. Their young women should be trained in basic health service using their traditional knowledge and practice of herbs and roots.
The traditional Adivasi equalitarian community is disappearing. The traditional Adivasi Community was characterized by equality, cooperation, community-sense, consensus decision-making. It is being broken into non-caring individuals by the capitalist order. The traditional Adivasi value system holds the community as supreme . Then comes the family and only then the individual person. In other words, the individual Adivasi has his/her identity only as a member of the community. And the Adivasi Community is predominantly an agrarian community and jal, jangal, jamin are their life-source. But what the govt is doing is taking away their life-source and opens the way for a few of them to find employment outside their village and outside the agrarian economy. These individuals become urbanized and are alienated from their community and very few extend solidarity to the struggles their own people are waging against displacement and land alienation. It has come to a point that the affected Adivasis have taken it upon themselves to struggle for their rights and not count on their kith and kin who have been co-opted into the capitalist mainstream. Is it any wonder then that the Adivasis in rural areas are no more prepared to go on suffering the exploitation and oppression by the ruling capitalist class which is using the govt as a convenient tool to usurp the mineral-and-forest-rich land to reap immense profit. The corporates, the business class, the urban middle class, the govt bureaucracy from top to bottom, the police & para-military forces, most of the print & electronic media, most political parties all have become the enemy of the Adivasi.
What task will be given to these newly recruited PVTG para-military force is another point of concern. Hoping against hope they will not be forced into the so-called ‘anti-Maoist’ operation which in effect would mean they will fight other adivasis and Moolvasis. That will be the unkindest cut of all.