Though typical of the Western mindset of first knowingly committing sins for their own short term selfish ends followed by repentance after ages, the recent scenes from Australian parliament of their new Prime Minister apologizing to Australia’s indigenous population was a highly symbolic act. A similar apology is long overdue from the British to the Indian people for their atrocities and plunder during 200 years of loot, but is yet to happen. The Australian apology makes sense within India too. Adivasis - the descendents of original tribes of India who decided not to change their lifestyle with the times - are facing very high discrimination and neglect in a modern democratic India. The socio-economic status of Adivasis in India is pathetic and all other Indians are equally responsible for their horrific conditions. In every sense, Adivasis happen to be the minority community in our society and they alone should qualify to enjoy all protection as the minorities in a democratic secular country like India.
A recent news item about an Adivasi tribe settled in the forest suburbs of the capital city of Kerala, one of the most socially developed states in India, is enough to highlight the levels of misery they have fallen to. A visiting journalist noticed an incomprehensible reluctance among all house owners while stating their most difficult concerns. He was expecting lack of food or clothing or sanitation facilities in response. But to our greatest horror we can hear lack of burial ground as the answer. Due to lack of land, the dead are buried within the ramshackle houses and there are already a few such burials inside each house. Only those of us with no conscience at all can listen to such truthful statements without any pain inside. Some of them went on to say that as soon a member falls sick the whole family starts worrying about the lack of space in their overcrowded burial hut cum house. It is a shame that we are unable to find a solution to the land problem of these original owners of our entire land.
Adivasis, as their name suggests, are the confirmed descendents of the original dwellers of this land. While most of our forefathers moved out of the forests, the Adivasis stayed on thanks to their insatiable love for Mother Nature. They are Nature’s children and should have the first preference in any land distribution exercise. The case of Adivasis of India is not exactly like the aborigines of Australia. In Australia it was foreigners who deprived the aborigines of their land, while in India it is the rest of Indians who are doing so. Adivasis are reluctant and resistant to change and those who wield power are unwilling to protect them as the real minorities. Many a time they are patronized by the dominant communities only for their own selfish requirements. Adivasis are used as disposable instruments in the land grabbing game played out by the rival migrant communities in many parts of India.
Children have future only if the mother has one. When greedy men are hell bound to grab land at any cost, there is very little that can be done to the forest lands which mothers the Adivasis. And if the whole effort is in an organized manner by organized communities, Adivasis have very little chances of survival. There has been a steady decline in the population of Adivasis since our liberation from British in 1947. As far as Adivasis are concerned, the liberation has been meaningless because only the colour of rulers have changed. Greedy migrant invaders from within India are not only grabbing their lands but destroying their livelihood as well. There are enough reasons to believe that the organized migrant communities have long term agenda and some of them are playing the game at the behest of their international masters.
Reason for the present condition of Adivasis in our country is so very obvious. Those without a collective identity are nobodies in an ocean of one billion in contemporary India. Collective bargaining (and blackmailing) becomes the only method of getting what is legitimately due (and more than that) in an unfair system. Universal franchise in a democracy is meaningful only if all beneficiaries are minimum educated to utilise the systems. Each Adivasi in India has a theoretical vote, but most of them do not know how to use and utilize the system to get what is legitimately theirs. Regular political parties and politicians ignore them because they know for sure that Adivasis do not know how to utilize opportunities in a democracy. And it is decades before any crafty politician will rise from Adivasi ranks to demand their legitimate due.
If the current trend continues, days are not far when we have to struggle to find an Adivasi community in India. Just like forest lands and wild animals, Adivasis are also losing out to the clever manipulative skills of modern Indians. These communities are resolute in displacing Adivasis from their lands. One visit to the northern districts of Kerala is enough to learn about this. The migrants have captured everything and their symbols now dominate the landscape of geography, economics and politics of these erstwhile Adivasi areas. The loud voices of looters resonate in lawmaking chambers and not the feeble cries of the looted. The poor and innocent Adivasis have lost their lands to the peanut monies and liquor offered by the clever and manipulative migrants. All that they can expect now is an apology and that too after a few decades.
In a modern secular democratic country like India, the minority status must go to those communities that are socially and economically backward and are also less in numbers. Co-existence of secularism and religious minorities does not make any sense and logic. It is a contradiction in every sense of the term. All citizens are equal irrespective of religion, colour and race – that is the true essence of a socialist democracy. But in India today we find each and every religion and caste clamoring for ‘minority’ or ‘backward’ status. Our politics of short sightedness is encouraging such a tendency which is what keep India undeveloped and underdeveloped forever. Adivasis of India are the lone legitimate minority communities and drastic land reforms are long overdue for giving back their legitimate lands.