As a tool for development, after the compassionate efforts of the missionaries, Scheduled Tribe status has been the most effective tool of tribal development. All other government interventions have failed miserably because of corrupt administration.
Mr. Patil says “the settlers in the tea estates have tended to lose their tribal characteristics in the new surroundings”. Therefore, they are not eligible for the Scheduled Tribe status.
Well, who does not change in characteristics? Haven’t you Mr Patil? Pick anybody who has taken advantage of the reservation policy and joined government service? Doesn’t he or she change in characteristics? And, isn’t that change desirable?
Often, the service itself requires government servants to be relocated at different parts of the country. Doesn’t it change their characteristics? Sure, it does. If it does, then by your flawed logic all such government servants should lose their ST status.
If for some reason best known to you these government servants’ tribal characteristics doesn’t change despite job related relocations then what makes you think that the tribal characteristics of adivasis of Tea Gardens of Assam have been lost. You should realize that at the time these adivasis were brought to Assam as indentured labourers, India was under British rule and being indentured, they were forced to settle there.
If today’s government servants and their descendents do not lose their ST status despite relocation due to their jobs why should the descendents of Assam’s tea tribes?
If indignity is the hitch, then haven’t these descendants of Jharkhandi tribes become indigenous to the place with over a hundred or perhaps hundred and fifty years of settlement in the state? For sure their geneology, culture and customs haven’t changed and I also believe a solution can be found out if the government has the will.
Jharkhandi tribes, whose place of origin is believed to be the Chota Nagpur Plateau, are dispersed in the states of Jharkhand, Bengal, Orissa and Assam. If Jharkhand, Bengal and Orissa have accorded the ST status to these tribes why not Assam?
Even if one were to agree with the Minister on the loss of tribal characteristics (which of course is not true) then what changes have they acquired? Incidentally, most of these districts are tribal districts and if they have changed then that change can only be tribal since one acquires changes based on his or her surroundings.
Adivasi means, original inhabitants, and Mr. Patil should realize that the adivasis who belong to the dark skinned dravidian stock are the oldest inhabitants of India. The fair skinned Aryans came much later. Is it fair that the oldest inhabitants of India should also be the most backward?
I had the opportunity to travel through one of these Tea Gardens, thanks to a land slide and the resultant change of route. I was appalled to see the pathetic conditions in which my fellow tribals work and live. It reminded me of the medieval lord and serf society which I have only seen through books. Mr. Patil, please pay a disguised visit to one these tea estates and you may see it for yourself.
To add a twist to the tail, as regards change in characteristics, Mr. Patil, haven’t we all evolved from the apes? And just because your forefathers saw light a little early, will you turn the other way and deny the opportunity to my fellow down trodden brethren to catch up with you?
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Can somebody pass on this letter to the Union Home Minister, Mr. Shivraj Patil. If not, please pass it on to all Jharkhandi groups and other tribal friends. Let this reach all tribals on the web.