Sunday, December 16, 2007

Does the country need another militant outfit?

Today, if Adivasis are taking up arms, it is the government that is responsible for it.

If media reports about the involvement of an Adivasi outfit in the December 13 bomb blast of Rajdhani Express is true, it spells bad news for the state as well as the Adivasis of Assam and other places where Jharkhandi tribes exist. It will add another undesirable chapter to militancy in this country.

Today, if Adivasis have resorted to taking up arms it is because they have been betrayed by successive governments of Assam. Ever since the first batch of adivasis was brought to Assam during the British rule the community has been an exploited and neglected lot.

One can understand the pre-independence exploitation and neglect by the colonial masters, but how can one excuse the continual exploitation and neglect of a community that has contributed so much for the economic prosperity of Assam, after independence. Today, the adivasis form the lowest strata of Assamese society.

Ethnic affinity knows no boundaries and that has been amply demonstrated umpteen number of times in the past. The very recent one being the sharp reaction of Tamils to the tough handling of Tamil demonstrators in Malaysia by the local authorities. In a country like India where political boundaries were drawn arbitrarily rendering people of one ethnicity divided between several states, the affinity is even stronger. Therefore, this Adivasi miltant outfit’s arrival, which was much publicized by the local media, can potentially distort peace in all the states where Adivasis exist.

Already, this nation has bled enough. Do we need another militant outfit to inflict wounds at this great country of ancient people and cultures?

It is imperative for the governments in Assam and the Centre to recognize the danger and concede the justified demands of Adivasis.

While it is true that the term Adivasi encapsulates within itself a conglomeration of Jharkhandi tribes, the fact is that the Adivasi community of Jharkhandi descent is essentially one ethnic block and shares a common dialect ‘Sadri’ though there may be minor variations in their culture. It should also be noted that though the state of Jharkhand was created recently, the Jharkhand movement itself dates back to the pre-independence era.

Some of them who are opposing the grant of ST status for Adivasis on the premise that it “would adversely affect the status of the state’s indigenous people and would contribute towards further deterioration of their socio-political and economic condition”, seem to go by the premise that the “well being of a community is only possible by domination of another”. Such flawed logic is untenable. Also, perhaps, the indiginity clause itself needs some reconsideration.

On the one hand these opponents talk about integration of the Adivasis with the Assamese society while on the other they want to deny them their basic citizenship rights. Ironically, they refer to the Adivasis, quite ignominiously, as Tea Tribes but they do not want the government to grant them Scheduled Tribe status.

If the governments decide not to grant ST status with full citizenship rights to the Adivasis of Assam, it would be akin to propagating apartheid rule, something that has almost vanished from the face of this earth, but is so reminiscent of the obnoxious colonial past. It would be an anachronism in an age when migrant people of Indian origin have grown to the level of heads of state in several countries.

Manoj Tirkey - POLEMICS - Diversity of views - ACADEMIA - An academic discourse
My sincere apologies if I have hurt anybody’s sentiments unintentionally.
Please pass it on to all Jharkhandi groups and other adivasi friends.
Wish you a Merry Christmas and a very happy & prosperous New Year.
Response to comments:

1. As regards the question - who is opposing ST status for the adivasis, if it was meant to be one, I have already discussed in my earlier blogs. But I may mention here that there appears to be a tacit endorsement of the opposition by some non ST people through some umbrella organizations.
2. As regards the decreasing share in the ST pie, it is for the government to do the adjustments in the quota between various categories. If not, despite the decrease, the pie needs to be shared between various tribal groups. This would empower the marginalized adivasis of Assam with the same benefits that are available to other STs in Assam. Conferring ST status will also enable them to contest elections in reserved constituencies.
3. The Gurjar claim for ST status is different from the claims of adivasis of Assam. To the best of my knowledge, while Gurjars are not a recognized tribal group any where in the country, the adivasis of Assam are recognized tribal groups in Jharkhand, Bengal, and Orissa.
4. As pointed out by Mr. Alok, ‘class difference’ within the tribal groups is evident but it is not unique to the tribes. Class difference is a generic phenomenon and is evident even in the so called communist countries. This class difference may partly be attributed to the different level of development of the states in which the tribal population is distributed. However, what concerns me more is the indifference that exists among the “upper class” within the tribes towards their less fortunate brethren. Perhaps, the distributed and detached upbringing of this class of tribals is partly responsible for this apathy.
5. Regarding Meenas cornering 30% of the Civil Services, I think it is a matter of personal choice. The ‘upper class’ among the Jharkhandi tribals are the ones whose development is generally missionaries led. To this set of second or third generation educated tribals a government job is increasingly becoming a taboo – not worth the effort; thanks to the widening gap in the remuneration between the private sector and the government sector. This is the generation which does not bother much about reservation and ST status. That also partly explains their indifference towards the less fortunate tribals. The argument that this class of tribals is snatching away opportunities at colleges and institutes from less fortunate brethren is true but unfair because the same applies to all categories including the General Category; such is the nature of competition.
6. Personally, I am not averse to the idea of an income criterion for all categories. But there is a caveat; the employers have to be more equitable and just in recruiting staff. There is evidence of caste & religion based discrimination in recruitments (See S Thorat & P Attewell’s article published in Economic and Political Weekly of 13-19 October, 2007)

Manoj Tirkey - POLEMICS - Diversity of views - ACADEMIA - An academic discourse


Anonymous said...

Johar Manoj,

Great article I will link it from


HOMESHA said...

Hi Manoj
Nice to see you blogging. Left Sabarmati, JNU?

Anyways, nice article. Good work.


The Ragpicker said...

Dear Mr. Tirkey,

Quite a logical analysis indeed. The question that often comes to my mind is - who is opposing ST status for tea-garden adivasis. Are they the STs of Assam themselves? The ST pie is getting smaller day-by-day. This is resulting in conflict among different tribes, the Gurjjar-Meena tussle is a very good example. For some time let us assume that adivasis are granted ST status in Assam, what after that? Are there enough jobs in a relatively less industrialised state like Assam? How many tea-garden workers or their children pass higher secondary school to avail themselves of the benefits of the hard-won ST status?

With time some tribes have become better than the others. Meenas for instance are grabbing most of the seats in ST category. The final results of Civil Services Examination 2006 show that of the 35 seats meant for STs 13 seats (about 30%) went to Meenas.

Among the Oraon, Mundas etc. also there is a visible 'class difference'. I know of families where out of the two brothers one is a class 1 government servant and the other is tilling the ancestral farmland. The civil servant's children are studying in English medium institutions and the farmer's children go to the village school. Will it be logical to put the two bunch of children in the same category - ST?

Please keep writing