Sowing seeds of hatred in Adivasi’s land

By Gladson Dungdung

Indian Currents 17 August, 2003

“Adivasis have their own culture, customs, rituals, practices and religious beliefsThey do not come under the purview of Caste system and Chatur Varna system of Hinduism. Most of the Tribals are beef-eaters because beef is the cheapest means of nutrition available to them. Tribals do not engage Hindu Pandits or Brahmins to perform their rituals”.

The Hindutava strategy of trying to depict Adivasis as Hindus in Adivasi dominated areas of Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh and other states. Recently, Sangh Pracharak & former Chief Minister of Jharkhand Babulal Marandi claimed that Adivasis are Hindus and they worship Hindu Gods and Goddesses. He justified that ‘every one who had links with the Sindhu Ghati (Sindhu Valley) was a Hindu because the word “Hindu” derives it’s meaning from Sindhu’ (Prasad, 2003: 5). Backing support to the Babulal Marandi’s statements, the new guard of Jharkhand Arjun Munda stated that there are lots of similarities between Adivasi religion and Hinduism. Hindu Gods are worshipped in many Adivasi festivals. Back seat driver of Hindutava wheels Shankaracharya of Kanchi Swami Jayendra Saraswati also tried to establish that Adivasis were Hindu by his lecture on ‘tribal identity’, at Shri Ranisati Mandir Committee in Ranchi on 3rd June 2003 in the presence of Chief Minister Arjun Munda. Next day he even installed an idol of Lord Hanuman at Gumla.

The other heroes of Sangh Parivar like Praveen Togadia and Dilip Singh Judeo are constantly creating hatred among Adivasi communities in Chhatisgarh and Madhya Pradesh in the name of protecting Hinduism and formation of a Hindu Rashtra. Praveen Togadia and Company is engaged in distributing Trisuls (tridents), idols of Hanuman and Ganesh among the Adivasi communities and Dilip Singh Judeo is busy in re-conversions. Recently, he claimed as usual that 200 Adivasis were re-converted to Hinduism from Christianity in his presence on 24 June 2003 at Parswani village in Mahasamund district of Chhatisgarh under “Ghar Vapsi” campaign.

It is obvious that the Sangh Parivar is seeking to kill two birds with a single communal blow. On the one hand Sangh Parivar is creating a rift among Adivasis by naming them Christian and non-Christian communities. The Sangh Parivar also claims that through reservation weapons the Christian Adivasis profess a foreign religion and hence they should not be entitled to reservation. On the other hand it is a known fact that the “Gondwana Sena” (army of Gond tribe) was formed to fight the Muslims. The Sangh Parivar claims that Rani Durgawati (the Gond queen) was defeated by one of Akbar’s general 439 years ago and that the Muslims are enemies of Adivasis.

The Adivasis today are not ready to accept Sangh Parivar’s view. For instance, Adivasis of Jharkhand claim that they are the first inhabitants of the area and ‘Sarna’ is their religion, which is independent and that nobody will be allowed to tarnish the independent identity of the Adivasi community. The Central Committee of the Sarna society passed a resolution and declared that ‘Adivasis are not Hindus, they are Sarnas’. The Santhal Samaj (an organization of Santhal Adivasis) threatened Babulal Marandi with dire consequences of boycotting him from the Santhal Samaj unless he withdraws his statement, which he had made earlier, that Adivasis were Hindus. The Adivasi MLAs of Jharkhad like Sawana Lakra, Deo Kumar and Stephan Marandi claimed that Adivasis whose parents belong to other religions are not Hindus. Adivasis have their own independent religion and nobody has a right to destroy their identity.

Sangh Parivar also claims that Adivasis are Hundus because their leader Birsa Munda had accepted Hinduism after renouncing Christianity. He wore the sacred thread, applied sandal paste on his forehead, worshiped Tulsi, prohibited cow slaughter, read Hindu scriptures and emphasized on austerity, purity and piety’. But the fact of the matter is that Birsa Munda always preached that ‘Singbonga’ (Almighty) is the only God. He never spoke about Hindu Gods and Goddesses.

There are numbers of references of distinction between Adivasis and Hindus, which prove that Adivasis are not Hindus. The two Indian epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata contain many references of wars between the Adivasis and the Hindus. ‘Eminent historians who have undertaken detailed research into the epic Ramayana (200 B.C to 500 B.C) have concluded that ‘Lanka’ the kingdom of the demonic king Ravana and ‘Krishkinda’ the homeland of the Vanaras (depicted as monkeys) were situated in the south of Chitrakuta hill and north of Narmada river in Central India. Accordingly, Ravana and his demons were an aboriginal tribe, most probably the Gond’ (Bijoy, 2002: 5). The Gonds even today consider Ravana, the villain of Ramayana, in high esteem as a chieftain. Meanwhile Rama, the hero of Ramayana, is also known for slaughtering the Rakshasas (demons) in the forest. The epic of Mahabharata also refers to the killing of Krishna by a Bhil Jaratha.

Adivasi archer Ekalavya was so skillful that the hero of the Pandavas, Arjuna, could not stand before him. But the Pandavas assaulted him, cut his thumb and destroyed his ability to fight and then fashioned a story in which Ekalavya accepted Drona as his Guru and surrendered his thumb as fees to him. It is a bitter fact that ‘right from the beginning the ‘Hindutava’ forces have considered and treated Adivasis as ‘junglees’, a term which originally means ‘Forest dwellers’. But in reality it is a derogatory word meaning ‘an uncivilized person’ (Louise, 2000: 4089).

Justice M।S.A. Siddiqui of the Delhi High Court passed a significant judgement stating that the Tribals listed in the Schedule Tribes are not covered by the Hindu Marriage Act. The judgement brings forth the truth that the Tribals are not Hindus. Similarly the Hindu Marriage Act 1955, the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 and the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956: none of these Acts are applicable to the Adivasis.

Adivasis have their own culture, customs, rituals, practices and religious beliefs। They do not come under the purview of Caste system and Chatur Varna system of Hinduism. Most of the Tribals are beef-eaters because beef is the cheapest means of nutrition available to them. Tribals do not engage Hindu Pandits or Brahmins to perform their rituals. It cannot be denied that some of the Adivasis have accepted Christianity and Hinduism under Article 25 of the Constitution. In fact, a trick is being played is by the Government of India’s Census Department, which lists all Sarnas and other Adivasis either as Hindus or Christians and their independent religion ‘Sarna’ is not mentioned at all.

It is an irony for a secular country like India, where the political parties ask for votes on the basis of religion and nobody bothers about it. A villain like Narendra Modi or Babulal Marandi is crowned a King as a reward for dividing people in the name of religion. When the Tribals were never Hindus, how can they be re-converted as Hindus? Also that any person converting Adivasis into any other religion shall be liable to be punished under anti-conversion laws in various states. But a person like Dilip Singh Judeo is rewarded as the Union Minister of State for Forest for reconverting Christian Adivasis into the Hindu fold but never punished. Even the Chief Minister of Jharkhand Arjun Munda accompanies the team involved in distribution of Trishuls (tridents), idols of Hanuman and Ganesh instead of providing jobs, basic needs and education to the people. It is a political conspiracy of the Sangh Parivar to oppress, suppress and depress Adivasis by dividing them, destroying their rich culture and encroaching onto their freedom so that they can monopolize over the Adivasi regions.

Today, it is a great challenge for Adivasis to preserve not only their identity and culture but also their independent religion from the propaganda of Hindutava forces. It is an immediate need to oppose those who propagate communal hatred among the Adivasi communities in the name of religion. Adivasis also need to be made aware of the more important issues facing the cross section of the society like poverty, unemployment, livelihood, health, education, generating awareness about religion and their rights and creating fraternity among Adivasi communities. It is the need of the hour to promote unity with diversity and communal harmony among the Adivasis so that they can fulfill the spirit of self-rule, self-dignity and self-determination.

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About Gladson Dungdung

Gladson Dungdung is a Human Rights Activist and Writer. He is the author of a book "Ulgulan Ka Sauda". He comes from the Indigenous community of Jharkhand. His family was displaced during the construction of Kelaghagh Dam situated at Simdega and his parents were brutally murdered in 1990 when he was only 12 years old therefore he had to undergo through a long struggle. Finally, he was able to complete the Post Graduate in Human Rights from IIHR, New Delhi and 18 months Internship Programme in Public Advocacy from the National Centre for Advocacy Studies, Pune. He is associated with the various organizations, campaigns and movements in India. He has under taken the Fact Finding Mission of 450 cases of Police Atrocities and Human Rights violation. He has trained 2000 professionals on Human Rights including Police Officers, Lawyers, Journalists, Teachers, Doctors, Psychiatrists, Elected Representatives and Social Activists. He writes regularly for the Daily Newspapers, Weeklies and Journals on the issues of indigenous people's rights, human rights and social change. He can be reached at gladsonhractivist@gmail.com

9 thoughts on “Sowing seeds of hatred in Adivasi’s land

  1. Your concept and interpretation of ramayana and mahabharatha is wrong. Please read the entire script and dont give your own imagination. Every one knows where is Lanka and who was ravan. Ravan was known as half brahmin and true devote of lord shiva. Original habitants in entire India from kabul to cambodia, from kailash to beach candy are known as dravidians. All the tribals belong to dravidian clan who mainly worship trees, rivers, animals like snakes, and lord shiva. Hindu is not a religion but a way of life and it can be understand that collection and practice of all ancient religions and culture of india. Christian missionaries are confusing poor tribals and converting them by bribing. All the tribals should come out and fight against the church and missionaries.

  2. There is no doubt, tribals will struggle for there survival and upliftment and the govt. will play its game of devisive polictics to make sure they are deprived of all their fundamental rights, and will always be looked down as a downtrodden social class! By the way – Eye opening article!

  3. Thanks Gladson, for arising the radical questions.

    In my view, all the comments listed above lack the insightful view. They’re impulsive without comprehending the actual facts and historic evidences. Mere a statement doesn’t make anyone fool. If someone has so much confidence in his opinion then he should have write it logically, not impulsively. And he is coward enough to reveal his name. In a democracy everyone has right to expression.

    I belong to the same downtrodden Tribal community. Here, I try to present some insight view being a tribal. I recalled an article written by one of JNU’s professors(I don’t remember his name) in a journal named “Akhand-Jyoti”,issued 1996 or 1997. He perfectly elaborated the agenda of Sangh Privaar as well as Christian Missionaries.

    Christian missionaries has their agenda to expand Christianity in Tribal belts; whether it is implemented through social services or education. whatever their motto but none can deny the fact that they empower the tribal. Whereas Hindutva organisations run their agenda just to counter Christianity. They impose Hindutva on tribal by saying “Hinduism is not just a religion but a way of life”. So, all the Bharatvasi are Hindu. what a rubbish logic?

    Tribal have their own way of life since pre-historic era; i.e. before the beginning of Vedic era. And this concept of Hinduism is derived from “Manu-smriti”.The tribal have always an independent identity and way of life.They are so primitive that they called themself “HOR” in Santhali which means human being. The caste system and administrative conventions of Aryan society is derived from or based on Manu-smriti. All the indigenous people were used to be addressed as “ANARYA” or “non Aryan”. So, where’s the question of tribal are Hindus?

    The Hindutva agenda is so deliberately configured that sometimes you get confused about independent tribal identity. For example they inducted their epics(Ramayana & Mahabharata)to the tribal’s verbal “AFSANA” and traditional songs,deliberately. Ironically, some Tribal believes Rama and Krishna were tribal. Secondly, in tribal area you’ll see they find a round stone in the tribal land and set up a memorial in the name of Hanuman. Tribal are very simple, they could not understand the agenda either of Hindutva or Christianity. They simply intimidated.

    I can say it confidently, that the Aryan has moulded other non Aryan Gods to their mould, like small stature gods of south and east; they look odds amongst the Hindu gods. Hindu gods are tall and handsome in looks… like Aryans. That means they have acquired others’ gods for the expansion of Hinduism. You could find many adoptions like this; if you observe minutely.

    Many tribes in India are beef eater and do not follow the rituals of Hindu when a person in the community die, they bury him into the earth unlike Hindu rituals. There’re many things which do not match with Hindu’s way. Hindus tried their best to merge tribal into their stream and finish their independent identity; but there are still many traces and traits which could not be destroyed.

    I do not understand what is the problem of theirs’ not giving us the separate identity. Harmony could be maintained by accepting the facts. There is no harm in this. I want to write more aspects in this topic but time won’t allowing me. It’s 2:30am.

    Note: If you’ve any disagreement,then post your mail in: smanoj0876@gmail.com ..I’ll appreciate your comments.

  4. I support the above strongly as luckily I have been through both the missionary schools in my childhood viz DAV (Dayanand Anglo Vedic) school and St. Paul’s School. I have been taught by Acharyas of Arya Samaj as well as Fathers of christian missionaries. Therefore I am amongst the few tribals who have seen both the worlds so closely.

    If some of them see it like the Christian Missionaries are bribing the people to convert them, I would say,”Yes, they are being bribed. They are being offered better education, better position in society, better health facilities and many more things of social upliftment.” On the other hand what do Hindu Missionaries provide? Even if a tribal converts to be a hindu, does he enjoy same social equality as other hindus? He is still called “Adivasi” derogatorily. Deprived of social equality a tribal man can never progress at par with others and as a result is left behind in terms of education, money and all other walks of life.

    In my childhood days I could not understand why I was not allowed to sit in front for the hawans conducted at my DAV School every saturday. I didn’t understand why temple floors were washed whenever I visited them. I never understood why they wrote “Arya” means “superior” and “cultured” in their textbooks and “Adivasi” were referred to be uncultured. I never understood as a child why we were forced to mug up Ramayana and Mahabharata as a compulsory part of our syllabus in DAV. In St. Paul’s school they never imposed Bible on anyone. In St. Paul’s School everyone took pride in being a member of the Christmas choir, even the hindus……but I didn’t feel the same way in case of hawans in DAV.

    I presented this comparison just to bring about how fierce is the mentality of Hindu missionaries………they just want to increase their count but don’t want to give an equal status to tribals……Now it is for u all to justify..

    India is a secular democratic republic and everyone is allowed to preach their religion………but just look at the way the Hindus preach and the christians preach……the hindus distribute weapons (trishuls), on the other hand christians propagate education…..Now if this method of Christian Missionaries is a huge success, why there’s this hell lot of hue n cry?? can’t these Hindu Missionaries learn from the Chriatian Missionaries n adopt the same techniques?? After all everybody is free to practice any religion, it’s all about who can influence more and how.

    Instead of digging up the past why can’t these people look forward…..to spread good moral values, to spread peace, to spread basic amenities of life, to spread compassion…..Why standing against each other?? Why not hand in hand?? Finally it will totally be upto the tribal people…….they’ll accept whatever is the good and benificial for them……n those who need not go either ways will be those who accept their culture and religion as a separate identity. Whether they are able to bag this status legally or not is totally upto them n the learned people of theirs………Government is nobody to force any specific religion upon anyone.

  5. An absolutely Idiotic and Mindless article. I can’t understand as to how respectable newspapers and magazines allow such one-sided articles to be published. Why can’t these foolish Christian Missionaries leave our Nation. Each and every person shall understand and note one thing very clearly, that India is a Hindu Nation and all the Adivasis, Tribals, SC’s, ST’s etc are all Hindus. I warn all the Christian and all other Non-Hindu organizations that any atempt of Maligning the Sacred Hindu Dharma will be dealt with in the strongest possible action. I also urge all the Hindus to unite and fight aggressively against religious conversion. I proudly say that if need be, Hindus should go the extent of Killing al those people who even think of converting a single Hindu.

    Jai Shri Ram, Jai Hindu Dharma.

  6. if the tribals have there own culture then why impose Christianity on them
    i know many tribals who after 1 or 2 generations reverted back to hinduism or any other religion they followed
    if christianity is all about love then instead of converting the tribals at gunpoint you should spread love and then see who accepts your religion

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