By Gladson Dungdung
Indian Currents 17 August, 2003
“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”.
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.