We arenít Hindus, assert Gujarat tribals

Rathin Das
(Gandhinagar, May 5)

UNDER pressure from the Hindutva protagonists, it seems that the tribals of Gujarat have started asserting their independent identity. The latest in the series of manifestation of tribal identity is a leaflet being circulated in the tribals areas.

The leaflet, circulated without mentioning the printer or publisher's name, has appealed to the tribals to register themselves during the current census only as tribals and not fall prey to the propaganda that they are Hindus.

This appeal is apparently in retaliation to a recent circular of the Gujarat Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad, one of the many Sangh Parivar constituents working among the tribals, reminding the tribals about their Hindu identity.

While the Gujarat Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad leaflet, distributed mainly in the tribal areas of south and east Gujarat, has talked about Hindu heritage, its Gods like Sri Ram and Hanumanji, the anonymous circular has categorically mentioned that they do not need any more Gods and Godesses and pilgrimages.

As all Sangh Parivar documents list the tribals as "Vanvasi" (inhabitants of the jungle), the anonymous circular of the tribals begins with the heading "Ame vanvasi nathi" (we are not vanvasi). The fine distinction between "vanvasi" and "adivasi", as the tribals like to call themselves, becomes crucial when the question of sharing the forest resources crops up.

The anonymous tribal leaflet makes it amply clear that they have finally seen through the game plan behind calling them "vanvasi". As anybody living in jungle can be termed "vanvasi", the tribals have developed a feeling that the move may be aimed at dislodging the "adivasis" from the jungle land and other resources.

The leaflet, calling upon tribals not to enumerate themselves as Hindus, has also questioned the Sangh Parivar contention about the Gods being basically the same.

After beginning with the assertion "We are Adivasi and we are proud of that," the leaflet has asked "you call us Hindus, then tell us in which caste do you classify us? Shudras, Vaishyas, Kshatriyas or Brahmins?" Then further it asks "would you allow your daughter or son to marry us?"

It has also reminded every one that "we were the first to live in the jungles. Everything of the jungle - its trees, rivers, streams, water, land, hills and grass ó belong to us". Warning that none can take any of these without the tribals' permission, it also promises to give whatever the people require from the jungle.

But it is categorical in reminding that 'what to give, how much to give and when to give, would be decided by the tribals.


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