Skip to main content

Does Gujarat government believe tribals are not Hindus? A recent official order seeks to say exactly this

By Our Representative
If you are a Hindu, you are not a tribal, or vice versa. This is the gist of a recent order, issued by the Gujarat government, which “denotified” the Rathvas as a tribe “ostensibly because their school records show them to be Hindus”. The little-known fact has failed to attract any attention beyond the tribal belt of newly-formed Chhota Udepur district of South Gujarat, says a recent report in a top research journal (click HERE) by Arjun Rathva, a tribal activist, in association with two Central University of Gujarat scholars – Dhananjan Ray and N Rajaram.
The scholars say, “What makes the move ominous is that the Chhota Udepur region inhabited by the Rathvas is mineral-rich and laws that protect adivasi rights come in the way of corporate exploitation of these resources. The order could also set a precedent to threaten adivasis elsewhere who protest against the loot of natural resources in their areas.”
The order, say the scholars, has led to some consternation in the eastern tribal belt of Gujarat, where tribals constitute 15% of its population. According to them, “This move is bound not only to hamper the constitutional protection extended to the various adivasi groups across India, but also to pave the way for further displacement and exploitation of natural resources in Chhota Udepur… The Fifth Schedule of the Constitution categorically specifies the role of the state in respect of the scheduled areas and scheduled tribes (STs).” The governors of nine states listed under it “regulate land transfer, allotment and business activities in the scheduled areas”.
These states include Gujarat, and specific talukas of such districts like Valsad, the Dangs, Surat, Bharuch, undivided Panchmahal, undivided Vadodara, and undivided Sabarkantha come under the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) 1996, which empowers adivasis “through gram sabhas to manage natural resources at the village level”, the scholars say.
The order of October 2013, which cancelled the status of 11 government employees who are from the Rathva community, is based a government resolution (GR) of 2010, which says that Rathvas cannot be called tribal because they are registered as Hindus. The Gujarat government also cancelled the jobs offered to 25 persons from the community after due completion of the selection process.
At present, the Rathvas can contest elections to all seats reserved for adivasis ranging from that for sarpanch, to membership of taluka, district panchayats, assembly and Parliament. “It is possible that the order will abolish this right. This order gives the state government further powers to denotify adivasi groups that take part in resistance struggles against corporate loot through undemocratic processes”, the scholars say.
According to the scholars, the state government’s justification for the order is, “the Rathvas categorically stated their religion as Hindu in the school registers. The argument is that the Rathvas cannot be Hindu if they are adivasis. This argument can be extended to other adivasis in Gujarat who declare themselves as Hindu in the school records. By implication, adivasis are not or cannot be Hindu. The official letter further states that the information given in the school records is sufficient proof to declare the Rathvas as non-adivasis.”
The scholars point out, “In Gujarat, as elsewhere, adivasis do describe themselves as Hindus. Moreover, following Independence the state government described the Rathvas as Rathva (Hindu) in its documents and in educational records through schools and this has been an unwritten norm. There is hardly any evidence to suggest that the adivasis asked the state to describe them as Rathva (Hindu). Besides, in the period soon after Independence the adivasis showed a literacy rate of 0.5% thus making it clear that they had hardly any say regarding the nomenclature to describe them.”
Currently, Rathvas form a sizeable group. As per records of 2001 Census, quoted by the scholars, the Rathvas constitute the fifth largest group of STs in Gujarat, comprising 7.2% of the total ST population. “The Gujarat government has gone ahead and taken a decision that will significantly affect the fate of seven lakh adivasis”, the scholars say, adding, “This leads us to arrive at the following conclusions: (a) the state government’s action is not transparent; (b) the sudden denotification without authentic evidence will invariably lead to corporate loot of the mineral-rich Chhota Udepur region.”
“According to one description”, the scholars say, “Chhota Udepur encompasses “a rich forest area of 75,704 hectares, 5.39 lakh tonnes of dolomite, 52,000 tonnes of fluorite, 90.77 lakh tonnes of sand, 4,000 tonnes of granite”. They believed, “The process of denotifying adivasis has begun with the Rathvas but eventually could lead to many other adivasi communities suffering the same fate.”
One of the scholars, Arjun Rathwa, told Counterview that while the Gujarat government has “suspended” the order following opposition to it in the tribal belt, the GR of 2010 on disqualifying the Rathvas remains in force. “Until this is cancelled, it is not possible to say that the state government is serious in its intention”, he said.

Comments

In madhya pradesh also all tribals are put in Hindu category in schools, population surveys and other forms. This should serve as a lesson to tribal cultural organisations to take up this demand seriously of making a column for tribal religion and also spread awareness amongst tribals to insist on not writing the religion as Hindu.
Unknown said…
भारत के सभी मुलनिवासीयोंने इस पर मनन / चिंतन करना अब आवश्क है ।
अगर वे हिंदु,ईसाई,मुस्लीम इ.हो तो मुलनिवासी
नही,और मुलनिवासीहो तो अन्य धर्मावलंबी नही हो सकते ,आपका अपना खुद का मुल धर्म है !
जय सेवा.....!
Anonymous said…
Jago mere adivasi bhaio usse pehle Kim ye log apna nemo Nissan mita de Marta dam tak apne adhikaro ke lie ladna padege mere bhaio

TRENDING

New Odia CM's tribal heritage 'sets him apart' from Hindutva Brahminical norms

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  Mohan Charan Majhi took the oath as the new Chief Minister of Odisha following the electoral defeat of the BJD led by Naveen Patnaik, who served as Chief Minister for twenty-four years. The new Chief Minister is the son of a security guard and a four-time MLA who hails from the remote village of Raikala in the Keonjhar district. He belongs to the Santali tribe and comes from a working-class family. Such achievements and political mobilities are possible only in a democratic society. Majhi’s leadership even in the form of symbolic representation in a democracy deserves celebration.

Pellet gun fire severely injures Dalit worker off Bangladesh border

By Kirity Roy*  This is regarding an incident of firing pellets by the Border Security Force (BSF) personnel attached with Panchadoji Border Outpost of ‘E’ Company of 90 BSF Battalion on a Schedule Caste youth of village Parmananda under Dinhata Police Station of Cooch Behar district of West Bengal. The victim was severely injured and one portion of his face became disfigured due to pellet firing by the BSF.

Sanction to persecute Arundhati Roy under UAPA politically motivated: PUCL

Counterview Network  Top human rights group, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, has demanded that the authorities should immediately withdraw the prosecution against top author Arundhati Roy and Dr Sheikh Showkat Hussain, a Kashmir academic, under the " unconstitutional"  Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act  (UAPA), calling the Delhi  Lieutenant-Governor nod for the Delhi police move "politically motivated".

What stops Kavach? Why no time to focus on common trains meant for common people?

By Atanu Roy  A goods train rammed into Kanchenjunga Express on 17th June morning in North Bengal. This could have been averted if the time tested anti-collision system (Kavach) was in place. 

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Lip-service on World Environment Day vs 'watered-down' eco-safeguards

By Shankar Sharma*  Just a few days ago, the world remembered the routinely forgotten global environment on the occasion of World Environment Day, briefly though, maybe just for the day. There were reports of a few high profile ceremonies in different parts of the country, including a few in New Delhi. Prime Minister Narendra Modi reportedly asked the people of our country to plant one tree per each person as a mark of respect/ gratitude for our mothers.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.