Rahul Gandhi, who claims to be opening a muhabbat ki dukaan (shop of love) in order to end divisive politics, is clearly not about to practise what he preaches.
In Wayanad, his Lok Sabha constituency in Kerala, the great grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru claimed that there is a .
This is what had to say:
" (A) Few days ago, I held a huge meeting in Rajasthan where I spoke to the tribal community. Adivasi means a particular wisdom, a particular understanding of the earth, a particular relationship with the planet we live on. Our tribal brothers and sisters were the original owners of this country." (bold emphasis mine)
"We say adivasi, and on the other side, we say vanvasi. The word vanvasi denies that you are the original owners of India and it restricts you to the jungle.” (bold emphasis mine)
This is rich, and yet another effort to drive a wedge between the hill-based tribal communities and the rest of India, as if giving special reservations to the community, and creating inner line permits to prevent urban dwellers from moving in tribal-dominated areas is not doing enough damage already.
We should be clear on one thing: the idea that our tribals were somehow the original inhabitants of this land is no different from the Aryan invasion theory, which seeks to drive a wedge between the archetypal north Indian and the archetypal southern Indian.
It is one of a piece to term adivasis as original inhabitants of India, just as it is implied that the invading Aryans drove out the Dravidians from their earlier habitats.
Let us start with basics to disprove Rahul Gandhi’s divisive theories.
First, it is now impossible for any group to claim that they came first or second to the territories they now inhabit, given that, at some point in the distant past, most human groups were nomadic.
If we accept the western theory that homo sapiens originated in Africa, and then moved on to other continents, it implies that there is no original inhabitant community anywhere today.
Second, a genome-scale analysis of various Indian groups suggests that there is no genetic difference between tribals and caste groups. A in the Harvard School of Public Health’s online portal has this to say.
“The finding that nearly all Indian groups descend from mixtures of two ancestral populations applies to traditional tribes as well as castes. Kumarasamy Thangaraj, a senior research scientist at Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad, and a co-author said, ‘It is impossible to distinguish castes from tribes using the data. The genetics proves that they are not systematically different. This supports the view that castes grew directly out of tribal-like organisations during the formation of Indian society.’”
In short, tribes and the jatis related to them are one and the same. So vanvasi may, arguably, be a better way to distinguish those who still live in hilly areas from those who don’t.
Third, it is our tribal protection laws that restrict tribals to the jungles, not the Sangh parivar and its “vanvasi” terminology. When you make land ownership common to tribal communities, it restricts the monetisation of the one thing that can be leveraged to improve their lot.
When tribal areas are arbitrarily sealed off, especially in the North East, and other Indian citizens prevented from travelling freely in these areas, it is the law which prevents free mixing and relationships between vanvasis and non-vanvasis.
Four, when tribals are given reservations in jobs and education, on what basis can Rahul Gandhi claim that merely calling them “vanvasis” forces them to remain in jungles.
Five, and maybe Rahul Gandhi should read up on the Constitution, which calls our forest-dwelling communities as Scheduled Tribes, and not adivasis.
These communities may well have resided in their current areas of dwelling for centuries, but that is quite different from terming them as the “original” owners of the land. Who knows who owned what at what stage in our unrecorded parts of history.
It should be quite clear that what Rahul Gandhi is trying to do is create a tribal-non-tribal divide, in order to alienate one from the other.
The word “vanvasi” is what releases tribals from their bondage, since it is a mere descriptor of where they live, not a long-term identity marker that prevents them from leaving the land that can no longer support them.
It is not the term “vanvasi” that herds tribals into their own places of earlier inhabitation. The truth is the other way round, with tribal populations leaving their traditional places of inhabitation as the land can no longer support them. According to a report by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, of the country.
The real problem is with urban sophisticates who think that there is something pristine to preserve in tribal culture, never mind that these populations are being proselytised aggressively by evangelical organisations and being weaponised against India.
What Rahul Gandhi is trying to do is isolate tribals further from the mainstream, when what tribals may want most is to emerge from the bondages of the past.
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