<u>Indian Tribal People at the Crossroad </u>
Believe it or not, the population strength of the tribal people of India could not be ascertained in the 2001 national census. The population as per 1991 census was 6.78 crore. It has been stated that they may be 8.32 crore by 2001. This figure is fictitious and false. Tribal people have 13 percent share in the Indian population. Thus their strength will be more than 13 crore.
The above lines are simply to indicate how neglected the tribal people in India are.
Dhirendranath Baske, former vice-president of the Santhali Academy in West Bengal, is a Santhali scholar in India. He has studied the attitude of the state government towards the tribal people and finally in the month of June last resigned from his official position as an adviser of ‘Pachhim Bangla’, a West Bengal Government publication.
Tribal people of India are undoubtedly the original children of the Indian soil. We find their references in the pages of the great epics composed in the ancient India. Persons connected with the royal families of Hastinapura have tried to persecute them. They have kingdoms too and sometimes they have dictated terms which the kings and princes of mainstream India have to accept. But it is clear that there was a continuous process to drive them to the forested mountains. In the Ramayana one tribal chief, Shambuk by name was unjustly killed by Ramachandra. In the Mahabharata there is one Ekalabyo whose first finger was chopped off by Dronacharya, a teacher of warfare, as it had appeared to him that Ekalabya might emerge as the most powerful challenger for the royal warriors. Ekalabya was a tribal prince.
Tribal population served to feed the army for the rulers and invaders from the time of Alexander the Great. When Alexander entered India to invade the region (323 BC) he was fortunate to get the services from the tribes of the north-western India for his army. Shivaji was the founder of the Maratha Empire in the western India during the reign of Aurangjeb of the Mughal dynasty. Shivaji build up his first band of army with the people from the Maoali tribe. Kings of Rajputana had Bhils and other tribes in their army.
Tribes of India are generally peace-loving and industrious people. They have begun to be driven away from their forested settlements again in the British rule. But they have tried to resist the British invasion in the Indian forests. And their revolts against the British Empire all over India are part of history. Let us have a view of the recorded accounts:
1) 1824 Paralkot upsurge, Bastar, Madhya Pradesh
2) 1850-1860 Kandha revolt, Gumsar, Orissa, under the leadership of Chakra Bispoi
3) 1855-56 Santhal revolt, Chhotanagpur
4) 1857-58 Bhil revolt, Khandesh, Westernghat
5) 1857 Gonda revolt, Sonagan, Chhattisgarh, under the leadership of King Vir Narayan Singh
6) 1858 Naik revolt, Gujarat
7) 1831, 1871, 1898-90 Kol-Bhil-Santhal revolt, Chhotanagpur
8) 1889-90 Rumpa revolt, Andhra Pradesh
9) 1862-64 Revolt in the Jayantia Hills, Meghalaya
10) 1891-92 People revolt, Manipur and Lusai
11) 1910 Bhumkal revolt, Bastar, Chhattisgarh, under the leadership of Gundadhur
12) 1928 revolt in Assam
Communist varieties in India have a long-standing claim that they are the messiah of the tribal communities. Communist Party of India (Marxist)have been at the helm of power in the West Bengal state of India for the last thirty three years and it has been convinced that the tribes of West Bengal will go on casting votes in favor of them in all elections. Tribal people are by nature simple and they have faith in the communists. But these people have earned different kind of experiences. They live mainly in the junglemahal of West Bengal that covers parts of West Medinipur, Bankura, Purulia and Burdhaman districts.
Junglemahal has direct border with the adjacent state Jharkhand. Now, the Maoists, a variety of the Indian communists and an underground one, have been active in the junglemahal for some years and they have strong bases in Jharkhand. They have declared war against India and in order to elbow out the CPIM power from the Junglemahal they have been annihilating their members and sympathizers almost every day. The Maoists have also targeted the Chief Minister but without success.
Next began the Lalgarh operation in June, 2009 to suppress the Maoist and in these operation Central police forces, state security forces, specialized Kobra forces and a few more have been engaged. The combined forces are yet to face a little success. They have, instead, earned very bad name as the sheer oppressors of the hapless poorest people. Many schools have forced to remain close and education of the children of the schools in the vicinity has been left with uncertainty. Schools have been temporarily converted into camps for the forces. Now the tribal people have developed resistance as a backlash to the random oppression of the police and paramilitary forces. The operation against the Maoists has been transferred into an operation against the tribes. Tribal people are persecuted mercilessly and none of the Maoists have been arrested. Sometimes school students are arrested and they are released in the face of tremendous movement by the people. Such innocent students, arrested by mistakes, are also released when they are produced in the court.
An amount of Rupees 40 to 50 lakh is being spent daily and this is the known budget of the operation. Everyone holds the view that the area has been infested by the dreaded Maoists as the state government under the leadership of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has done nothing for the development of the tribal people. Years after years millions have been allotted and hushed up before reaching to the people who need them. Dishonest party members and party supporters, in a league with the local administration, have made enormous property when death by hunger at Amlasol and Belpahari has been recorded. This time people of Salboni, Lalgarh, Goaltor, Dherua, Binpur, Jhargram are determined to go to any extreme and they have launched their own movement by their own people independently and swearing by the names of Sidho, Kanoo and Birsa Munda who have been their luminous stars for hundred years or a little less.
Tribal people of India are really at a crossroad again.