Preserving tribal life with culture fiesta

New Delhi, Nov 28: The government is waking up to the need of bringing primitive tribal lifestyles to the mainstream with performance−based ethnic cultural fiestas.

A three−day ethnic cultural exposition, Adivasi Sanskriti Sangam, from Nov 28−30 by the Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti, under the ministry of culture, has brought 20 delegations from the remote pockets of the country to showcase their ethnic culture.

In the last decade, institutions like Indian Council for Cultural Relations, Sangeet Natak Akademi and Lalit Kala Akademi have been hosting tribal festivals regularly as the clash of cultures in indigenous India has entered a decisive stage with industries making deeper inroads into pristine hinterland − overrunning traditional lifestyles.

“Culture is a powerful tool for the ethnic groups to reach out to the mainstream with social issues,” Manimala, the director of Gandhi Smriti, said.

The festival was inaugurated Wednesday by Orissa Governor Murlidhar Chandrakant Bhandare, Bihar Governor Devanand Konwar and Tripura Governor Dnyandeo Y. Patil.

The cultural congregation, which is trying to raise awareness about the problems confronting hinterland states like Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Northeast, will debate the importance of natural resource management in the Adivasi (tribal) cult at public forums hosted by tribal intellectuals, organisations, social workers and politicians.

The objective, Manimala says, is to address the “unbridled consumerism which is creating a crisis of identity for the simple and often insulated ethnic groups which believes in independence, harmony, humility, openness and collective life”.

“Jharkhand is perhaps the only state which has managed to cling to its ethnicity (on the strength of its ethnic−majority government) while in states like Chattisgarh, tribals are the mercy of dominant social groups,” Manimala said.

Citing legislations like the “gramdaa” and the tenancy acts in the region, she said while the laws are still in force officially to protect ethnic sovereignty, they were ineffective on the ground.

Land and culture feed each other in the country’s ethnic regions where the tribal people are dependant on land for sustenance.

She referred to a “bhoomi sangharsh” (land movement) in Bihar’s Bodh Gaya in which land was restored to the marginal farmers after a 10−year litigation but was not in favour of women, who left the village after marrying outside.

“Those who got out of the village will not have right to land. Fifty percent of the property should go to the village and 50 percent to the individual,” she said. However, the law is rarely invoked.

The director of Gandhi Smriti said the socio−political conflicts spread across in different regions of the country were over “jal, jangal and zameen” (water, forest and land).

A social activist from a non−profit organisation “Asha Darshan” in Assam, and in the capital for the Adivasi Sanskriti Sangam, said tribals in the northeast were “in the cross−hair of politics over relief, changing demographic pattern caused by unchecked illegal migrants from across the border and tardy use of Sixth Schedule laws”.

“They are coming from Bangladesh even now and settling in the Bodo pockets in districts like Kokrajhar, which was ravaged by ethnic violence this year. The situation is still on the boil,” Biju, a social worker, told IANS.

“The indigenous Bodo tribals usually offer land to the illegal migrants to live in and work on. This has frequently led to ethnic wars between the native Bodo tribals and the new settlers over illegal occupation of tribal land,” Biju explained.

IANS