Kolkata/Ranchi: The recently concluded International Day of World’s Indigenous Peoples or World Tribal Day was special for the over 11 crores tribal population of India.
Reason: For the first time since India’s independence, a tribal has become the President of India, the first citizen of the nation.
A two-day long celebration – Jharkhand Janjatiya Mahotsav marked the day in Ranchi. It even had Chhattisgarh’s chief minister Bhupesh Bhaghel participating in the event.
While the tribals across the country were celebrating the day, to everyone’s dismay, the newly elected President of India Draupadi Murmu nor Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted fellow countrymen on the occasion.
No celebratory message came from the Union Minister for Tribal Affairs Arjun Munda either.
The only two dignitaries who greeted on the occasion were Jharkhand and Chattisgarh’s Governors Ramesh Bais and Anusuiya Uikey respectively and both mentioned it as World Tribal Day.
Community people in Jharkhand also objected to the use of Janjatiya word instead of tribal for the event.
International Day of World’s Indigenous People or World Tribal Day
The United Nations in 1994 declared August 9 as International Day for World’s Indigenous People to raise mass awareness for the protection of the rights of the world’s indigenous population.
This year, had a female-centric theme, ‘The Role of Indigenous Women in the Preservation and Transmission of Traditional Knowledge.’
The Jharkhand government has declared August 9 a public holiday, this year, while the Rajasthan government has been observing it from 2020 itself.
In 2011, when Pratibha Patil was President of India, she greeted citizens on the day.
Declaration of August 9 as a public holiday, has been a long pending demand of the community.
While in Jharkhand, this day has been celebrated in Ranchi, since 1993, even before the UN’s declaration of indigenous day.
Professor Neetisha Xalxo told eNewsroom, “It was first celebrated in 1993 in St. Xavier College Ranchi and after 1996 it took the shape of a festival in the state. Politicians can try to deny it, but for every Tribal of India, August 9 is a festival for them.”
Union Minister For Tribal Affairs was most active on the day
Even Arjun Munda, the union minister for Tribal Affairs did not greet on the occasion. Interestingly, on August 9, Arjun Munda met President Draupadi Murmu but did not mention about the special day and chose to term it as a courtesy meeting.
Earlier during the day, the tribal affairs minister had even lauded about the tribal being the President of India. “It is a proud moment for India that as it celebrates the International day of the World’s Indigenous People, a tribal woman Draupadi Murmu, has been elected as the President of the country,” he said during a virtual interaction with the students of Aklavya Model Residential School.
Silence of Mainstream Media
Professor Xalxo finds the role of India’s mainstream media dubious here, too. “When Draupadi Murmu was declared Presidential candidate, it was termed as a masterstroke. But when Murmu missed greeting a community which constitutes over 8 per cent of India’s population on the Indigenous Day, there was no mention of it anywhere?”
Researcher Gladson Dundung who writes regularly on tribal issues also posted on Facebook. He wrote, “Sanghi (RSS followers) want 12 crore Tribals to get associated with them and sail their sinking boat in 2024 but when Tribals were celebrating the tribal day and waiting to get congratulatory messages, both President and PM ignored the natives. They had the time to congratulate medal winners, but could not get time to greet the tribals. It is a huge insult to the community.”
When political parties do politics in Jharkhand or tribal belts, they use the names of Birsa Munda, Sidhu Kanu, Chand Bhairav, and Tana Bhagat. The corridor to power in Jharkhand goes through them only, but when tribals have a special day, they ignore them.
“It was the responsibility of President of India (Draupadi Murmu) and Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) to greet tribals on the occasion, but they did not do their duty,” Tribal rights activist Dayamani Barla told eNewsroom.
“As India gets Tribal as a President, we believe that the PESA Act will be implemented. It has been more than 25 years, its rules are yet to be framed. Tribals should get rights under the Forest Rights Act, which we are not getting and there should be no violations in the CNT-SPT Act,” Barla mentioned.
It is not a thing to ignore
“These acts indicate that even after having a president from the community is not enough. Tribals have to be careful about their rights in future too.” reacted activist Aloka Kujur.
“Since the 90’s no ruling dispensation has accepted before the United Nations that indigenous people are living in India or they claim everyone is indigenous in the country, which is not be possible,” Xalxo informed.
And added: “In the present government, where crony capitalism rules, the government does not want to recognize the rights of indigenous, as it is not in the interest of corporates, so they are denying it completely.”