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CM washing Rawat's feet: BJP politics to win over Adivasis electorally, Hinduise them

By Ram Puniyani* 

On this 6th July Pravesh Shula, a BJP worker, urinated on an Adivasi boy. Shukla is a close associate of Kedarnath Shukla, the MLA of the area. When Pravesh was peeing; his friend Deep Narayan Sahu was videotaping the whole incident. The person on whom Shukla; out of fear kept quiet, but as the video of the incident surfaced, MP CM Shivraj Chauahan claimed that Dasmath Rawat was the victim. Dasmat denied that. Still he was called by CM to his house.
As the video of this shameful act made rounds, condemnations came forth. Shivraj Chauhan called Rawat to his house, washed his feet, garlanded him and also offered money. CM Chauhan dismissed the caste angle. He said that criminals has no caste, while the upper caste arrogance and Adivasi subjugation is writ large on this incident. He also sent bulldozers to Pravesh Shukla’s house and demolished the illegal part of his house. Chauhan seems to be out to show remorse for electoral goals, so he did go ahead with, washing feet, offering money etc. As the ghastly incident surfaced, Neha Singh Rathore, the noted Bhojpuri Singer posted a cartoon on this and an FIR has been filed against her.
This incident may be just a tip of the iceberg as to what the plight of Adivasis in MP is in particular and other places in general. There are many cases of anti Adivasi atrocities as such. MP has 21% of Adivasis population, of which Kol tribe, to which Dasmath belongs, the real victim may not be known probably, belongs; is the third largest one. There are 47 Assembly constituencies and seven Lok Sabha constituencies where the Adivasi vote matters. In last elections Congress won a majority of the seats in these areas, and this helped Kamalnath of Congress to become the chief minister. It is another matter that through ‘operation Kamal’ his Government fell and Shivraj Chauhan of BJP became CM.
BJP has dual policy as far as Adivasis are concerned. It has been claiming that Adivasis are Hindus. Surely Adivasi culture is very different and their own self perception about their religion is very different. BJPs parent organization RSS has floated Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram (Forest Dweller Welfare Center, VKA) to Hinduize Adivasis and to co-opt them. To begin with the RSS combine does not call them Adivasis and just calls them Vanvasis (Forest dwellers). Reason for RSS not calling them Adivasis is that the whole Hindu nationalist ideology is based on the claim that Hindus have been the ‘fist comers’ and Hindu Rashtra has been there from times immemorial. If Adivasis are the original inhabitants, then this claim falls flat.
VKA has been very active in Adivasi areas, Dangs, Jhabua, and Kandhmal in particular. Here through cultural mechanisms it has been trying to infuse Brahmanical culture. They have selected icons from Adivasis and projected them with great pomp and show. In Dangs Shabri temple, Shabri Kumbh (congregation) and promotion of Lord Hanuman as the major deity; has been going on. Projection of destitute Shabri as their idol may be a messaging for upholding destitution and deprivation for Adivasis. As the mythology goes, Shabri offered the berries to Lord Ram as she could not afford more. Shabri Kumbhs have been held in dangs and Adivasis areas of MP to culturally win them over. Promotion of Lord Hanuman as the major deity in these areas needs to be given a lot of thought. While in urban areas, it is Lord Rama, why is Lord Hanuman projected in Adivasi areas?
In these areas, icons are also selected from their history and projected to be against Muslims also as in the case of Suhel Dev for the Rajbhar community. In MP Virangana Durgawati Gaurava Yatra had been organized. Also another Adivasi Queen Kamalapati has been eulogized, Habib Ganj station has been renamed as Rani Kamalpati Railway station, and a museum in her memory is being planned. Similarly Kol Jayanti Mahakumbh (Anniversary Congregation) was organized to win over this community for electoral gains and to co-opt them under the hegemony of upper caste politics.
VKA on one hand has been doing ‘seva’ (service) among these communities also. The sociological process of Sanskritzation (emulating upper castes) is very much at play.
At the same time an atmosphere of intimidation has been built up by targeting Christian missionaries working in the areas. The Christian missions, are mostly doing work in the health and education areas. This leads to Adivasis being attracted to Christian missionaries and their work in the field of education has potential of empowering them. The low intensity anti Christian violence flares up on occasions into major frightening events like rape of nuns in Jhabua, burning of Pastor Stains in Keonjhar (Odisha) and the horrific Kandhamal violence of August 2008.
At social level the caste hierarchy reigns supreme, and this Sidhi urination incident is just a sample of that. The plight of Adivasis like other marginalized communities has remained pathetic; their empowerment is on the backburner in the scheme of things of RSS combine. The terror of upper caste affluent is so strong that atrocities against them go unregistered. As such “National Coalition for Strengthening SCs and STs (PoA) Act (NCSPA) NCSPA believes that despite explicit constitutional provisions and guidelines, the suffering of dalits and Adivasi communities across India remains the worst. This community is not only the victim of this scourge of the caste system but also faces institutional discrimination and social exclusion” the report points out. Further, the report reveals that atrocities against Scheduled Tribes (ST) have increased by 6.4% in 2021 with Madhya Pradesh reporting the highest number of cases accounting for 29.8% followed by Rajasthan with 24% and Odisha with 7.6% in 2021.”
The politics being pursued by BJP and its related organizations have a multipronged strategy to win them over electorally by emotive symbolic actions, to Hinduise them on one hand and to maintain the upper caste hegemony on the other. Just by washing feet and offering 5 Lakhs to the offended family is a symbolism bereft of any remorse for the policies being pursued by this combine in the Adivasi regions as a whole?
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*Well known political commentator. Click here for source

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