Ensuring identity for tribals in new states
There are weird demands by some to even chalk out Telangana state by clubbing tribal districts of Visakhapatnam, Srikakaulam and Vizianagaram, so that Telangana state will have access to the sea!
Tribal identity and representation of tribal aspirations in current political developments is a very critical issue. Recent writings of Rama Melkote and E Revathi in The Hans India are evidence of the importance of the issue. This is not a rejoinder to the article written by Revathi in these columns with a caption Adivasis & Telangana on 27th August, although it does refer to it only to highlight why the tribal question is critical and how it is marginalised in the current discourse on separate states. The debate whether Telangana can represent the identity of Adivasis or their region is still unanswered.
There are several issues raised in these articles and the debate among several groups in the state. Let me draw the attention to a few important questions that require attention. Has tribal identity been represented by Telangana identity or Seemandhra identity? Will tribal aspirations be fulfilled by the new states? Is tribal identity contradictory to the identity of Telangana or Seemandhra states?
That tribal unrest continued for decades and intensified since the formation of Andhra Pradesh is indisputable. Several studies and Girglani Report have underscored the growing immiserization and alienation of the tribal peoples from the governance. Despite varied social mobilisation in the tribal belt of the state the exodus of non-tribals and the exploitation of the tribal people and resources has not been arrested. Recent movement for separate Telangana and the counter Seemandhra’s Samaikyandhra movement have totally ignored the aspirations of the tribal people’s struggle for justice.
These movements have ignored the tribal cause totally despite token sympathy occasionally but prevented the emergence and strengthening of the voices of the tribals. There seems to be no hope of justice for the tribal people in the new states as these states are going to be carved out on the sharing of the spoils. Tribal regions have become commodities for the politicians of both sides.
There are weird demands by some to even chalk out Telangana state by clubbing tribal districts of Visakhapatnam, Srikakaulam and Vizianagaram, so that Telangana state will have access to the sea! There is total silence on compelling the tribals to pay for the price of bifurcation, in the form of distributing river Godavari and Polavaram project in exchange of the Telangana state. This very silence is the indication of not only failing to represent tribal aspirations but also exposing the hollowness of Telangana identity as a consolidation of the tribal interests. More interesting, the claims of aspirants and opponents of separate Telangana statehood focus on haggling over Bhadrachalam division including the temple town of Bhadrachalam, in Khammam district with underlying interests, which are predictable.
The claimants of both the regions wanted to capture the temple town which is a revenue spinning house for the tourism sector. Besides, the Seemandhra people have added interest to see the construction of Polavaram project in smooth manner without any future opposition from Telangana region. In fact, the entire Bhadrachalam agency division is a traditional tribal territory, situated in the Scheduled Area. Unfortunately the crusaders for and against Telangana have failed to acknowledge this fact and rights of adivasis over their domain.
Whether demand for a tribal state, which has been raised time and again since 1986, is anti- Telangana or anti-Seemandhra is crystal clear of the fact that the tribal peoples don’t see the separatist movements as consolidation of the voices of the exploited and the oppressed tribal peoples in the state. The tribal state demand is not against or favourable to the new states, it is only assertion of the truth that their identity is based on unique and distinct cultural and socio-political legacy. Also a spiritual cultural order that respects nature as the savior and to be protected for future generations which the consumerist development models of the new states do not imbibe or advocate in their new social order after the new states are carved.
Attempts for bifurcation of the State should not interfere with the Schedule Areas of the State. The Indian Constitution provides a series of safeguards for the tribal people. General and special provisions are also applicable to tribal communities. The President and the Governors of the respective 5th Scheduled State are primarily responsible for safeguarding the provisions enshrined in the Constitution. The Tribal Advisory Council is set up, especially in the Fifth Schedule States, to advice on all matters pertaining to the welfare and advancement of the Scheduled Tribes under Article 244(1). Thus any decision of the UPA affecting the Scheduled Areas while carving Telangana from Andhra Pradesh should consult the constitutional body i.e Tribal Advisory Council.
(The writer, an advocate, is a tribal rights activist)
The Hans India English News Paper Dated : 30/08/2013