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They all love a tribal

First,to block development in their habitat and then to pose as exhibits for tourists

Written by The Indian Express | Published: February 2, 2012 12:01:18 am

First,to block development in their habitat and then to pose as exhibits for tourists

At an Adivasi Mela organised by Orissa’s SC/ST department in the state capital,about 250 tribals also became exhibits. Sitting in mock huts at the fair,they became,for about Rs 100 a day,faces of the state’s tribal programme. In the over 150 stalls,29 housed aborigines picked from their villages by the government. Some were evidently ill at ease; others like Sada Juanga who was in the booth showcasing his tribe,the Juangas,pointed to the fallacy of some of the government’s claims: he comes from a village in Keonjhar where there is no electricity,yet he has become the chosen one in Bhubaneswar,the selection having been made by the local Integrated Tribal Development Agency.

The tribals have again become easy mascots. Two years ago,the battle against Vedanta was fought in the name of,among others,the Kutia Kondhs who live in the foothills of Niyamgiri. What is appalling is that the powers that can resist development in the name of protecting tribal habitat,would also find it convenient to turn the very same people into showpieces. That too,ironically,often of progress that has not reached them still.

It should be a tribal’s choice to decide whether she should be part of a government programme or not — whether in her village or in the state capital. But this instance of adivasi-as-exhibit,coming after the circulation of a video of dancing Jarawa women in the Andamans,shows how little-thought-out and even contradictory our tribal policies are and how insensitive the state can be to their concerns and dignity while framing programmes or taking steps,in segregating or mainstreaming as the case may be.

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