This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Sunny Chheda. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

10,000 Adivasi Lives Don’t Matter – Let The Maharashtra Govt. Tell You How

Have you ever come across a very peculiar form of art where a bunch of black and white stick figures of humans, animals and nature depict social life? Typically one can find these in most government offices across Maharashtra and possibly in every art lover’s residence in Mumbai. If you have, then you and I both are on the same page and talking about Warli art.

Would you believe me if I told you this beautiful form of art was born in our very own city of Mumbai?

If the answer to that question is ‘no’, then you probably aren’t aware of Mumbai’s original and foremost inhabitants – The Warli adivasi tribe. There are currently over 10,000 Adivasis residing in 27 different Padas (villages) in Aarey Milk colony at this very moment. Having first settled in the Konkan forest areas of the Maharashtra, little did the Warli community predict that the land where they once took a peaceful exile would evolve into one of the most densely populated cities of the country. Yes, if you still don’t believe it, then get your hands on any art history books on the origins of Mumbai or Bombay as it used to be called.

So What Has Changed?

Aarey Colony is still there; it hasn’t really gone anywhere… or has it?

The Warlis have gone about their peaceful existence for little over a century now. But ever since the Aarey Dairy was established in the ‘Forest Area’ (at least as it was called so back then) back in 1951, things have kind of gone south for these nature-worshipping inhabitants. With the introduction of Aarey dairy into the colony, it opened up the entire eco-sensitive zone to a series of exploitations. We started exploiting the whole region by tearing it apart one bit at a time. First, the Film City came along followed by structures of various agencies such as central government institutions, Maharashtra state government institutions and roads and private buildings. All this effectively reduced 3166 acres of seamless greenery to less than half its original size.

Okay, we may have distorted the Aarey ecosystem but we haven’t really harmed the Adivasi community in any way, right?

This is where this gets real ugly real quick. With the rapid expansion of urban projects in the Aarey colony area, not only is the green cover getting affected but also the Warli tribe. Sadly, they are losing out on their ancestral properties, which comprise of farms, flat grasslands, forest areas and the village or pada areas. This affects their existence in many ways so much so that they are almost on the brink of extinction now.

Even if the government hasn’t directly asked them to vacate the area, it has very cunningly made daily living a task for these people. Under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act (2006), these tribals are entitled to a host of amenities and rights over the land they reside on. This is where it gets tricky. The state government has asked the Adivasis to provide documents that prove they have been residing on these lands for the past 50 years or more. It is literally like asking one’s great-grandfather to produce a PAN card or driver’s license. Back when the Warlis settled here, there was no system of documentation. Naturally, they don’t have any proof to prove they have been inhabitants of these lands. Even though history records speak otherwise, the government doesn’t consider those as valid proof.

What Happens Next?

Let me put things into perspective for you, if we do not act now, this could quite possibly be the end of Mumbai’s Adivasi tribe! How? Read on…

In a nutshell, the government is unwilling to consider these Adivasis as Adivasis. The only way to prove one is an Adivasi, is by acquiring a Tribe Certificate. The Warlis do not have these, as their forefathers didn’t think it to be important back then and now the present government is demanding documents to prove their residence in the forests.

Whilst this is an issue, the government plans to eradicate all inhabitants of Aarey Colony under the Slum Rehabilitation Program. If you aren’t an Adivasi then according to the government, you are a slum dweller and are squatting on the state government’s land. Imagine being asked to leave your pristine existence, which comprises of a beautiful house of an average 500sq. ft., with a small garden, a little livestock comprising of goats, chickens and cattle and a piece of land on which you seasonally farm.

Leave all that and be put into a 150sq. ft. room with 10 or more rooms on the same floor in a 20+ storey building in some corner of the ever so suffocating Mumbai city. If the Warli community is asked to move out of Aarey Colony, we will literally be the reason for the loss of an entire ethnic group and its culture.

A beautiful Tribal House. But I don’t think the government quite likes it.

There is more to where that came from. Things just go from bad to worse…

We have all heard about the Aarey Colony Metro car shed scenario. The state government plans to build a Metro car shed in the Aarey Colony and mess with the ecosystem further. But how does that affect the tribals?

Well, it does when the government plans on demarking the entire area under the C1-commercial zone. This will basically open up the entire area of Aarey to exploitation from every angle possible. Despite activists, experts and even government bodies themselves suggesting alternate car shed locations like Kalina, Kanjurmarg, Backbay, etc, the state government still turns a blind eye.

We can clearly see the ulterior motive behind destroying the Aarey Colony green cover. The state government will directly benefit from the contracts they sell on the Aarey land. Under the blanket of development the govt. feels it can do anything unquestioned. Yes, of course, development is great for us all but let me draw your attention to the simple yet powerful word, ALL! When one talks about development, it is usually presumed one is talking about inclusive development. Which literally means that whilst going about development we consider the well being of all parties involved.

The ironic part is, even Google maps does not show Aarey colony as a green zone. G-Maps usually show even the smallest of water bodies or a cluster of trees as a water body or a park. BUT NOT AAREY!


I guess hope you’re convinced by now because I can surely go on and on about this. So what can you do to help the Adivasis?

One simple thing, Sign the petition to stop the destruction of the ecology and Mumbai’s last green lung. This is a one stone two-bird scenario for you. By stopping the Metro Car shed work you are, hopefully, not only saving the poor trees from an ill fate but also the helpless Adivasis. Over to you my friend, be the Mumbaikar you were always meant to be.

You must be to comment.
  1. Pamela Cheema

    A timely piece!

    1. Sunny Chheda

      Thank you Pamela 🙂

  2. Nikit Surve

    Hey sunny I m working with warlis and their art is it possible for you to send any contacts of the warlis from aarey who paint

More from Sunny Chheda

Similar Posts

By Ashish Birulee

By Surakha Debbarma | Adivasi Awaaz Creator

By Samir Debbarma | Adivasi Awaaz Creator

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below