So, you’re someone who wants to contributes to change. You’ve read news about the Adivasis who are losing land to Adani’s project or being wrongly detained in jails of Chhattisgarh. You’ve enjoyed certain privileges because of the circumstances you were born into. That’s not really in your control. You know what is? Being an ally to those who don’t enjoy these same privileges.
Allies have proven extremely effective in campaigns across the world, and most recently in India, when the judgement of Section 377 was still pending, and bills that discriminate against the LGBTQIA+ community were on the brink of being introduced by our lawmakers. The nation came together as allies to voice their opinions and celebrate the Supreme Court’s verdict on Section 377.
Every day, instances of discrimination against Adivasis are reported, but unfortunately, it isn’t something that reaches mainstream news. The need for allyship towards Adivasis is growing by the day, with the attempt to silence the voices of those fighting for them and the increase in exploitative large scale projects that are being sanctioned.
So, what can you do? How can you be an ally? Here’s your guide to being an ally to Adivasis-
- Recognise your privileges and understand that although you didn’t choose or create them, you cannot shun them. This Buzzfeed quiz from 2014 which lets you check how privileged you are did rounds again recently and is a good place to start to gain some perspective. Learning about yourself- your religion, roots, ethnicity, class, caste, gender, etc is imperative to understanding your relationship with other people in our country and their situations.
- Educate Yourself. Learning and educating yourself about Adivasis is the next important step in becoming an ally. Although there isn’t a lot of extensive and respectful information about Adivasis on the internet, articles like this one are a good place to start. Read about the challenges and issues affecting them, Adivasi leaders and activists and Adivasi movements. Along with this, don’t forget to also read about their successes, achievements and their immense contribution to the country. The knowledge you gain will help you understand the Adivasis and their cause better, enabling you to take more effective action.
- Check your Prejudices and Biases and Say Goodbye To Them. Certain words, phrases and stereotypical descriptions are only harmful to the Adivasis and need to be removed from your dictionary if you want to be a good ally. Words like “backward”, “primitive”, “junglee” reimpose the stereotypes that have been propagated through the years. Refrain from using words and statements that are hurtful or inappropriate in nature. To go one step further, help people around you understand the reality and explain how reinforcement of prejudiced beliefs harms the communities, as it leads to more ignorance and less solidarity.
- Support an Adivasi Organization/Initiative/Individual. Right from grassroots-based journalism by CGNET Swara to hip hop artists like Alok Eric, there are plenty of organisations and people that you can support. Donating money to, volunteering with, spread awareness about or working with an organization or initiative whose work aligns with what the Adivasis want and need can be a win-win situation. They gain a devoted supporter and you gain more knowledge and experience. The first three points will come very handy in this situation!
- Support Adivasi-run Services and Companies Purchasing from companies that sell goods made by Adivasis can be a great way to encourage more Adivasi talent and enterprises. From artists like Jangarh Singh Shyam to pop culture companies like Being Oraon, there are a lot of opportunities to support Adivasi run enterprises. Unfortunately, a lot of brands have appropriated Adivasi culture and used their cultural markers and photos in their products, with no credit or permission from the communities itself. Ironically, Adivasis are known for being self-sustainable and non-materialistic. Buying products that have the community’s participation in the process is the ethical and responsible way to go about it.
- Open Up Opportunities and Mentor More Adivasis. Right from journalism to fashion, from education to policy makers- representation of Adivasis in almost all sectors of industries is negligible. Opening up more opportunities for Adivasis, mentoring them, seeking Adivasi participation through affirmative action like Feminism in India does will help foster an environment of inclusivity and equal opportunity.
It is essential that Adivasis present their own stories and opinions in their voices and languages.
What NOT to do while being an ally?
As much as we encourage you to become an ally to the Adivasis and their causes, it is important to know the don’ts-
- Enable, do not overpower.
- Empathise, do not sympathise.
- Listen, do not assume and ask questions if you have any (do it respectfully)
- Do not behave as though you know best.
- Do not assume that every member of a marginalised group feels oppressed.
Being an ally is hard work and is a process. No one has all the knowledge there is to have. It’s all about being open to learning, so ask questions about concepts and situations you may have doubts about. What’s important is the acknowledgement of past mistakes and future direction, and taking a step toward it.