Discrimination. The word signifies an aspect which is responsible for creating dents in our unity and progress. We talk of becoming a superpower, what a joke! We aren’t even able to understand what Article 15 of the Constitution says.
Discrimination exists in every aspect of life, be it social, political, economical, etc. From the colour of skin to size of breasts or penis, From caste and class to even choosing to listen to Kishore Kumar amongst Alan Walker lovers, etc. In short, those who are not living according to the prevailing notions are discriminated. Nobody can make a comprehensive list of the manifestations of discrimination.
Through this article, I want to talk about discrimination within the tribal community. Yes, you heard that right – discrimination within the community who themselves suffer from the same everyday.
Before you raise your eyebrows, I want to make it clear that I, myself, am a member of a Scheduled Tribe and I have either seen it in front of my eyes or have listened to the narratives. I also want to put it boldly that members of Scheduled Tribes are more modern and progressive than any other community in India in a lot of aspects.
But, coming from a rational, tolerant and sensible community, I won’t hesitate, even for a second to acknowledge the negative aspects of my community. Negative aspects are present in all the communities and religions but people hesitate to acknowledge it or choose accept/promote it, I don’t know why?!
So, let me put up a narrative from my Badi Maa, first. She was laughingly telling my aunt that a distant relative of ours has married a Muslim woman (for the sake of clarity –tribals are not Hindu. Tribals don’t have any religion but irony is that a majority of tribals themselves don’t know this). When his brother died, the couple was not allowed to even touch the dead body!
Because the villagers had said, “Hindu dharm se kisi bhi jaat ki ladki le aata toh bhi chal jaata, Muslim nahi chalegi” (Apart from a Hindu, marrying someone from any other faith would have been fine, but being married to a Muslim woman will just not work).
To that, my aunty nodded and said, “Haan, Muslim thoda zyaada hi ho jata hai” (I agree, being with a Muslim partner is taking things a bit too far). The conversation went further and at one point, they actually said, “Muslim hai, na toh chudi pehenti hai na sindoor lagati hai par jab humari ladkiyan shaadi hoke jaati hai toh gaay (cow) ka maans bhi khilate hain un log!” (She’s a Muslim. She doesn’t wear any markers of marriage – no vermillion or bangles. Moreover, when our girls get married to boys from their community, they eat cow meat in celebration!)
I just walked away, but I feel guilty that I just walked away. I should have argued with them and should have made them realise their mistake. But, our sanskaari (well-mannered) nature doesn’t allow us to “cross the line.”
You won’t believe that tribals, specially the privileged tribals, talk about things such as ‘unchi jaati,’ ‘neechi jaati’ (upper caste, lower caste) of tribal community. I have seen my uncle and aunt, rejecting a marriage proposal only because of the fact that the girl belonged to a ‘lower’ strata of Scheduled Tribes. I don’t know if any books talk about this, but from my personal experience, I can assure you that these are true.
In the Gond Tribeo, there exists a hierarchy of Rajvanshi Gonds, Koya Vanshi Gonds, etc.
I have also seen many of the privileged Scheduled Tribes who have fair complexion, mocking those from their community who have darker complexion. People from other communities make fun of Scheduled Tribes for having flat noses, but what about the people from within the community who do the same thing?
These are few of the millions of instances of discrimination prevalent amongst the Scheduled Tribe communities. These things cannot be ignored. It is only fair that every citizen of this country acknowledges their faults and tries to change perceptions of people. Ignoring negative things will make this country only worse.
I believe that acknowledgment is the first step towards the end of discrimination. Unless and until we do that, every big aspiration and suggestions to end the menace will only prove to be negatory.