‘Tribals hold their pain within’: Hindutva, rumblings of discontent in Birsa Munda’s land

The reserved constituency is again seeing a tough contest between Union minister Arjun Munda and Congress’s Kalicharan Munda.

WrittenBy:Hridayesh Joshi

Jharkhand’s Khunti, the birthplace of revolutionary Birsa Munda, is again seeing a tough contest between Union minister and incumbent MP Arjun Munda and Congress’s Kalicharan Munda, who had lost with a thin margin in 2019.

For many decades, Adivasi identity hasn’t just shaped politics here but also exposed deepening faultlines in the relationship with political power centres. But beyond the political rhetoric and lip-service to the cause of Adivasi rights, not much has changed for Khunti, which is among the most backward tribal areas in India and where many were arrested for violence during the Pathalgadi movement. 

The reserved constituency for STs still lacks basic amenities and its youngsters struggle for education and jobs. Many families have migrated and there’s an uptick in opium cultivation.

Meanwhile, Hindutva outfits are trying to gain a foothold in the region by co-opting tribal identities while demanding the delisting of tribals, who have converted to “non-indigenous religions”, from the Scheduled Tribes list. And this is triggering its own set of apprehensions.

On the Pathalgadi movement, BJP leader Kariya Munda says, “The Pathalgadi issue was political. If it was social, religious or cultural, it would have worked. When it did not work in the elections, it was closed.”

But Ajay Sharma, a journalist says, tribals are unable to be vocal about their problems “because they are illiterate”. “They keep the pain they feel in their heart. Tribals need to see and understand, not hear.”

What exemplifies official apathy is the condition of Adivasis in Ulihatu village, which is the birthplace of Birsa Munda and is visited by both BJP and Congress leaders during each election. 


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