17th & 18th March, Patel Bhavan, Ranchi.
All India Seminar
Tribal Women in Contemporary India : Their Status and Their Struggles
17th & 18th March, Patel Bhavan, Ranchi.
Some tribal women's organizations have come together to form a platform, "Sangharshrat Adivasi Mahila Manch", to organize a seminar to highlight the plight and the struggles of tribal women in contemporary India. Though this has not been in the focus of the media, it is a fact that all over the country, tribal women are actively struggling against their exploitation. History has been a witness to these militant struggles continuously waged by tribal women. Though away from the cities and the mainstream women's movements, the courage and sacrifice of these tribal women are of great significance to all those who believe in social change. To highlight these struggles and the circumstances in which they are taking place, a seminar has been organized in Ranchi. The seminar will be followed by a rally and public meeting.
Struggling for life
Struggles against British Colonialism British Colonialism intensified the exploitation and oppression of tribals in India. Seeing the potential of exploiting the mineral and forest resources of the adivasi dominated areas, the British made efforts to capture these lands. The reasons for the miserable plight of tribals were many…their deprivation of forest rights, the entry of landlords and usurers into their areas etc. Tribal women and men, all over the country raised their traditional weapons and fought bravely against these forms of exploitation.
The Santhal Rebellion from 1855-56, the Bhumkal Rebellion in Bastar and Birsa Munda's Ulgulan movement in and around Ranchi are some examples. The role of women in these adivasi revolts was no less than that of men. They too faced the vicious repression unleashed by the British to crush these movements. Adivasi men and women carved their names in blood in the history of the Independence Movement in India, but what is their condition in today's so-called Independent India?
The Status of Tribal Women Today tribal women are amongst the poorest, most marginalized and backward people. Even today they have no rights over the forest and cultivating forest lands is considered an offence. In spite of their important contribution in various types of labour, within the tribal community too, women are oppressed by various traditional male chauvinistic practices.
This patriarchal oppression manifests itself in various ways among different tribal groups. Adivasi women are deprived of educational and health facilities and we find that the rate of literacy in this section is 14.5 %. Malnutrition is not only rampant among adivasi children but also among women. Though the government boasts of having welfare schemes and anganwadis, tribal children are dying in thousands due to malnutrition each year. Hundreds of tribal people die of malaria each year, but the government tries its best to hide these facts. Tribal women are also victims of incessant sexual violence and abuse by contractors, government officials and the police. Luring tribal women to cities with the promise of giving them jobs, criminal gangs are in fact trafficking women and ruining their lives. The economic policies of the central and state governments, in keeping with liberalization, privatization and globalization, have opened the gates for imperialist plunder. It is not surprising then that imperialist companies and big capitalists are competing
with each other for projects in tribal areas that lead to their displacement and environmental degredation.
In the last year itself, various Indian and foreign, or multinational corporate houses have been expanding their activities or entered into agreements with the state governments of Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhatisgadh and Maharashtra. These are companies like Jindal, Essar, Mittal, Posco, Tata, Reliance etc. Along with this, in an attempt to divert the adivasis from the path of struggle, Hindutwa communal organizations are making an all out effort to saffronise the adivasi community. The "Shabri Kumbh Mela" to be held in February in the Dangs of Gujarat is one such example. All this ismaking the possibilities of future development for tribals bleaker and the
plight of women more miserable.
Tribal Women on the Path of Struggle. Tribal women have risen up in struggle against their exploitation and oppression. They have given the clarion call to fight the landlords, money-lenders and state machinery of the ruling classes. They were in the forefront of the Naxalbari and Srikakulam movements. In the contemporary revolutionary movement in Bihar, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Bastar, Chhatisgadh, Orissa and Gadchiroli and Gondia of Maharashtra, they have built up a huge women's movement. In Northeast India, where nationality movements are going on, tribal women in places like Manipur and Nagaland have active women's organizations. In the Narmada Valley, Kashipur and Kalinganagar, they have agitated against imperialist backed development projects. By trying to crush these movements with intense and brutal repression, the state has made clear its anti-tribal stand. The inhuman police firing at Kalinganagar, Jajpur, Orissa, is a recent example of this approach.
In spite of arrests, beatings and torture by the police, in spite of false cases being foisted on them, whether it be TADA or POTA, which have been used against struggling tribal women, they have carried on fighting courageously. The state continues to try and crush their movements through campaigns like "Salwa Judum" and "Sendra" where mass rapes and murders of tribal women are taking place in the name of a state sponsored "peace campaign." It is crystal clear that the powers that be would rather kill and crush the tribal communities than work for their development, and yet, fearless and strong, the struggle of adivasi women goes on and on…. . To bring these struggles of adivasi women into focus, we are holding a seminar on the related issues. We appeal to all progressive women's organizations, women activists and intellectuals to participate in this seminar and help to make it a success.
Sangharshrat Adivasi Mahila Manch
Rose Karketa, President, Reception Committee.
For correspondence: e-mail:
Tel: Arati Kujur: 9835358379, Rose Karketa: 0651-2541681