It was indeed heartening to find the proceedings of an international conference on the issues concerning the adivasi people in India. Though I could not access the complete report of the conference, a brief sketch of the topics addressed could be found below. It was great to know that there were mainstream public discussions about important issues ranging from Tribal Cultural Heritage and Conflict over Identity to Tribal Women and Human Trafficking. It just goes on to emphasize the fact that the indigenous communities are uniting for their own rights and concerns and making their voices heard.
Bhasha (meaning speech) is one of the true centres of excellence for study, documentation and conservation of adivasi languages in India. http://www.bhasharesearch.org
It has actively founded and promoted a host of different causes like –
The People’s Linguistic Survey of India (PLSI) – Conceived as a project to capture how people identify, name and perceive what they speak, the survey also contains the stories of people’s origin, dispersal and relationship with the neighbouring cultures.
Budhan Theatre – A national platform for pooling the creative energies of nomadic communities, studying their traditional cultural practices and documenting and disseminating this information amongst wider society to bridge social differences and bring about attitudinal changes.
In an act of cultural assertion, different adivasi peoples in India, are devising their own scripts. Many adivasi communities find the roman script too inadequate to spell out the specialized pronunciations in different adivasi languages. Thus the need of separate scripts for languages is felt strongly. Many educated individuals from various communities have come forward to devise scripts specialized for their own native languages.
A piece of news regarding the same – http://www.allindiaaseca.org/MEDIA/2015/TOI8.6.15.html
A website detailing many new adivasi language scripts devised – http://www.omniglot.com/writing/kotia.htm
Music and dance has always been a part of the cultural milieu of the Santhal community. However, the conventional education in schools in India has been totally cut off from these cultural elements. The Rolf Schoembs Vidyashram, Birbhum, tries to use the bilingual approach to teaching language. The alphabet book is bilingual, with every Santhali word written alongside its Bengali counterpart. every child learns to draw and sculpt with his /her tender hands as is akin to Santhali culture. Dance and music is an intrinsic part of the curriculum. Every child gets to learn Santhali folk songs and rhymes and gets introduced to the Santhali idiom.
Video | Santal children learning through video as teaching instrument
Yakshi is an organisation which, in their own words “supports adivasi visions of buen vivir ( manchi jeevitam- a good life) based on holistic co-existence and recovery of lost harmony between humans and mother nature.”
Yakshi mainly engages with the adivasi peoples over issues of – Law and Governance, Women empowerment, Youth Leadership and cultural action which includes theatre and folk art.
One interesting endeavour has been the setting up of Gotti – A creative space for young people to connect to social movements through critical dialogue and inter-generational learning. It also provides a space for nurturing life skills like organic food farming, sustaining local performing arts, reviving local crafts, exploring music, culture, arts, theatre and ideas and providing a creative learning space for children.
I was pleasantly surprised to know about the existence and working of a full-fledged Adivasi University in India. Though currently it is just one of its kind, there are plans for more. Apart from the normal academic courses, the university also offers courses in Adivasi art, philosophy and museology. It also aims to disseminate and advance indigenous knowledge by providing instructional and research facilities in tribal art, culture, tradition, language, medicinal systems, customs, forest based economic activities, flora, fauna and advancement in technologies relating to the natural resources of the tribal areas. Additionally, there are plans for more campuses in Adivasi dominant areas.
After seeing March Point, i was impressed with the use of technology for expression as imagined by the indigenous youth. While searching for similar efforts in India, I came across ‘Video volunteers’ a project which aims to train tribal youth and children in the art of film making and encourages them to express their concerns and struggles.
A prominent example is the short video expressing the concerns about unwarranted mining and resultant displacement of the Santhal community seen here –
About the programme – video volunteers –
While many thought of Indian independence from the British as a landmark event which would guarantee sovereignty over all territory and the creation of a unanimous Indian identity, things were different for the Adivasis of India. While looking at the history of colonization in India in the context of the Adivasis, I came across a very informative work by Dip Kapoor from the University of Alberta. It sheds light on the current issues of the Adivasis and their perspectives of post colonial independent India about land, culture and education.
There has been increasing awareness about imparting culturally responsive and inclusive education to the Adivasis (tribals / Native peoples) in India. More and more Native peoples’ associations are demanding preschool education in the native language and demanding that native cultures become a part of the curriculum. Following are the links to a few such efforts –
Pajhra – An organization working towards Promotion and development of Adivasi languages
Mother tongue based Multi-lingual Early Childhood Education – An organization demanding that multi-lingual early childhood education be made a right for the adivasi communities. Following is a link to their videos.
A report by the UNESCO on the case studies of ‘Improving the Quality of Mother Tongue-based Literacy and Learning’ in native peoples.
The Right to Education act (RTE) was implemented by the government of India in 2010. Under this act, every child was to attend a government recognized school from the age of 6 onwards. However, the curriculum in all government recognized schools is uniform, with no special focus on including the Adivasi cultural elements. This act has brought the curtain down on all forms of informal schooling. It is therefore important to investigate the impacts of this act on Adivasi education. Following are some of the links which i read –