We are the indigenous people of
Chotanagpur. We evolved from hunting and gathering to farming and
herding, created farming plots in our land; we would still depend
on jungle while keeping its ecosystem intact. When independence
came we welcomed the idea of forming a government, adapted to the
rules of land settlement and reforms. Actively participated in
elections – electing political leaders of our choice. Several
years passed by but we never benefited from choosing our leaders,
still, we meekly took part in every election.
In the present modern world, we
also evolved from farming & herding to job seeking. Some of us
did well in the modern education system and got employed in the
government and industries; most of us outside farming, are
labourers and earn daily wages through manual work. Unskilled,
semiskilled and skilled Adivasis who were risk takers starting
migrating from Chotanagpur to distant lands in search of jobs.
Many of us are still in
Chotanagpur and depend on farming for livelihood. The land that we
owned were either crafted or brought or bartered in exchange for
being displaced from original land due to mines, steel plant and
dams. Our land being rich in natural mineral resources (NMS) or
being in closed proximity to NMS fall prey to big greedy
conglomerates and government development projects. We Adivasis
being emotionally and economically weak, give way to the
demands/lure from the government.
No indigenous populations have
ever benefited from displacement. Very few displaced Adivasis have
actually benefited. Money did not last long and the promised
fertile land was either not suitable for farming or was gradually
not used for farming, the new land was mostly sold to settlers
from outside. Those who managed to survive in their service and
stayed away from the evils of drinking sent their children to
schools. These Adivasi educated children later migrated for
greener pastures. Little have we heard of these educated adivasi
children being groomed in farming and seldom do they return home
to farm in their own land – land of their ancestors.
Our Khutkati land
possession is diminishing. Shri. Ghanshyam Gagrai, founder of HO Mahasabha
says with tears in his eyes, “All our land will be gone”.
On every election we travel
several miles, stand in a long queue under the scorching sun to
cast our votes, we trust and choose our leader, we trust our
government; we play an important role in forming a government, in
building the nation. So why does the government cheat us? Why does
my government kill our people? If we refuse to sell our land to
the government, will they kill us all? How can the government take
us for granted?
Dilip Tirkey's Marriage
The missionaries lived among us
spoke our language, mingled with us and took part in our
socio-cultural events. They were propagating their concept of God.
Since we liked their behaviour, most of us converted from sarna.
We adopted the new religion and embraced Christianity. We became
ardent followers of Christ. We incorporated ‘the shaking of
hands, kneeling and kissing’ in our social and cultural
environment. Without knowing much of Latin or Hindi, we memorised
the rosary and prayers by heart. Spirituality was imbibed. While
Christian congregations brought education, healthcare and fought
for our land rights, they also defined our social and cultural
Today the clergy mostly controls
the church and has great influence in the socio-religious life of
tribals. There is synergy between Christian values and tribal
culture to a great extent. However, there have been incidents of
tussle between the clergy and the laity from time to time at
various places. With the changing time and exposure to education
we are coming out of our “culture of silence”. Though we are
obedient and humble, we have started questioning the authorities.
We cannot be taken for granted. In the 1st week of
February 2006 our national hero Dilip Tirkey got married in
Hamirpur Catholic Church. There was lot of opposition to the
alliance from the Oraon community. In spite of the objections, the
clergy of the local church manoeuvred rules and solemnised the
marriage. It was reported that the church wedding proceeded under
heavily guarded security of armed platoon of policemen. They stood
beside the alter and were positioned inside the cathedral and
outside – just in case…..
The local Adivasis community was
very unhappy, so much so that they were planning to boycott the
ordination of new Bishop solemnised on 19th April 2006.
Fortunately, later there was reconciliation between the clergy and
the community and the ordination of new Bishop was solemnised
Reverend Bishop of Rourkela
diocese supported the matrimony, said, “The church allows
marriage between cousins”. Laurence Lakra, local parish priest
told CNN-IBN: “The church does not believe in anything like
Marriage within family and gotra
is strictly forbidden among the Chotanagpur Adivasis for social
and biological reasons. The similar practice prevails among all
indigenous people of the world. It might look like primitive and
traditional but the church can not undermine the values of the
The Adivasi Christian community
in Chotanagpur is the largest contributors to the religious
congregations in the region.
We, first have to identify
ourselves as Adivasis and then Christians. We actively participate
in the church activities and trust the church. Our cultural values
have to be respected and efforts have to be made to strengthen the
synergy between the church and our culture and not undermine it as
traditional and primitive.