New Pawns, Old Game

Ramlal Bauddha, who is in charge of the BSP for Banswada, talking about the lack of development here, says, “The tribals have not been able to forge themselves into a political force. No tribal leader is aware of the history of tribals and Dalits. Then how could they have given a new identity to their people

Country liquor is ruining us. We do not need it. If it is banned, we can forge ahead. All the mahua trees here have been destroyed, but the liquor business continues. They bring mahua  from outside”, says tribal farmer Khatu Damor. He lives in the Bagad region of south Rajasthan. His village, Banela, is in the Bagidaura tehsil. His house does not have electricity supply. One of his sons is a school teacher. His brother’s kids go to school. They study in the light of a kerosene lamp.

This is the state of the people of the country in this age of science and technology. They are not even aware of their rights. Khatu tells me, “We had requested the minister Malviya ji for electricity but nothing has moved. What have we to do with who wins in these elections? There will be no change in our lives.”

The Bagad region is tribal-dominated. All the 16 assembly constituencies are reserved for tribals. But the BJP and the Congress rule here. Last time, all the 16 seats were won by the Congress. This time, all, barring two, have fallen into the BJP kitty. Nothing has changed. Only the faces have. The people, who obliged the Congress the last time, obliged the BJP this time. And the parties, in turn, did what was needed to be done for these people. Mahendrajeet Singh Malviya, a former minister, has won from Bagidaura on a Congress ticket. During the run-up to the polls, he kept on urging the voters to elect him because he had brought “development” to the area. He has also established a foundation for the development of Mangarh. But what development he has brought about, only he can tell. Some time back, the state Governor Margaret Alva was here and had expressed her dissatisfaction with the poor state of affairs in Mangarh. The roads are almost non-existent, especially in Anandpuri. This despite the fact that a minister represented the area. No wonder, the tribals cannot see the development brought about by the Congress.

The root of the problem is that the tribal leadership here cannot even contemplate floating an alternative to both the BJP and the Congress. Begging for favours from either of them or both is the only thing they know. Due to reservation, only tribals can represent this area in the assembly. Yet there is no sign of tribal politics here and neither has anything been done to preserve or protect the tribal culture. In fact, there is nothing here which the tribals can showcase as their achievement. The tribals remain where they were while the upper castes, which are in a minority, are progressing.

Ramlal Bauddha, who is in charge of the BSP for Banswada, talking about the lack of development here, says, “The tribals have not been able to forge themselves into a political force. No tribal leader is aware of the history of tribals and Dalits. Then how could they have given a new identity to their people? They are only pawns. The real players are the same ones who have been ruling for the last 5000 years. The tribal leaders here are only the foundations of the edifice of Brahamanism. Let them withdraw and just see how the edifice collapses.”

It is ironical indeed that despite being a tribal-dominated area, tribals do not dominate the politics here. Recently, a Ved Vidhyapeeth was established in Banswara. Now the tribals will study Vedas and scriptures – the very books which forced them to live in the darkness of ignorance for 5,000 years are being thrust upon them. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat comes here and tells them the story of Ram and Shabri. He asks them to keep their “promise” and vote the BJP to power.

The tribals here do not even know the difference between the BJP and the Congress. They join the party which agrees to give them the ticket. They have to seek tickets – which is their right – by playing second fiddle to party leaders. Jeetmal Khat is the MLA from Garhi. He began his political career with the Janata Dal but this time the BJP fielded him and he won. Now, will he follow the tradition of Govind Guru or salute the saffron flag? The answer is obvious.

When Ved Vidyapeeths were being opened during the Congress regime, what will happen under BJP raj? Maybe, Sanskrit schools will be opened and the tribals will study Sanskrit! Where is the need for them to study their own history? And this will happen when tribals from the area will be ministers in the state government. This amply indicates which ideology is ruling the roost here and who is controlling the levers of power.

There is not a single university in the area. There is an old dam called Mahi. The dam greatly benefited this area but with time, its canals have developed seepages and no one has the time to repair them. The tribals are mainly farmers.

They do contest elections but only as pawns. This happened again in these elections. To say that Bagad has a new government would be a misnomer. Only the pawns have changed. The players remain the same. The need of the hour is for alternative tribal leadership to emerge here. And for this the tribals must know their history, which they will learn not in the Ved Vidhyapeeth but in an Adivasi Vidhyapeeth. This is imperative for the tribal life of both kinds, ‘Band Basti’ and ‘Khuli Basti’.


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