“We Tribals are the original inhabitants of India. All the outsiders deprived us of our rights. All sorts of untruths were used to serve this end. We were called barbarians; we were not even considered humans. Especially, the Hindu scriptures described us as ‘Asurs’. But I am proud that I am an Asur and I love my land.”
The voice of former Jharkhand Chief Minister Shibu Soren, now 68, speaking from Jharkhand, is not very clear. Age and illness have taken their toll on him. He cannot talk much. But in a telephonic conversation, Soren spontaneously described Ravana as his “kulguru” (clan mentor).
Shibu Soren, who has been given the title of “Deshom Guru” (Teacher of the Nation), says that in his childhood, whenever he heard of the killing of Ravana and Mahishasur-slayer Durga, he felt very odd. The reason: Mahishasur’s looks and costumes closely resembled those of his own people. “Like us, he lived in the forest. Like us, he grazed cows and, like us, he hunted.” One question that often perturbed him was as to what made the so-called gods fight against the Asurs. When he grew up, he realised that all this was a conspiracy of the elite classes to wrest control over the water, forests and land of the Tribals.
Soren says that when he became the Chief Minister of Jharkhand for the first time in 2005, he decided to get a survey done for the welfare of the Asur community. The idea was to save the community from the verge of extinction and bring it into the social mainstream. He says that during his second term in 2008 too, he took the initiative to draw up a policy for the purpose. But the move came to nothing as he lost a by-election.
Soren is keen that the younger generation should see the truth behind the superstitions and myths propagated by the elite and should contribute its might to the building of a new society.
(This article is based on a conversation Nawal Kishore Kumar had with Shibu Soren in September 2011. It was published in the October 2011 issue of the Forward Press magazine. The video interview is from November 2015, in which Forward Press’ Consulting Editor Pramod Ranjan asks Soren whether he has any message pertaining to Mahishasur Day for the youth.)
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