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Rajasthan: ‘Queen’ remembers Adivasi heroes in election season

With an eye on the upcoming assembly elections, Vasundhara Raje is commemorating Adivasi heroes. She has also got the Union Cabinet to approve the inclusion of Adivasi areas of the state in the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution. At the polling booth, will the Adivasis remember this late shower of benefits or Raje’s usual indifference? Asks Kumar Sameer

Rajasthan Assembly Elections are not far away. The Election Commission announced that the polling would be held on 7 December 2018. Be it the ruling party or the opposition, all are enthusiastically evaluating the trends in the state. The BharatiyaJanata Party (BJP) government led by Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje is trying to win every socio-political group over. She has starting raining election promises. “Panorama” and “Namkaran” (naming) politics of Vasundhara Raje government is seen in that light.

Under the “panorama policy”, panoramas of various folk deities and great men of different social groups, especially Adivasis, have been constructed. On the other hand, under “Naamkaran policy”, residential schools in Adivasi areas have been named after the Adivasi heroes. In Udaipur, Banswara, Pratapgarh, Sirohi, Pali and Chittorgarh, many ashrams, hostels and boarding schools have been named after heroes like Rana Poonja, Raja Bansia, Rani Deoli Meena and Veerbala Kalibai.

Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje offers tribute to the Bhils who died fighting the troops of the local ruler and the British government in the early 1900s in Mangarh Dham, Banswara

Rana Poonja was a Bhil fighter. He was born to the headman of Merpur, Duda Holanki, and his wife Kohri Bai. He was declared the headman of Merpur after the death of his father. It was his first test as a leader. Later, he was declared the king of Bhobhat. Due to his popularity and organizational skills, he was called a “Bhil Nayak” (Bhil Hero). He was famous in the entire Mewar region. His guerilla-war tactics left the Battle of Haldighati indecisive. He staked all his resources and strength on the Battle of Haldighati to protect the Mewar-Bangar region. He was so influential that even Maharana Pratap asked for his support to keep off the Mughals. Rana Poonja extended his unconditional support to Maharana Pratap. Bhils had continuously thwarted Mughal attempts to invade. This is the reason Mewar’s emblem has the Bhil symbol along with the Rajput symbol.

Raja Bansia Bhil, another Adivasi warrior, was also a nuisance to the Mughals. Folk songs telling stories of his bravery are sung even today. He was an expert in archery and guerilla warfare. He made the Mughal Army retreat many times. Banswara, the city in Rajasthan, is named after him.

Veerbala Kalibai Bhil is called the Eklavya of the Modern Age. It was the bravery of Kalibai Bhil that allowed the people of ​​Mewar-Bangar to get an education. The ruler of Dungarpur, Maharawal Lakshman Singh, was opposed to the idea of educating the Bhils. He feared that they would revolt if they got educated. He ordered all schools in his territory to close and made various laws debarring Bhils from getting an education. At the same time, Nana Bhai Khant and Senga Bhai Bhil started a movement for education. On 19 June 1947, in Rastapal village, the Dungarpur ruler’s forces raided a school run by Seva Sangh. Nana Bhai and Senga Bhai opposed the raid. Kalibai Bhil was their student. She resisted the ruler’s forces. When the ruler’s forces saw this aggression, they started firing. As a result, all except Nana bhai and Senga bhai were killed. A student thus saved her teachers. The firing on the Bhils was enough to trigger outrage in the surrounding Adivasi areas. The sound of “maru dhol” echoed in the whole area. It was a declaration of war by the Bhils. The ruler’s forces had to retreat.

Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje at the inauguration of the panorama of Veerbala Kalibai Bhil in Mandwa Khaparda village, Dungarpur district

It is these memories of Bhil valour that Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government is trying to exploit through her “Namkaran” exercise. Furthermore, the government recommended to the Union government the inclusion of the predominantly tribal districts in the state in the Fifth Schedule of Indian Constitution. The Union Cabinet has accepted the recommendation and, revoking the Constitutional Order of 12 February 1981, has included Banswara, Dungarpur and Pratapgarh districts, and nine tehsils, one block, 46 gram panchayats (Udaipur, Rajsamand, Chittorgarh, Pali) and 227 villages of Sirohi in the Fifth Schedule. Once the provisions of the Fifth Schedule are implemented, development projects will get a fresh start under the Tribal Sub-Scheme (formerly Tribal Sub-Plan), relieving the state government of the burden of providing for them, and backward classes in this area will also benefit.

Kantibhai Raut, founder member of Bhil Pradesh Vikas Samiti, believes that the state government’s initiative to include the predominantly tribal districts in the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution is misleading. He said that the government was implementing the policy of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to woo Adivasis. He also noted that the Adivasi districts of the state were already under the Fifth Schedule. He said: “For Adivasi areas, ‘Tribal Sub-Plan’ money is allocated. However, it is being spent on non-Adivasi areas and projects. There is no compliance with respect to the Fifth Schedule in Adivasi districts of Rajasthan.”

Raut welcomes the naming of schools and hostels after the Adivasi heroes. However, he says, their names have been left incomplete, diluting their identity. He says, “Kalibai’s full name is Veerbala Kalibai Bhil. Similarly, Rana Poonja is actually Maharana Poonja Bhil. Rana Poonja sounds like a Rajput name. Similarly, in the case of Raja Bansia, Rajputs claim that Banswara was built by Raja Bansia Singh Rajput.”

Kantibhai Raut

Raut says Dungarpur, Udaipur, Sagwara, Galiakot and Kushalgarh were built by Dungar Bhil, Uda Kharari, Khadia Dindore, Gilia Damore and Kusla Katra, respectively. He rues that the Vasundhara Raje government hasn’t recognized these personalities.

Whether the Adivasi masses fall for these gimmicks, we will know only once the election results are declared. However, it cannot be denied that these “schemes” or “policies” appeal to the sentiments of Adivasis.

Vasundhara Raje government has constructed various panoramas to appease Jats, Rajputs and even Sikhs. For example, the panorama of Teja Ji Maharaj constructed in Nagaur is meant to sway the Jats. The government has installed panoramas of Karani Mata and Guru Gobind Singh in Bikaner to get Rajputs and Sikhs, respectively, with an eye on their votes.

Hence, the panorama, temple restoration, and “Naamkaran” policies are all tactics to beguile different social groups into voting for the incumbent party in the next elections. According to political observers, Vasundhara government launched into this programme on the advice of RSS in the wake of the defeats in two Lok Sabha and one assembly by-elections. The idea is obviously to wheedle different castes and communities into voting her and her party back to power.

Translation: Lokesh Kumar; copy-editing: Anil

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Jati ke Prashn Par Kabir

About The Author

Kumar Sameer

Kumar Sameer is a senior journalist. He has worked for several newspapers including 'Rashtriya Sahara'. He has also been the resident editor of the Delhi edition of the Hindi daily 'National Duniya'

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