“We have to write our own stories, about our issues, from our own perspectives”: Remembering Abhay Xaxa, a Fiercely Unapologetic Adivasi Scholar-Activist – Chhattisgarh & Jharkhand

Abhay Xaxa Facebook photo on TheWire >>

Read the full obituary by Mahtab Alam in TheWire (10 April 2020) >>

A champion for Adivasi rights, Xaxa played an active part in anti-displacement movements in central India. […]

Xaxa passed away because of a heart attack. A native of the Jashpur district of northern Chhattisgarh, Xaxa had completed his PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) after receiving his masters in social anthropology from the University of Sussex, UK. […]

His research at JNU involved looking at Tribal Marginality and Laws related to Land in Jharkhand. In Xaxa’s understanding, there is a deeply embedded relationship between the legal structures governing land laws and the marginality of the tribal communities. In his view, the relationship is dual in nature as these laws not only impact the marginal situation of tribal communities, but they also, in turn, get influenced through their marginality.

Further in his research, he went on to argue that the agency of tribal communities along with their capacity to negotiate has been undermined because of their marginal position in the broader social structure. Hence, there is a knowledge gap in the understanding of the ways in which legal systems, including law-making and implementation function in the tribal areas. Only by filling up this gap, he observed, would there be an alternative argument about the functions of legal structures vis a vis Adivasis of India. […]

While he worked with non-Adivasi groups and civil society organisations closely, he was very clear that Adivasis had to write their own stories. He was critical of both academia as well as civil society organisations. In a detailed interview in 2010, he said, “(A)ll the stories we hear (from Adivasis) are from Oxford graduates and ‘upper’ caste people. Those are not our stories. But nothing is too late; we have to write our own stories, about our issues, from our own perspectives. It is better late than never.”

His poem from 2011 I Am Not Your Data is an apt commentary on the way civil society organisations treat Adivasis and what’s wrong about it. In November 2017, he sent me a poem titled, Beautifully Damaged People. It didn’t just explain the plight of Adivasis but also declared that the future was the Adivasis! The last stanza of his poem read:

“For if there is any hope of future for this world,
It is by the beautifully damaged people.
Who among the doom and gloom, smile and survive
In togetherness with nature,
The Adivasis!”

There is no doubt that the struggles of the Adivasis will go on uninterrupted. But with Xaxa gone, many have lost a true friend, a fine researcher, a passionate scholar, a committed activist, an able mentor and a budding actor. Xaxa had worked in a yet to be completed feature film called Sonchand, which according to him was the first Adivasi community film project based on crowd-funding and community resources, challenging the Eklayva mythology relating to Adivasis.

Source: “Remembering Abhay Xaxa, a Fiercely Unapologetic Adivasi Scholar-Activist”
URL: https://thewire.in/rights/remembering-abhay-xaxa-a-fiercely-unapologetic-adivasi-scholar-activist
Date accessed: 10 April 2020

Abhay Xaxa, national convenor of the coalition National Campaign on Adivasi Rights, quoted in The Indian Express | To read the full report, click here >>

Several Adivasi rights groups have issued statements against the Supreme Court order. These include the All India Forum of Forest Movements, National Advocacy Council for Development of Indigenous People, Bhumi Adhikar Andolan, Campaign for Survival and Dignity, and National Alliance for People’s Movements. […]

The Supreme Court order of February 13, directing states to evict Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Other Traditional Forest Dweller (OTFD) whose claims over forest land have been rejected, notes that Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Telangana are the states that rejected maximum claims, and where more than 4 lakh claimants are set to be evicted. […]

Under the Forest Rights Act, until the claims process is on, Adivasis (STs) and OTFDs should not be evicted. Lakhs of claims are in process, as also the appeal process against rejected claims. The process is taking so long due to bureaucratic delays. There is also the issue of corruption, where to suit the agenda of powerful mining and other private companies, genuine claims are rejected. The fate of over a million Adivasis, who are worse off than minorities and Dalits, has taken a disastrous turn and they don’t have a voice in this decision.

Source: “With Supreme Court order on forest land, 4 lakh claimants set to be evicted in 3 states“, The Indian Express (23 February 2019)
URL: https://indianexpress.com/article/india/with-supreme-court-order-on-forest-land-4-lakh-claimants-set-to-be-evicted-in-3-states-5597400/
Date visited: 10 April 2020

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  • Ekalavya* Residential School Scheme (EMR): a network of boarding schools where tribal children are to be educated in accordance with rules and syllabi provided by the government; such schools are being designated as “Eklavya Model Residential School (EMR)” with the objective of empowering students “to be change agent, beginning in their school, in their homes, in their village and finally in a large context.”
    https://tribal.gov.in/DivisionsFiles/sg/EMRSguidlines.pdf
  • Residential School and Ashram School
    In some regions there are similar “Residential Schools” and “Ashram Schools” for tribal children, as in Tripura where they are managed by a society called “Tripura Tribal Welfare Residential Educational Institutions Society (TTWREIS)”
    https://twd.tripura.gov.in/tripura-tribal-welfare-residential-educational-institutions-society
  • Factory schools “exist to turn tribal and indigenous children – who have their own language and culture – into compliant workers-of-the-future. The world’s largest Factory School stated that it turns ‘Tax consumers into tax payers, liabilities into assets’.”– survivalinternational.org/factoryschools | Research this subject with the help of a Safe custom search engine >>

* Ekalavya (Eklavya, Eklabya): the name of a legendary archer prodigy “who, being a Nishada [Sanskrit Niṣāda, “tribal, hunter, mountaineer, degraded person, outcast”], had to give his thumb as a fee to the brahmin guru thus terminating his skill as an archer.” – Romila Thapar (“The epic of the Bharatas”) | Read the full paper here | Backup download link (pdf) >>

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This entry was posted in Adivasi, Adverse inclusion, Anthropology, Central region, Colonial policies, Commentary, Democracy, Eastern region, Education and literacy, Ekalavya (Eklavya, Eklabya), EMR & Factory schools, Film, Forest Rights Act (FRA), History, Misconceptions, Modernity, Networking, Organizations, Photos and slideshows, Press snippets, Quotes, Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Storytelling. Bookmark the permalink.