Bhubaneswar Adivasi Mela – Odisha

Debabrata Mohanty, Indian Express, Bhubaneswar, Wed Feb 01 2012

Photo: courtesy: Indian Express

At a time when the outrage over the video showing Andaman’s Jarawa tribals being made to dance in front of tourists is yet to die down, the Orissa SC/ST department is parading people from aborigine tribes for visitors at a state-organised tribal fair that kicked off here on January 26.

About 250 tribals, many of them from aborigine communities from across the state, have been brought as “live models” to the 10-day Adivasi Mela, a fair organised to showcase the department’s work among the tribals — leading to voices of protests from rights activists.

Among the live models are Narendra Majhi and his wife Neela, who are Kutia Kondhs, one of the most primitive tribal groups of the country who live at the foothills of the Niyamgiri hills in Kalahandi district.

“I will be given Rs 100 a day. I was chosen from my village as I have been visiting this place for the past few years. My wife has come for the first time,” said Narendra, a marginal farmer who grows millets on his half acre land to sustain his family of seven. […]

At another stall, showcasing the Juanga aborigine tribe from Keonjhar district, Sada Juanga said, “There is no electricity in our village. The ITDA officials asked me to sit in the hut.”

Of the 157 stalls at the mela, the aborigines are being showcased in 29 stalls by the department. Among the visitors has been Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who has visited twice in less than a week.

The Kutia Kondhs, Gadabas and Juangas are among the 62 tribal groups of Orissa who constitute around 22 per cent of the total population of 4.19 crore. They have their own language and seemed to be ill-at-ease in the huts prepared by the SC/ST department.

Rights activists said the practice of showcasing the aborigines is not just inhuman, but also violates the fundamental right of the tribals, hurting their life to dignity. “While the government comes down on private tour operators for taking tourists to Bonda tribals in Malkangiri, it is equally revolting the way the government is making a circus out of the tribal people,” said noted rights activist Biswapriya Kanungo. “They have been made to travel 400-500 km for amusement of people here.”

Another activist and writer Sudhir Patnaik said: “The tribal fair shows the government thinks the tribals to be some playthings who can be served up for the amusement of city people.” […]

Although Majhi and others said they would be paid between Rs 90 and Rs 100 per day, Secretary of the SC/ST department Santosh Sadangi denied any such promise. He said there was no plan to pay them, adding that dormitory accomodation has been made for them near Adivasi Padia, the mela venue.

The fair has its own website where the SC/ST department describes it as a “vibrant cultural festival” and “one of the most attractive agenda of the department”.

Source: Come watch your favourite tribal, Orissa fair is open – Indian Express
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Date Visited: Fri May 18 2012 10:48:36 GMT+0200 (CEST)

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