Joint efforts, not denials, make India a safer place for girls and women – West Bengal & Madhya Pradesh

“Tribal communities are a standing example of how women play a major role in preservation of eco historic cultural heritage in India.” – Mari Marcel Thekaekara (writer and Co-founder of ACCORD-Nilgiris) | Learn more >>

Why am I returning repeatedly to the theme of rape, I puzzled, as I began this blog post. Because, I realized, the problem’s become worse, not better. Rape stories are headlined practically every day. This morning, I read that a 14-year-old girl was gang-raped in my home state of West Bengal. […]

Even worse, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, a woman, insisted the media is blowing things out of proportion. Things are not worse than they were before Mamata Banerjee was elected, apparently. Worse, worse, what’s the definition of worse? I wonder. Being raped and burnt, when death is the kindest option? Listening to the ravings of a minister busy blaming the media instead of taking action? […]

The fact that rape figures are at their highest ever leaves the women’s movement deeply exhausted. Many women have talked about feeling almost defeated at the state of Indian society today.

Take Haryana, India’s supposedly most successful state. The Sunday Times (of India) informs us that last year, 60 women were raped there every month. The same article goes on to say that Madhya Pradesh and Delhi have even worse figures. Haryana is only the tenth most terrible state, rape-wise, while Mizoram, Tripura and Assam have the dubious distinction of being ranked the three worst states.

Analyzing the rape scenario is complex. It’s easy to throw out theories about Haryana. For decades, Haryana aborted female foetuses without a qualm. Now there are no more brides. A local farmer says, ‘Finding a bride here, is like finding a precious grain of wheat, in a famine-stricken field.’ The men have to go far away and pay money – bride price – to find foreign girls from poorer states like West Bengal and Bihar. So apparently the farmer wasn’t surprised that Haryana’s sons of the soil resort to rape these days. I am told that perhaps Mizoram shows such high figures because women are stronger, fight back and report rape there.

All I can hope for is that more women, especially young women, engage in the fight against rape and violence. I have met many young women whom I admire for their chutzpah. But too many are far too busy with other distractions. […]

No dalit girl can boast such column inches. So no more can it be seen as a battle for dalit, adivasi and poor women to fight. It’s a war out there. And all those bright young things should join it, to make India a safe place to live in. […]

Read the full blog by Mari Marcel Thekaekara in New Internationalist (19 October 2012)
Source: The problem of rape is getting worse — New Internationalist
Address : http://www.newint.org/blog/2012/10/19/rape-india-worse/
Date Visited: 27 February 2021

Learn more: Bondage | Bonded labour | Human trafficking | SlaveryZamindari >>
Human trafficking is a crime. To report in India, call Shakti Vahini
+91-11-42244224, +91-9582909025 or the national helpline Childline on 1098.

Human trafficking is a crime. To report in India, call
Shakti Vahini on +91-11-42244224+91-9582909025
or the national helpline Childline on 1098.
High susceptibility of children in tourism locations >>

In the State that leads in incidents of rape, the shame-inducing statistics are pushing the administration into action

Time was when Payal (name changed to protect her identity), a standard VII student from Madhya Pradesh’s tribal dominated Betul district, had only school, friends and family on her mind. But her little world changed dramatically in March this year.

The 15-year-old, a resident of Betul’s Majhinagar slum, was abducted in public by a gangster, Rajesh Harore.

Rajesh (32) then took the tribal girl to a shanty and raped her. But that was not all. Two weeks later Rajesh, along with two other men, came to her house. As the helpless teenager watched, they shot her mother dead for having approaching the police.

Payal’s story is just one of the several thousand stories of rape that get scripted in Madhya Pradesh every year. […]

Not surprisingly, the top five States in terms of the number of rapes — Madhya Pradesh (3,406), West Bengal (2,363), Uttar Pradesh (2,042), Rajasthan (1,800) and Maharashtra (1,701) — also have dismal sex ratios.

While Madhya Pradesh (930), Rajasthan (926) and Uttar Pradesh (908) have sex ratios below the national average of 940, West Bengal (947) and Maharashtra (946) are just on the threshold.

Attitudes within the government too are a cause for concern. At least two ministers of the Shivraj Singh Chauhan cabinet have publicly blamed victims for bringing rape upon themselves by dressing provocatively. […]

“There has been an increased level of sensitisation within the police force. Only the constables are yet to be adequately sensitised but we are working towards that. We will assess the results once the specialised branch completes six months of operations,” she says. Even then, only an assessment of how safe women in Madhya Pradesh feel, will provide the true measure of CaW’s success or otherwise. Right now, they live in an atmosphere of fear and insecurity.

Source: “Where women fear to tread Mahim Pratap Singh, The Hindu, October 24, 2012”
Address: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/where-women-fear-to-tread/article4026266.ece
Date Visited: 27 February 2021

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

Learn more about Adivasi women’s health on Safe search >>

Illustration courtesy: Satwik Gade for “From the diary of an Adivasi woman: In India, how top-down development excludes its biggest stakeholders” by Naomi Hembrom (FirstPost.com) >>

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India After Gandhi | More by
Ramachandra Guha >>
Posted in Accountability, Adivasi / Adibasi, Childhood and children, Customs, Figures, census and other statistics, Misconceptions, Modernity, Press snippets, Quotes, Rural poverty, Seven Sister States, Women | Comments Off on Joint efforts, not denials, make India a safer place for girls and women – West Bengal & Madhya Pradesh

Narmada: “The lifeline of Central India” – Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra & Gujarat

Narmada Parikrama is the circumambulation around holy river Narmada undertaken by its pilgrims. Narmada river is considered to be the lifeline of Central India and is worshipped as Narmada maiyyaor Ma Rewa. The journey covers the route passing from the source of the river, i.e. Amarkantak to the point in Gujarat where it meets the Arabian sea and back. The entire journey covers about 2600 km. Originally the pilgrims completed the tour barefoot, halting in ashrams, temples and local shelters along their way. In modern times, the expedition is also undertaken with the help of vehicles like jeeps, buses and motor-boats. Popular halts along the journey include Ujjain, Maheshwar, Omkareshwar, and Laxmi Narayan Temple in Bhopal.

Source: National List for Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH), Ministry of Culture, Government of India
URL: https://www.indiaculture.nic.in/national-list-intangible-cultural-heritage-ich
Date visited: 25 February 2021

Narmada-Map-NCA_gov_in-8-6-15
Narmada Basin Map © Narmada Control Authority | For full size, click here >>
Memories of life in a remote Bhil hamlet on the Narmada river >>
“Those displaced, who are the Scheduled Tribes, belong to the Bhil, Bhilala, Pavra, Tadvi, and Vassawa ethnic groups [of] Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra.”
Source: Development and Dispossession in the Narmada Valley >>

The western region consists of the desert states of Gujarat and Rajasthan as well as Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh and western Madhya Pradesh. […] The region is home to a wide variety of people with different religious ‘s and cultures, most of whom have distinctive traditional textiles. They include Jains, Parsis, Hindus and Muslims, as well as tribal groups such as the Bhils and Mina. Yet the dominant characteristic of the traditional saris and odhnis of all these communities, as with all western Indian fabrics, is colour. […] This region’s propensity toward colour has deep roots, for it is here that the Indus Valley civilization developed cotton-growing and -dyeing technologies. – Linda Lynton | Learn more: The Sari: Styles, Patterns, History, Techniques >>

The Bhils of the area [remote tribal villages in northern Maharashtra] practiced their own unique religion, a form of animism and ancestor worship with a heavy dose of magic. But it was clear even at that time that their ancient religious tradition would soon disappear: many Bhils in the area had become devotees of wandering Hindu sadhus and Christian missionaries. Soon, their religious tradition would be looked down by others as ‘primitive’. – Yoginder Sikand | Learn more: “Simple ways of life” (Deccan Herald, 23 December 2012) >>

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

Learn more about Baba Amte and the Narmada valley on Safe search >>

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See also

Research the above issues with the help of Shodhganga: A reservoir of theses from universities all over India, made available under Open Access >>

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Posted in Assimilation, Central region, Customs, Government of India, Modernity, Narmada, Quotes, Seasons and festivals, Western region, Worship and rituals | Comments Off on Narmada: “The lifeline of Central India” – Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra & Gujarat

Audio | Historical recordings of Santali songs (1931): Arnold Bake’s recordings at Kairabani – Jharkhand

Santali flute player by a pond, photograph by Arnold Bake (Kairabani mission, March 1931)
Enlarge and learn more: Sound and vision blog >>

In Kairabani [Arnold Bake] photographed Santali pupils playing their instruments at the mission, but he seems to have been dissatisfied with the sober ambience of the premises. To also have a picture of a Santali musician in a natural environment, he probably arranged a photo with one of the musicians outside.
(Source: “The Santals, Scandinavian missionaries, and salvage ethnomusicology: an encounter of three worlds”. Christian Poske, Sound and vision blog, British Library, 30.6.2020, accessed 21 February 2021)

View by Language (excerpt): Santali
Tip: search and listen to all of the available recordings on British Library Sounds >>

1. “Boeha dupulạr”: traditional Santali song; 2. “Coṭ cuṛa”: Santali Christian song; 3. Lagre song played on a large tiriya flute
Abstract & audio player >>
“Boeha dupulạr”: traditional Santali song praising brotherly love, complete song performed by male vocalist (song also performed on C52/1648: 1, C52/2131: 4); 2. “Coṭ cuṛa”: Santali Christian song, based on a traditional Santali melody. The lyrics concern the right path to god, which is likened to a path leading through a forest in which satan dwells, posing dangers to those who walk carelessly; 3. Lagre song played on a large tiriya flute (also on C52/1647: 2, C52/2134: 2 & 3); 4. Ref tone. Reasonable quality recording.

1. “Boeha dupulạr”: traditional Santali song; 2. Doń song; 3. Doń song

1. Lagre song; 2. Lagre song; 3. Sohrai song (beginning); 4. Sohrai song (end)

1. Mora karam song; 2. Song played on a large dhodro banam; 3. Song played on a large dhodro banam with male singing voices in the background

1. Sohrai song; 2. “Boge gupi do”: Santali church song; 3. Sohrai song

1. Sohrai song; 2. Bhinsar song; 3. Unidentified song, probably of the Lagre genre

1. Song played on a small tiriya flute; 2. The same song, performed by male vocalist accompanied unisono on a small tiriya flute; 3. “Otma lolo kạmru guru, serma setoṅ buạṅ guru”: incantation song
Abstract & audio player >>
1. Unidentified song played on a small tiriya flute; 2. The same song performed by a male vocalist accompanied unisono on a small tiriya flute; 3. “Otma lolo kạmru guru, serma setoṅ buạṅ guru”: traditional Santali song, probably an incantation song, performed by male vocalist. Meaning of words: “kạmru guru” – teacher of charms, incantations and herbal medicine; “serma” – the sky; “setoṅ” – the rays of the sun; “buạṅ guru” – teacher of the buạṅ, a stringed musical instrument; 4. Ref. tone. Reasonable quality recording but with surface noise.

Updates by Christian Poske on 23 February 2021:

These are three Dasãe songs, which would traditionally be performed during the Dasãe daṛan(“September wandering”), a festive procession and rite of initiation for those learning the practices of Santali medicine from an ojha (“diviner, medicine man”). The updated documentation, given in my thesis, is therefore:

1. Dasãe song played on a small tiriya flute

2. Dasãe song (same as 1.), sung by male, with unisono accompaniment on a small tiriya flute

3. “O̱t ma lo̱lo̱, kạmru guru”: Dasāe song, sung by male

Bodding describes the Dasãe daṛan in detail in his Studies in Santal Medicine & Connected Folklore (1986 [1925-40]). In the book, he quotes the lyrics of a song that is almost identical to the third song on the cylinder:

O̱t ma lo̱lo̱, kạmru guru, serma setoṅ, buạṅ guru,

Yo̱ haere, cela do̱laṅ lalaoket’ko.

Sui sutạm gutukate se̱ne̱rre laṅ galaṅkako,

Reaṛ kaṇḍa, sitạ nala latarrelaṅ do̱ho̱kako.

That is,

The earth is hot, o Kạmru guru, the sky is fierce sunshine, o Buạṅ guru;

Alas, alas, we two have tantalised the disciples;

We two shall thread a needle and weave them on the rafter,

in a cool waterpot, below the Sita valley we two shall put them.

(Bodding, 1986, p.84)

From left to right: Missionaries H. P. Børresen, H. J. Muston, L. O. Skrefsrud, with Santali hunting priest, chiefs (with turbans), hunters, and musicians (Santal Parganas, 1874) (Photographs of the Danmission, Copenhagen / International Mission Photography Archive, USC Digital Library)
Enlarge and learn more: Sound and vision blog >>

Bake referred to the church song ‘Boge gupi do’ (‘The Good Shepherd’) that had been composed by the Norwegian missionary Lars Olsen Skrefsrud (1840-1910) [who] settled in India to make sustained efforts to convert the Santals from animist belief to Christianity [and] introduced a romanisation system providing the language with the first standard script that is still used by converts today, with minor amendments made by Bodding.
(Source: “The Santals, Scandinavian missionaries, and salvage ethnomusicology: an encounter of three worlds”. Christian Poske, Sound and vision blog, British Library, 30.6.2020, accessed 21 February 2021)

View by Location (excerpt): Kairabani (Jharkhand)
Tip: search and listen to all of the available recordings on British Library Sounds >>

1. “Boeha dupulạr”: traditional Santali song; 2. “Coṭ cuṛa”: Santali Christian song; 3. Lagre song played on a large tiriya flute

1. “Boeha dupulạr”: traditional Santali song; 2. Doń song; 3. Doń song

1. Lagre song; 2. Lagre song; 3. Sohrai song (beginning); 4. Sohrai song (end)

1. Mora karam song; 2. Song played on a large dhodro banam; 3. Song played on a large dhodro banam with male singing voices in the background

1. Sohrai song; 2. “Boge gupi do”: Santali church song; 3. Sohrai song

1. Sohrai song; 2. Bhinsar song; 3. Unidentified song, probably of the Lagre genre

1. Song played on a small tiriya flute; 2. The same song, performed by male vocalist accompanied unisono on a small tiriya flute; 3. “Otma lolo kạmru guru, serma setoṅ buạṅ guru”: incantation song

Number of items in collection: 87

Recordings in this collection can be played by anyone.

Arnold Adriaan Bake’s [1899-1963] collection of recordings from South Asia have been a great resource for many academics across several disciplines. The British Library is actively engaged with a number of international academics and communities who are working with wax cylinder recordings from the Arnold Adriaan Bake archive to enhance the documentation for these recordings. They are therefore being released in regional batches as research progresses.

Bake was a Dutch ethnomusicologist noted asa primary pioneer of the discipline and one of the foremost international academic experts on South Asian music. His recordings on wax cylinder, tefi-band, reel-to-reel tape and film from successive field trips, were made throughout South Asia with principle studies in Nepal, India and Sri Lanka, in 1925-29, 1931-34, 1937-46 and 1955-6.

Bake’s recordings document religious music found throughout South Asia, where he recorded festivals, weddings, funerals, religious practices and recitations. In addition Bake documented folk music and dance, including the stick dances and hobby horse customs which appear in European traditions and a thoroughly comprehensive study of the vocal and instrumental music of Nepal.

Source: Arnold Adriaan Bake South Asian Music Collection, British Library Sounds
URL: https://sounds.bl.uk/World-and-traditional-music/Arnold-Adriaan-Bake-South-Asian-Music-Collection
Date visited: 21 February 2021

The Santals, Scandinavian missionaries, and salvage ethnomusicology: an encounter of three worlds

Since 2015, Christian Poske has conducted his PhD research on the Bengal recordings of the Arnold Bake Collection. A Collaborative Doctoral Scholarship from the Arts and Humanities Research Council UK, situated his PhD within two institutions: the British Library Sound Archive and SOAS, University of London. He conducted his fieldwork in Jharkhand, West Bengal, and Bangladesh from April to October 2017, revisiting the locations of Arnold Bake’s fieldwork. Christian’s fieldwork investigated the aims and methods of Bake’s research in the early 1930s and studied the continuity and change in the devotional and folk music and dance documented by Bake. Christian is completing his PhD in Music this year at SOAS and in addition to his research has been engaged as a cataloguer for the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project. He currently works as Bengali Cataloguer at the Department of Asian and African Collections at the British Library. […]

The restudy of historical sound recordings often gives unexpected results. During my research on the cylinder recordings of the Dutch musicologist Arnold Bake (1899-1963) at the British Library Sound Archive, I came across a number of sparsely documented recordings made at a Christian mission for the Santals, a South Asian aboriginal people centred in the Indian state of Jharkhand today. When I [Christian Poske] conducted my fieldwork in 2017, I found out that one of the church songs recorded by Bake is still popular among converts in the region.

[Quoting Arnold Bake]

‘Recently, I had the opportunity to start recording Santal music… To really get in touch with the Santals, I have turned to the currently most important authority in this field, Dr Bodding… However, he is a missionary, and as he helped me along, we arrived at a huge boarding school for Santals. But it looks worse than it is. The mission has the policy to change as little as possible. Language, music and customs are, if anyhow possible, retained. All melodies used in the church are pure Santal melodies, although the words were made Christian… The music as such is quite unlike Hindu music, and their whole musical sense is very different. They love polyphony a lot when they get to hear it. I have recorded a sample (which hardly has any scientific value) how the Santal singing master of the school edited a song with four voices without actually ever having a European education, he does not speak a word of English, for example. The boys sing it with passion, which you could never expect from the Hindus…’
(Arnold Bake, letter to Erich M. v. Hornbostel, 15.4.1931, Berlin Phonogram Archive)

With these words, Bake explained his fieldwork at the Kairabani mission to Erich M. v. Hornbostel (1877-1935), the director of the Berlin Phonogram Archive. The Norwegian missionary Paul Olaf Bodding (1865-1938) of the Santal Mission of the Northern Churches had arranged Bake’s visit to Kairabani. […]

Source: “The Santals, Scandinavian missionaries, and salvage ethnomusicology: an encounter of three worlds” (courtesy Christian Poske by email)
URL: https://blogs.bl.uk/sound-and-vision/2020/06/the-santals-scandinavian-missionaries-and-salvage-ethnomusicology-an-encounter-of-three-worlds.html
Date visited: 21 February 2021

Unlocking our Sound Heritage is a UK-wide project that will help save the nation’s sounds and open them up to everyone. […]

The Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project – part of the Save our Sounds programme – aims to preserve and provide access to thousands of the UK’s rare and unique sound recordings: not just those in our collections but also key items from partner collections across the UK.

Source: Unlocking Our Sound Heritage
URL: https://www.bl.uk/projects/unlocking-our-sound-heritage?_ga=2.195804588.1297834387.1613940073-1904369641.1613726698
Date visited: 21 February 2021

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Posted in Eastern region, History, Languages and linguistic heritage, Misconceptions, Music and dance, Musicology, Names and communities, Organizations, Santali language and literature, Worship and rituals | Tagged | Comments Off on Audio | Historical recordings of Santali songs (1931): Arnold Bake’s recordings at Kairabani – Jharkhand

Census 2011 – Rural-Urban Distribution

Nearly 70 per cent of the country’s population lives in rural areas where, for the first time since independence, the overall growth rate of population has sharply declined, according to the latest Census.

Of the 121 crore Indians, 83.3 crore live in rural areas while 37.7 crore stay in urban areas, said the Census of India’s 2011 Provisional Population Totals of Rural-Urban Distribution in the country, released by Union Home Secretary R.K. Singh.

“For the first time since independence, the absolute increase in population is more in urban areas than in rural areas. The rural-urban distribution is 68.84 per cent and 31.16 per cent respectively,” Registrar General of India and Census Commissioner C. Chandramouli said. […]

“The slowing down of the overall growth rate of population is due to the sharp decline in the growth rate in rural areas, while the growth rate in urban areas remains almost the same,” Mr. Chandramouli said. […]

Source: “New Delhi, July 15, 2011”, The Hindu : News / National : About 70 per cent Indians live in rural areas: Census report
Address : http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article2230211.ece
Date Visited: Thu Mar 29 2012 23:44:56 GMT+0200 (CEST)

Hezamara (Tripura), June 29 (IANS)

Independent India’s first census to determine the caste-wise breakup of the country’s 1.21 billion people was launched here Wednesday.

It was launched in this remote tribal dominated village, 45 km north of Tripura capital Agartala.”In the general census 2011 (Feb 9-28), people belonging to the scheduled tribes and scheduled castes have been counted. In the caste census, there would be four categories — scheduled tribe, scheduled caste, others and no caste,” Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India C. Chandramauli told IANS. […]

Source: Independent India’s first caste census kicks-off
Address : http://www.deccanherald.com/content/172352/independent-indias-first-caste-census.html
Date Visited: Thu Mar 29 2012 23:54:40 GMT+0200 (CEST)

guha_india_after_gandhi
India After Gandhi | More by
Ramachandra Guha >>

[…] In light of what has happened during the pandemic, even the entitled middle class has been having the conversation that perhaps, we have overdone the way we have been living. Because of the nature of work that I do, I travelled quite a lot before the lockdown, to the nooks and corners of the country. I have met different types of people and come across new realities which always astonish me. […]

What the peasant was telling me was, ‘A civilisation that does not look after soil is a doomed civilisation. We are on borrowed time, because we are not looking after our soil properly’. You can call it neo-liberalisation, corporatisation, fertilising or short-sighted irrigation policy, but, ultimately what is happening is that the soil is losing all its nourishment. Any civilisation that doesn’t understand this basic truth is going to face the grave danger of just not being able to survive any more. The day after this conversation, we were at a meeting in Jalgaon and there experts were talking about greater productivity through more chemicals into the soil and how we needed to increase the number of crops we grow. What they do not understand is that only four companies dominate 75 per cent of the global trade in grains and only 17 plant species (out of 3,00,000) are providing the human race 90 per cent of its food. That stayed with me — that we need to try to preserve the planet as it was. […]

Source: Playwright Ramu Ramanathan interviewed by Dipanita Nath in “I know people who have chosen to be silent, some out of fear and others just out of being deadened” (Indian Express, 28 October 2020)
URL: https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/i-know-people-who-have-chosen-to-be-silent-some-out-of-fear-and-others-just-out-of-being-deadened-6902500/
Date visited: 22 February 2021

img_0526
Wayanad tribal elder >>
Photo courtesy © Arun VC

“The tribal food basket has always been ­diverse and nutritious, including maize, minor millets like kodo and kutki, oil seeds like ramtila, along with fruits, leaves, ­rhizomes, mushrooms, meat and fish. […] We have pushed them out of their complementary relationship with ecology, way of life and time-tested nutrition.” | Learn more >>

Movements of farmers and farm labourers […] are headed for serious trouble if they do not factor in the problems of climate change (which have already devastated agriculture in India); if they do not locate themselves in, and link their battles to, an agroecological approach.

P. Sainath in “We Didn’t Bleed Him Enough”: When Normal is the Problem (counterpunch.org, 12 August 2020, first published in Frontline magazine)

“Cover Your Country” by PARI: Rural people speak about their lives through photos, narratives, film, and audio materials >>

Tip: for up-to-date reports on the above mentioned communities, persons or issues, search select periodicals and web portals in the search window seen below:

For a list of websites included in a single search, see below. To search Indian periodicals, magazines, web portals and other sources safely, click here. To find publishing details for Shodhganga’s PhD search results, click here >>

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  4. Government of India (all websites ending on “.gov.in”)
  5. Shodhganga (a reservoir of Indian theses) – https://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in
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Watch “The Good Ancestor – The Legacies We Leave” (3 min.): An animation that explores the legacies we might leave for future generations >>

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Posted in Ecology and environment, Economy and development, Figures, census and other statistics, Globalization, Government of India, Modernity, Press snippets, Regions of India, Rural poverty, Seven Sister States, Women | Comments Off on Census 2011 – Rural-Urban Distribution

The Asurs’ remembrance of their ancestors: A ‘particularly vulnerable’ tribal group – Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh & West Bengal

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Chamru is an Asur, a ‘particularly vulnerable tribal group’ that dominates Sakhuapani’s population of about 2,000 and lives in villages spread over a radius of 10 to 20 km. Besides Jharkhand, members of the tribe live in pockets of Bihar, West Bengal and a few other states. The 2011 Census put the number of Asurs at 22,459 in Jharkhand and 4,129 in Bihar.

The Asurs claim to be descendants of Mahishasur, the buffalo-demon whom Goddess Durga kills after a spirited fight lasting nine nights. It’s this mythology in mainstream Hinduism that’s celebrated in the form of the nine-day-long Durga Puja, but observed as ‘Mahishasur Dasain’ among the Asurs, who hold a period of mourning during which they largely stay indoors.

Chamru says that even when he was a child, though people had their beliefs and biases, nobody attacked them for it, they merely thought they were different. “Those were the days of zamindari. The zamindar of Bishunpur (now the local police station) would ask us to get wood and collect leaves for making pattals for the puja. We would go there, give the zamindar all this and also give him some of our tools. We would then return home before the celebrations began and offer prayers seeking protection from our own ancestors,” says Chamru.

Now as these cultures are seen as offending, Chamru says these are “just beliefs”. “I have heard we are descendants of Mahishasur. That’s all I can tell you. I can’t tell you how our descendants settled down in this part of the country and so on,” he says. […]

Asurs, she says, were once iron smelters, but now the village doesn’t have a smelting unit. Chamru says he used to make small weapons, “but I have forgotten all that now”. According to one of the theories, the Magadh Empire benefited a lot from the weapons the Asurs made. “Their iron does not catch rust. And we know there are many Ashokan-era edicts on iron that haven’t rusted,” says Ashwani Kumar Pankaj, a tribal activist in Ranchi.

Traditionally, Asurs don’t drink cow milk. “We want the calf to have all the milk and grow up strong so that it can be used in the fields,” says Anil Asur, Sushma’s brother. Villagers still don’t drink much milk or tea, happy instead to down a glass of rice beer. […]

Bargi belongs to a group of about 1,000 Asurs, who moved from Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh in the early 20th Century and work and live near the tea gardens of Jalpaiguri. “My father moved here in 1914 to work for a British tea planter. We have lived here ever since. It’s been more than a century now,” he says.

Jagannath Singh, 67, a social worker who used to work as a primary school teacher at the Carron tea estate school, says the story of the Asurs is like that of most other ‘particularly vulnerable tribal groups‘ of the country, but with a “cruel twist”. “Apart from abject poverty, they also have to deal with social stigma. The Asurs in Jalpaiguri were recognised as a Scheduled Tribe only in 2014, after years of struggle,” says Singh. […]

Source: “Meet the Asurs — a marginal tribe that describes Durga as a goddess who enticed Mahishasur” by Prashant Pandey & Premankur Biswas, Indian Express, December 8, 2016
Address: https://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/meeting-the-asurs-a-marginal-tribe-in-eastern-india/
Date Visited: 21 February 2021

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Posted in Anthropology, Cultural heritage, Customs, De- and re-tribalisation, Dress and ornaments, Eastern region, Economy and development, Figures, census and other statistics, Health and nutrition, History, Media portrayal, Misconceptions, Music and dance, Musicology, Names and communities, Northern region, Particularly vulnerable tribal group, Performing arts, Photos and slideshows, Press snippets, Revival of traditions, Rural poverty, Seasons and festivals, Storytelling, Tribal elders, Video resources - external, Worship and rituals | Tagged | Comments Off on The Asurs’ remembrance of their ancestors: A ‘particularly vulnerable’ tribal group – Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh & West Bengal