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Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), and the Tribal Community (Adivasi)

 

Jawar Bheel

jawar bheelStudents' protests have rocked the country since the passage of Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB). CAB has already become Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Also, on November 20th, Union Home Minister, Amit Shah had made a statement in the Parliament that the National Register of Citizens (NRC) would be prepared for every state in the country. This package of CAA and countrywide NRC has been criticized, opposed and protested against on various grounds such as violation of the spirit of Indian constitution, formalization of inequality on the basis of religion and its communal intent. In North Eastern states of India, CAA has been opposed for protection of the indigene against migrants. But what has been overlooked is how it creates a state of limbo for a big chunk of Adivasis in the country.

Religious beliefs of Adivasis vary from tribe to tribe and it is a known fact that their religious beliefs and practices vary to a considerable extent from the mainstream religions practiced in India, specifically those which are mentioned in CAA. Take an example of Jharkhand. According to 2011 census, Jharkhand's total tribal population is 86,45,042. When looked through the religious prism, 46.71 % of them fall into two groups which are "other religions and persuasions" and "Religion not stated". This brings out the fact that almost half of Jharkhand's tribals do not belong to the religions mentioned in CAA (These figures are different for each state).

So if countrywide NRC becomes a reality and people from these categories are left out (which most probably they will) then they will be rendered 'stateless' because even CAA does not provide any safety valve for them. And looking at the socio-economic conditions of Adivasis, it is very clear that the extent of them getting excluded from countrywide NRC will be much more than any other group. This would further aggravate their plight.

Moreover, to protect themselves from becoming 'STATELESS' and going to concentration camps, the combination of NRC and CAA might compel them to convert into those religions which are mentioned in CAA. This would not only be a grave injustice to spirit of constitution but also places a direct threat to distinct faiths, beliefs and practices of Adivasis in India. No matter how much mollycoddling this government does by telling that it aims to protect people through CAA, it is very clear that it is anti-adivasi.

And this should not surprise anyone because these are the inevitable consequences that will follow in making India a Hindu Rashtra. Their inability to comprehend the fact that India's social realities are very complex and go beyond their binary of Hindu vs Muslim will render these Adivasis stateless.

The fate of people who were on this subcontinent even before this subcontinent got any of its current names, will now be decided by pieces of paper. Or most probably it has already been decided. Babasaheb Ambedkar's words when he said "Gandhiji, I Have no Homeland" have never been truer.

Looking at the common discourse in mainstream media and social media, it is clear that no one is talking about the uncertainty knocking at the door of Adivasis. The media who have been hell-bent on making it just an issue of Hindu vs Muslim, secularism vs communalism is doing nothing but in fact helping the brahminical propoganda. Babasaheb Ambedkar has said that 'If Hindu Raj becomes a reality then it would be greatest menace to this country. And we should make all out efforts to stop Hindu Raj from becoming a reality'. But our efforts will be futile if we do not talk about the issues of Adivasis. In fact, the plight of Adivasis needs to be told to show that the Brahminical project of Hindutva helps no one but upper castes. That is why CAA and NRC should also be opposed for being anti-adivasi apart from other things.

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Jawar Bheel is an IIT Bombay alumnus.

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