X
UCA News

India

Tribal Women Launch Movement Against Exploiters

Updated: June 15, 2006 05:00 PM GMT
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Share this article :

Tribal women in Jharkhand have decided to oppose people usurping their water, forest and land.

Approximately 1,000 tribal women, including Christians, from all over the eastern Indian state launched a movement against their "exploiters" at a special training seminar.

Adivasi Mahila Adhikar Sangarsh Morcha (tribal women´s forum for empowerment and struggle) organized the June 14-15 seminar in the state capital of Ranchi, some 1,160 kilometers southeast of New Delhi. It was held at Gossner Evangelical Lutheran Theological College.

The seminar stressed women´s role in fighting for "jal, jungle and jameen" (water, forest and land). Participants called for a jani shikar (hunt by women) to drive out those who have occupied tribal land and abused the state´s forests and natural resources.

Jharkhand, India´s most mineral-rich region, lies at the heart of the tribal belt in eastern India. It was carved out of Bihar state in 2000 purportedly to help tribal advancement, but tribal leaders complain that more than five years later, industrialists and politicians from outside still control the state.

Non-tribal outsiders, whom the tribal people call dikhu, control the state´s mines and industries set up after clearing vast forest cover. This has led to hundreds of thousands of tribal people losing ancestral lands and becoming homeless and hungry. Thousands have migrated to cities in search of work.

The women´s movement will oppose these exploiters, "especially corrupt government officials, mediators and contractors," who operate at various levels of administration, explains Dayamani Barla of the Gossner Evangelical Lutheran Church, one of the woman leaders.

Speaking with UCA News June 15, the Protestant woman narrated a four-century-old tribal folktale about women donning men´s attire to fight an invading army one night when they found their menfolk too drunk to defend the community. The tribal people commemorate that event every 12 years as jani shikar, for which tribal women traditionally hunt animals.

The festival came this year and the women decided to launch a new jani shikar against the exploiters, said Barla, the movement´s convener. She said the "new hunt" would not involve weapons. Instead, the women "will besiege corrupt officials and their offices and question them."

According to her, the state has "many officials" who have physically abused tribal women and grabbed tribal land. "Our activists will identify them and try to get them punished," Barla said, adding that her people have lost "trust" in the present government. The pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian people´s party) heads the state´s coalition government.

Martina Samad, a Catholic tribal woman, confirmed that their movement will eschew violence in favor of identifying corrupt officials and pursuing legal action against them. "Women will work without weapons. No one will be allowed to carry a weapon, not even a stick," she told UCA News June 15.

The organizers plan to train about 1,000 women to lead the movement in villages. These women will keep in touch with the movement´s Ranchi-based coordinating center, which will handle legal matters, Samad explained.

What has upset Viviane Lakra, a Catholic woman leader, is that the state has signed more than 40 memorandums of understanding with industrial groups. These agreements allow the groups to set up various industrial units in the state that Lakra says would "essentially mean uprooting" tribal families.

"Women cannot remain silent spectators to the usurpation of their land in the name of development. We plan to prepare women to contest the next elections. We want a complete change in policies. We know we can achieve this if we have members in the legislative assembly," Lakra asserted.

Local journalist Vasvi, a Hindu woman who supports the movement, told UCA News that "only women can save their lands," because the tribal men have become "drunkards who sell their land just for their drinking needs."

Vasvi, who attended the seminar, suggested that the women should extend their movement "to eradicate alcoholism in tribal society, which is eating up tribal men and youth."

State legislative assembly member Bandhu Tirkey, a Catholic who was present at the seminar, told UCA News the meeting was a milestone in the tribal struggle for justice. The hunting festival has "rightly inspired the women," he said. "The stories of our mothers´ bravery will encourage them and help tribal society."

Bishop Hemant Hansda, moderator or top official of the Gossner Evangelical Lutheran Church, lauded the women´s initiative. "Our women are more alert than the men. The Church supports their nonviolent movement," he told UCA News,

END

Support UCA News...

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...
UCAN Donate
YOUR DAILY
NEWSLETTER
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
 
Contribute and get the Mission in Asia PDF Book/e-Book Free!
Contribute and get the Mission in Asia PDF Book/e-Book Free!
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia