This is an annual event in which the death of four members of the Adivasi Shakti Sangathan in police firing on this day in 2001 is sombrely remembered. It used to be an event of the Adivasi Shakti Sangathan till three years back when the Adivasi Ekta Parishad (AEP) decided to commemorate this event as Bhil Martyr's Day in memory of all the many great Bhil fighters who have given up their lives in the cause of Adivasi rights beginning with the exploits of Khajya Naik, Bhima Naik, Tantya Bhil and Chhitu Kirad against the British in the 19th century. Now it has become a major event in which Adivasis from all the four states of western Madhya Pradesh participate. This year the Jai Adivasi Yuva Sangathan (JAYS) too decided to take part and added a much needed youthful flavour to the proceedings.
JAYS is the epitome of modernity having been born out of a Facebook group created by a Bhil Adivasi doctor at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi to further the rights of the Adivasis. This FB group soon gained in immense popularity among Adivasi youth in western Madhya Pradesh and today its members number in the hundreds of thousands of educated Adivasi youth. They have mass demonstrations and meetings in defence of Adivasi culture and rights. What is more important they have training workshops for Adivasi youth on important aspects of the Constitution and other laws that provide special rights and entitlements to the Adivasis, like the Fifth Schedule, the Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas Act and the Forest Rights Act.
The AEP too has been especially proactive in mobilising the Adivasis who are in Government Service to exert their combined power to benefit the Adivasi masses in general. The AEP has also undertaken to preserve the traditional culture of the Adivasis and every year on January 14th it organises by turns in each of the four states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh a huge cultural gathering which is possibly the biggest such gathering of its kind in India and it is completely funded by the Adivasis themselves. There is a new pride among the Adivasis in their culture and tradition and they are using modern political mobilisation to strengthen the positive aspects of these while also acting to scotch the negative aspects like witch hunting, gender based violence and patriarchal oppression of women.
Many Adivasis turned out in traditional dress for the rally in Udainagar and particularly enticing were this father and son combination shown below.
What was most exhilarating was the participation of the youth, especially the educated youth who are in government service. They had taken leave for one day to come from far and wide to participate in the event and unhesitatingly criticised the Government for neglecting the well being of the Adivasis. These youth are blissfully unaware of the power of global forces that are negating the possibilities of a more equitable and sustainable development and so they are full of energy and ready to fight for their rights.