Representational picture
Representational picture

BHOPAL: Amidst debate weather tribal people are Hindus or not, the state government has decided to bring to fore the Lord Rama’s connection with the tribals. The government would hold Tribal Ramayana in 89 tribal blocks spread across Madhya Pradesh.  The move, however, has earned ciriticism of the tribal organisations and leaders who accused the government of imposing views and religion on poor vulnerable tribal people.

Culture department has allotted a budget of Rs 70 lakh for the project in which episodes of Ramayana have been written as Ramleela with reference to tribal woman Shabri and Nishad Raj Kevat.

“Scripts have been written after extensive research by the MP Adivasi Boli Evam Vikas Sansthan. We want to show the connection of Lord Rama with tribal people and how it had impacted their lives,” said Ashok Mishra, coordinator of the project.  

The script writer of these three Ramleelas including one in Gondi language, Yogesh Tripathi too claims to have done research for five months before writing the script. “I studied various versions of Ramayana and then focused on how one tribal woman Shabri waited for life for lord Ram. I also researched on how Ram lived in forests during his vanvas (exile) and had impacted lives of the tribal people,” said Tripathi.

‘Tribals not Hindus, they have our own identity’

Tribal organisations oppose the move saying that it is an exercise to influence the tribal culture. “Tribes and their tradition existed even before religion came into existence. We worshipped nature. We worship trees, cows, hills and all forms of nature. Hindus have their Gods,” said Vikram Achalia, expert on tribal issues.

Certain organisations are constantly trying to impose their culture on us besides questioning our nationalism, said Achalia. Playing their version of Ramleela- that too- in selected 89 tribal blocks seems nothing more than a strategy of such organisations, he added.

The Jai Adivasi Yuva Shakti (JAYS) has said that their organisation is completely against such practices of spoiling the culture. ‘This is related to upcoming census exercise. Certain organisations want us to write Hindu in the column mentioning religion. We are not Hindus and we have our own identity. These people want to Hinduise us through such experiments,” said state convener of JAYS, Anand Rai.

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Free Press Journal