Gond artist Padmashree Bhajju Shyam
Gond artist Padmashree Bhajju Shyam

BHOPAL: Adivasi artistes and leaders of the community say that Adivasis are not Hindus. “Our value-system, our deities, our rituals, our beliefs and our manner of worship have nothing in common with Hinduism,” they told Free Press.  

Madhya Pradesh Gondwana Sabha has even submitted a memorandum to the President of India demanding that a separate column ‘tribal and others’ should be added to the list of religions in the enumeration form for Census 2021.

A controversy has erupted following the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat announcing during his recent visit to the state that the Sangh would soon launch a campaign in the tribal areas to urge the Adivasis to declare their religion as Hinduism in the Census enumeration form.

Chief minister Kamal Nath, in an statement, has warned the RSS against any attempt at coercing the Adivasis into stating that they are Hindus.

Gond artist Padmashree Bhajju Shyam said, “We are Adivasis and would remain Adivasis. We respect Hinduism but that does not mean we are Hindus. I think this controversy is only about politics nothing else”.

Bhil artist Bhuri Bai, the recipient of Shikhar Samman by MP government also echoed the same view. She said that unlike Hindus, the Adivasis do not build temples. “We just keep a stone under a tree and worship it. We don’t build temples or mosques or churches,” she said.

Anand Kumar Shyam, a school teacher said, “I am not a Hindu. I am a Gond and my religion is Gondi. That was what I had told the Census people last time and that is what I will be telling them this time.” Shyam said that ‘Aadi dharma’ is the religion of the Adivasis but attempts are being made to Hinduise them.

Shuklu Singh Aahke, state president of Gondwana Mahasabha, Madhya Pradesh said that their organisation has submitted a memorandum addressed to the President of India to the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India and to the Directorate of Census Operations, Madhya Pradesh demanding that a separate code be allotted for ‘tribal’ religion in the Census form. “Only six religions (Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist and Jain) have been listed under the ‘religion’ column in the form.

“Adivasis don’t come under any of these categories. They hold ‘Aadi’, ‘Prakriti’, ‘Sarna’ and ‘Gondi’ as their religion. We demand that a seventh option ‘Tribal and others’ be added to the form,” the memorandum says.

Aahke said that it was factually incorrect to say that the Adivasis were Hindus. “Our customs, our traditions, our gods, our beliefs, our rituals – all are entirely distinct from those of the Hindus. There is nothing common between us and the Hindus,” he said.

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