Indore/Alirajpur (Madhya Pradesh): Social media and other contemporary techniques have taken centre stage in today's world, altering the course of political campaigning.
However, traditional 'Khatla Chaupal', gatherings of villagers are still quite important in the tribal regions of Western Madhya Pradesh, especially Jhabua and Alirajpur districts. These districts have a significant tribal population that values their cultural heritage and traditions.
These traditional methods of campaigning allow candidates to directly connect with voters in rural areas where access to social media may be limited. By engaging with people in 'Khatla Chaupal' aka ‘Khatla Baithak’, candidates can understand the concerns and issues faced by the community, and tailor their campaign promises accordingly.
Despite the influence of modern campaigning techniques, these communities continue to prioritise face-to-face interactions and gatherings to discuss important political issues over a shared meal.
Be it Congress, or the BJP, or candidates of other parties, these days all are setting up Khatla Chaupal to woo the tribals and seek votes by presenting their views to them. In fact, in Jhabua and Alirajpur, the tribal community likes to live in villages and hamlets.
Their settlements are not traditionally dense, but they build separate houses in their fields. There is a tradition among these Bhil tribals that if any guest (from another village) comes to their village to whom they want to give this respect, then this community makes him sit on a cot (khatiya or khatla), offers them water and food, and the rest of the people sit down around him or her and communicate with them.
This tradition has been prevalent among Bhil tribals for ages, and everyone, whether they are politicians or bureaucrats, respects it.
Candidates take on 'Khatla Chaupal'
Not everyone blessed with 'Khatla Chaupal': BJP candidate Bhanu Bhuria, BJP candidate from Jhabua assembly constituency who is currently busy in election campaigning acclaimed the age-old tradition of tribals saying that, everyone is not blessed with ‘Khatla Chaupal’. One came to gauge the importance of tradition that, even if the son-in-law comes from another village, he is not allowed to sit on the cot in front of his father-in-law. From this, you can understand the importance of Khatla, Bhuria said. He said that through Khatla Chaupal, we get a kind of platform- a way to communicate with our rural voters and express our views.
Educated candidates also holding Khatla Chaupal
Congress candidate Dr Vikrant Bhuria from Jhabua was also busy holding Khatla Chaupal this day. Dr Vikrant Bhuria said that this Khatla meeting is very relevant. It is a medium of communication for the traditional tribal community. “I also come from tribal community hence I am expressing my political views by participating in the tradition of the community through Khatla meetings.”
With inputs from Milind R Lashkari and Deepak Rathore