Ametisse’s Comparative Essay April 2, 2015

The following paper is a comparative analysis between four Adivasi communities surrounding Pune, India. All four communities are Kathkaris. The purpose of this paper is to dispel myths and shed light on the current living situation and agency of these tribal communities. I will start with the community our group had the least interaction with: Mirkutwadi. Mirkutwadi is an Adivasi community located near the Imagica theme park. Of all the communities we visited, this community was the most ‘assimilated’ to popular culture. Currently, the community members are laborers for industrial jobs as well as highway building. When we asked them what their relationship to the land was, they told us that when they were forced out of land laboring into industrial laboring they lost most of their knowledge of ‘farming’ and cultivating land. Our discussion with the men in this community was quite hostile and confrontational. The community clearly stated that they expected our relationship to bring them economic benefit. Because we could not promise any monetary benefit coming from our relationship, we had to stop our involvement with Mirkutwadi. Because the woman community members were absent from our meeting with the community (mostly represented by men), The next community is Mangaun. This community is composed of Marathi and Adivasi peoples. On our first visit we were greeted very formally. We were invited into the community’s school and sung to by Marathi children. All of the community members who were present gathered into the school: both Marathi and Adivasi. Although the Adivasi community members do not speak Hindi, the man who introduced us, a director of the school, spoke only in Hindi. This act is symbolic for the exclusion and discrimination against the Adivasis. After the formal gathering, our group left the school and sat down with a group of Adivasi women from the community, including the Sarpanch. Of the four communities we visited, Mangaun was the most welcoming and open initially. Their openness is most likely because they have the least experience working with mainstream ‘developers.’ Our first meeting with Mangaun’s Adivasi women was focused mainly on introducing ourselves and building trust with the community. In our second meeting, we had the community members draw social maps of their geographical community. The maps highlighted the strict segregation between the Marathi and the Adivasi members. During the mapping, we learned that the Adivasi children attend school 4 times a week maximum. The school is mainly for Marathi children. Our group facilitated two drawings of social maps: one with the children in the community, and the other with the elder community members. I was involved in the children’s social map. Myself and one of my classmates were under the impression that all of the children we were working with were Kathkari. One of the young girls, who was quite shy, admitted that she was Marathi. This led us to believe two things. One, the young children are not as segregated as the elder generations. Two, the Marathis experience the privilege of belonging to both the Adivasi communities and the Marathi communities, while the Adivasi only have membership within their own communities. At the end of this visit, an older man began playing a broken percussion instrument and was joined by an elder women on another makeshift percussion instrument. This caused the older woman to begin to sing and dance. Although we were not able to understand the song, the dance movements of the women were very similar. Most of the younger generation of the communities members stood far back, and some of them laughed. It might be that the songs the older women sang at this time, and this form of dance, is something from their childhood, and possibly is a form of traditional knowledge. We were unable to meet with Mangaun after this visit. We were invited back to their community, but the community members canceled on us last minute. We believe that a group of land developers had made an appointment to meet with the community, and the community members did not want us there at the time of their appointment. The next community that we worked with is Kaanav. This community is the closest community to the forest. Our first meeting with Kaanav was quite tense. We met with a group of women as well as one developer who is living with the community. At first, we did not know who the developer was, and that he was not part of the community. We talked with the woman, and they were very resistant to telling us anything about themselves. When we tried to explain who we were and why we were there, the developer interrupted us. The developer was sitting slightly removed from the circle we were forming, so we invited him to sit with us. They we emptied our belongings, our phones, journals, and jewelry, and asked them to geographically and socially map out their community using the objects we had gathered. This mapping project increased the community involvement slightly, but the members soon became uninterested and began talking amongst themselves. We left the first visit unsure whether we would see this community again. However, a few days later, the community gave us a call and invited us back. Between our first and second visit, our class research Kaanav, and found that the community is at the center of a political web. It is seemingly under the economic control of a local political figure that is working with an industrial manufacturer who recently purchased a villa next to the Kaanav community. The industrial manufacturer employs some of Kaanav community members on his farm, and has funded paving of roads in the community as well as has built a school for the community. However, we learned from the community that the industrial manufacturer keeps the school under lock and key, giving limited access to the Kaanav communities. As well, the industrial manufacturer as restricted the community members access to a near by lake, a favorite place of the community. During our second visit, the class met with a group of girls to facilitate them drawing social maps of their community. Each of the maps the children drew were very different, except for the placement of the manufacturers villa as well as the lake. This means that the manufacturer has a heavy influence on the community, and has become an important symbolic figure. After the social maps we asked each of the girls to fill out a ten question survey, with questions such as “What is your favorite place? What is your favorite food? Who is your favorite person in the village? Who is the most influential person in the village?” All of the girls answers were the same, they most likely worked together to complete this. The girls’ favorite place in the village is the lake, the most influential person in the village was the developer, their favorite movie was the same, their favorite food was pizza, and their favorite place (outside the village) was Mumbai. From these answers we gather that the younger generation identifies with mainstream culture. We also gather that the developer is a liaison between the industrial manufacturer, the politician, and the community. After answering the questionnaire, the young girls, as well young man who has been our liaison with the community, put on an impromptu dance performance. The music was mainstream Marathi music and the dance style was a mixture between western partner dancing and belly dancing. Our third visit with Kaanav began with the community setting up a microphone and performance area for one of our classmates to sing to the community. The older men of the community were quite engaged in this singing. While this was going on, a few of my classmates left the performance to talk with the woman community members who were collecting water. During our meeting with the women, we learned that the women have a collective safety fund. Each month the woman put aside about 60 rupees into a fund to be used in case one of the woman faces an emergency. During our meeting, the woman also agreed to moving forward, in collaboration with our professor, to think of livelihood projects that could increase the women’s monetary agency. The woman will participate in livelihood workshops, facilitated by our professor, in the near future. Although we still do not fully know the politics that Kaanav is involved in, there seems to be great potential to work with the woman to increase their monetary power and agency. The last community is Behliv. Currently this community is facing eviction due to a privately funded project to build a query. The community intends to fight this eviction. My time at the community was mostly spent talking with a group of young woman. One of whom, speaks English, Hindi, and Marathi, and is very dedicated to pursuing her education. The young woman showed my class around her house: a three-room building built by her father and a laborer her father paid. Her and five family members live in the house. From talking with this young woman, it became clear that the community worships Hindu Gods, which is a similar feature amongst all the communities. She showed us a set of cassette tapes, which plays the stories of the Hindu Gods. She says that all of the community members watch these tapes; the tapes provide education on the Gods and Goddesses. These tapes were purchased from outside the community. When asked if there are stories that come from within the community, she said that some of the older women might know them. However, the older women were very shy and hesitant to tell us their stories. Another source of information about the Behliv community came from an elderly man who claims to have been a ‘doctor’ or medicine man for the community. He said that if our class were to return in the future, he would prepare a range of natural medicines that we could document. We also learned that there are five Adivasi communities that Behliv does not communicate with. Which five, we are unsure. In the future, it would be important to pursue which communities these are and why Behliv does not communicate with them in order to understand current dynamics between the communities. In conclusion, the Adivasi communities we met with are complex and dynamic communities. In all of the communities there is a divide between the younger generation and the older generation. Each community faces great pressure to assimilate to mainstream culture as well as economic exploitation. Behliv and Kaanav are both eager to begin a relationship with FLAME and our professor to develop and resurrect a sense of cultural identity as well as think of creative livelihood alternatives.


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