Saffron Adivasis counter Red Army with 'wild fire'

Updated: Nov 16, 2018, 08:31 IST | Dharmendra Jore

RSS affiliate Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram leads 'Vanva', a 15,000-strong protest march of tribal farmers in city, gets chief minister to meet all demands

Tribals from across the state gather at Azad Maidan on Thursday to pressure the state government into addressing their demands. Pic/Atul Kamble
Tribals from across the state gather at Azad Maidan on Thursday to pressure the state government into addressing their demands. Pic/Atul Kamble

As expected, an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram (VKA), has managed to eclipse the left party-sponsored tribal farmers' agitation in March this year by bringing thousands of farmers to the city on Thursday, and getting Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to agree to fulfil all demands of the Adivasi community. Last month, the tribals had staged a sit-in at the tehsildar office in their respective taluka headquarters. Founded in 1952, VKA has been low-profile in its pro-tribal and welfare activities in areas where it has created its own following.

Saffron vs Red
Thursday's protest march, dubbed Vanva (wild fire), also marked the birth anniversary of a tribal icon, Birsa Munda. But, as announced earlier, the march in which the participants carried saffron flags, did not reach Mantralaya, but culminated at Azad Maidan where the participants were addressed by VKA leaders. Later in the evening, Fadnavis met a VKA delegation and agreed to fulfil all their demands.

Thursday's agitation is seen as a parallel movement to counter the one organised by left-wing parties, which had rocked the city when tribal farmers walked 160km from Nashik to Mumbai early this year. The RSS (and BJP) and left wing parties are ideological opposites who are now fighting on all fronts. Recently, the Congress and NCP pledged support to the left-supported farmers' agitation be held in New Delhi soon. Intellectuals, professionals, teachers and people from various walks of life, too, have extended their support to the mega protest.

VKA said its demands included speeding up the process of awarding forest rights, effective implementation of the PESA Act, documentation of tribal arts, formation of a research centre to study and preserve tribal folk art, erecting memorials to tribal warriors, action against those creating hurdles in implementing schemes for tribals and a solution to issues pertaining to scholarship and fees of tribal students.

A statement from the Chief Minister's office said all demands would be met as early as possible. The organisers claimed that tribal farmers spent their own money to travel to Mumbai from various places in the state. A VKA official Govardhan Munde said there were thousands of fake tribals in the state who are now living a lavish life at the cost of the real Adivasis. "The government has identified 11,000 fake tribals so far. We suspect that the number could be much higher. We expect the government to take stern action against these people," he said.

Forged documents
"Muslims have registered themselves as Tadvi by forging documents. It is an injustice to the real tribals. We have been fighting against this injustice for two decades, but the government is moving very slow on punishing the fake tribals," Munde said. VKA also said it was not happy with the slow pace of awarding forest rights to tribals. There are around 50,000 claims in this regard, but the government has been able to clear only around 15,000 of them so far.

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