Re: Demand for recognition of Adivasi religion in the national census.
I have an issue with the word tribal and I have reservations about the word Hindu (both these words are sociological problems) but at the risk of simplification, the indigenous peoples of India (who most of you call tribal) follow organic religions which may be totemistic. They may call themselves Hindu or they may not. Hindu is a term with many definitions.
But the bottomline is that the religious beliefs of most of the indigenous peoples is very different from the Manuvadi Brahminical high caste religion with its ritual purity notions.
Not that indigenous peoples have no hierarchies and no purity-pollution notions, they do. But the chhut-achhyut ritual / religion we associate with Puranic text is something very different from the "natural" (I know the word is debatable but I use it for want of a better descriptor) belief system of the indigenous peoples of India. Some indigenous peoples in Jharkhand and parts of Chhattisgarh have called their religious identity Sarna. Sarna is a sharply defined identity because it is derived from a particular set of practices and beliefs and because it draws its name from a sharply defined object - the sacred grove. Madhav Gadgil and others have shown that sacred groves were widely distributed in india and this is a "organic" ground level religious and ecological pattern - because religion, like many other cultural devices, starts from the human-nature interface. Some of the dieties in these sacred groves have Puranic or other textual Hindu correlates, some do not.
I agree with the view that if "tribals" are converted to "Hinduism" it is a conversion. I have a problem with these two words but I understand where the issue is coming from. Sarna or any sacred grove based religious value system is as different from textual (or Puranic) Hinduism as one can get. But arguably it is the organic base on which "Hinduism" and "Buddhism" were built. "Buddhism" remained truer to the base and was thus wiped out by dominant sections of society who wished to perpetuate social control through control of knowledge, something which the text in "Hinduism" allows through hierarchies in the caste system and ritual purity status. Thus the traditional priesthood (Disari, Dehuri, Naike) gets replaced by a Brahmin priest who works as an agent of the landlord or peasant caste (Kshatriya or Shudra in varna, not to be confused with caste) who owns the land and therefore the means of production, the centre of the jajmani relations in the community. The Brahmins and Scribes (Kayasth) own the means of information, and depend on the dominant castes for their real temporal power. Some have it, others do not. Some Brahmins are as marginalized as the low castes, non-castes, the indigenous peoples.
Also caste and tribe are categories used to confuse issues (the colonizers started this confusion) and to internally divide indigenous peoples.
Some have been labelled scheduled caste, others scheduled tribe. But they are all one. Differences between communities in indigenous grassroot level social civilization are not about ritual purity. Indigenous peoples recognize difference between communities but do not map communities in a stratified hierarchy.
Arnab Sen __._,_.___
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