India has been in a state of lockdown for over a month now. I must say 'Indias' - because a lockdown means very very different things for the different Indias. It is certainly a crisis for everyone, but it is an emergency for a large majority who live on daily wages, and a double emergency for those who were beyond even the margins even in normal times. In the last category, I am referring to the nomadic & de-notified tribes and the adivasis (tribals) - those pushed to the bottom of the hierarchy. I am myself from a nomadic community. These are tribes who had been labelled as cirminals during the British rule, because we had risen up for independance. Till today, our people suffer extreme stigma, ostracization, violence. When everyone is supposed to 'stay at home', these communities have no home because they live a nomadic life; the villagers abuse them if they go inside and the police abuse them if they are seen on the roads.
These communities, the migrant labourers, daily wage workers are the people who have built, maintained, cleaned and run our cities and villages with too little compensation. Now is the time to stand with them.
What do they think? What are their demands?
Hear them in their own voices. My organization Anubhuti, has reached over 1900 families from the highly deprived nomadic & denotified tribes (earlier labelled 'criminal' by the erstwhile British rulers), adivasi and dalit communities with relief, counselling, awareness and advocacy as a response to the pandemic. During this, we are recording and trying to highlight ground voices:
1. The first video is by youth leaders who are carrying out relief operations with these communities: how we need to be responsible and sensitive towards those more vulnerable in this pandemic.
2. The second video is of a ground activist of a nomadic tribe speaking of his people's situation: a proud community who have never asked anything of anyone, but are now rightfully asking their right to life.