Ryan has been asking me to tell something about Sahariyas. His interest was why this word keeps coming up in the house.
So how do I tell him who are Sahariyas. In simple answer, they are like us. Like all of us. A drive of about 30 minutes will take us to their community. In most cases there are 20 or 30 stone huts. That makes a sahrana. It is not common to see others living with them.Goats and hens will be seen moving around.Some hungry dogs are also found sleeping.
Some man is seen coughing lying in bare cot.Its one room household. On an ordinary day family will be gone for working as daily wage labor.If luck is kind, work may be withing few kilometers. Most often they are gone for days. Men , women and children all are gone.
Sowing and harvesting of ground nuts, wheat and other crops can keep them away from home from weeks to months.
After mechanization of agriculture, now they have ventured going to far off places like Haryana, Agra and Bharatpur.
Many sahariya families have some land to their name. But very few in reality cultivate their land for want of irrigation and cost of seeds and fertilizers. Many simply continue cultivating to assert their ownership and proof of control. In traditional agreements the neighboring farmers of other caste groups have taken over most such seemingly unproductive land against loan or sharecropping. In most such situations the land remain in control of non Sahariya.
Most men smoke, chew tobacco and consume liquors.Barring very few, almost all of fond if liquor as past time and to manage hard physical labour.
Liquor is a established tool of exploitation and hunger.Drinking water may be hard to find in a sahariya habitation. But liquor pouches will be easily available. It should not surprising that major killer of Sahariya is tuberculosis. With little to eat, liquor and tobacco consumption and source of livelihood limited to casual labor and stone quarrying, their body is an easy pray to low immunity and risk of TB infection are very high.
Even by modest parameters, malnutrition is all pervasive among the children. Lack of sufficient nutritional food for mother, poor sanitation and hygiene absence of safe food and basic primary care for common infections.Similarly anemia is major health concern for adolescent girls and pregnant mothers.
Sahariya is put in the catagory of primitive tribe. They are recognized as in pre literate and pre agrarian state of their evolution.In real sense it means they are gatherers and collectors.It is even prior to hunting skills. Hence their food is wild fruits,tubers, leaves and flowers. Hunting of rabbit and birds and monitors. Almost all small birds and animals and fishes are eaten by then. Agriculture in its primitive form i.e. broadcasting seeds is main mode of sowing. Even the land quality and poor soil cover did not permit good cultivation.
Same stretches of of land in modern times in the hands of adept agriculturists are now getting converted in to farmhouses one by one all over the area.
Around 500,000 Sahariyas inhabit the region.Gwalior 3,3000,Shivpuri 120000, Sheopur 65000, Guna 35000 and 45000 in Morena are approximate estimates. From early period they are cohabiting with Gurjers. They are two almost opposite temperament. Sahariya shy, submissive and avoid contact with outsiders. Gurjers are cattle rearers and very argumentative. They have gradually grabbed all the land resources of Sahariya joining the others in similar efforts. Today even the most stringent laws and rules have failed to safeguard the interest of Sahariya. They are most marginalized population. Most have remained uneducated and totally unfamiliar with formal and complex government systems.Originally they lived in forest keeping distance from others.This changed after independence. A network govt officers spread in entire area. Local muscle and influential people left no time in grabbing land, mining, forest and water in their control.A unique phenomenon came in play in this region. The decoit and armed robbers groups came in existence.The Sahariya were forced to feed, provide liquor and women during their camping in the forest.
Money was also extorted using violence and torture. Some cunning people used this as pretense and uprooted hapless and innocent Sahariya from from native villages. More 30 villages have been discovered which belonged to tribal but today are un- inhabited places. Uprooting of tribal is a regular process. It is also a tactics used by local mafia to grab forest and revenue land. They would instigate tribal families to move to prime location and settle down for living. Mafia will work as guardian and may extend support of food and liquor. After 4or 5 years tribal will be persuaded to move to some othe place. At the present place a big temple or community place will be developed.Thus land is grabbed using simple sahariya as baite.
Fact of the matter is Sahariya has no place to go. Forest is gone. Water sources are dry.Their mental growth does not prepare him to take upfront conflict with wrong doer.Schools are their but very poor education outcomes.It is age of Internet technology, they are further marginalized due the technology advancement.
We are driving on AB highway. From Gwalior to Shivpuri its about 110 kms. About 8 kms known as link road has seen most significant transformation. The land was seen as unproductive.Cattle grazing was taking place. Some rich people turned their attention to this. And magic happened all land forest or revenue became available for farm houses and institutions. About 25 institutions and schools came up. Land of tribal families of Neem Chandova and Madha was also included. Assault of wealth, official cooperation and political support made it possible.
Is it easy to understand that many are landless and live in poverty and large junk of land descend from heaven to meet the demand of rich and powerful.This is where our ideology and philosophy put to test. Which side are we?