Tribal concerns same, Maoris and Mundas find

Rights over land, forests and rivers are core issues, as is protecting cultures, say participants

By Our Correspondent
  • Published 22.11.18, 12:11 AM
  • Updated 22.11.18, 12:11 AM
  • 2 mins read
Tribals from Odisha take part in a fashion show at Samvaad at Gopal Maidan in Bistupur, Jamshedpur, earlier this week. Bhola Prasad

He lives in Lusaka, the glittering capital of Zambia, and hails from the Kaonde tribe. One of the 1,700 participants of Tata Steel’s five-day global tribal conclave Samvaad here in the steel city, Naaman Kipunga smiled when asked about his experience here. “It’s an eye-opener.”

Asked why, the Zambian smiled. “I realised tribal concerns all over the world are the same. Rights over land, forests and rivers. Safeguarding traditional skills, cultures and livelihoods while integrating with the mainstream. Access to education,” he listed.

As a platform where, say a Munda from Jharkhand met a Maori from New Zealand, Samvaad achieved a rare dialogue among tribals from across the world.

This year, the five-day mega event that ended on Monday had tribal delegates from 11 countries and 23 Indian states.

Twenty-eight delegates flew in from Zambia, New Zealand, South Africa, Kenya, Cameroon, Myanmar, Laos, Mexico, Indonesia, Uganda and Sri Lanka.

Fellow Zambian and Kipunga’s friend Abija Ansuki, who’s from the Tonga tribe, said, “Samvaad is a platform where we listened to each other. It is so important to listen, instead of just waiting for your chance to speak, because you learn a lot. We discussed problems we face in education, what kind of educational reforms we want so that our children grow up in a more inclusive world.”

Agreed Munna Baithkar from the Karku tribe of Maharashtra. “There is a lot to learn from each other,” he said. “Struggle and agitation are a part of tribal lives. So when we listen to others about conflict resolution, we learn a lot. There is a lot of brainstorming.”

The theme for this year’s Samvaad was ‘coming together for social change’. Experience sharing sessions on governance and development, land and forest rights for tribal communities, tribal culture and identity and peace building and conflict resolution were organised at Tribal Culture Centre in Sonari. A range of cultural activities, display of art and craft and promotion of tribal healing practices and tribal food were on display at the sprawling Gopal Maidan in Bistupur. Delegates were put up at hotels and the Tribal Culture Centre.

Sourav Roy, chief of CSR in Tata Steel, said the main takeaway from the annual tribal conclave was a global network of tribals and experience sharing. “Even for us hosts, the four hours every morning dedicated to story-sharing followed by a lecture on a specific subject was enjoyable. Participants opened up to each other, spoke about challenges and brainstormed together,” he said.

Asked for a specific instance, he said, ‘I remember some delegates sharing a watershed management process in Madhya Pradesh that proved successful. Everyone was enthused, asked a lot of questions about how to replicate it,” he said.

For many, like Nika Rua from the Maori tribe in Waimana, New Zealand, Samvaad was an experience of a lifetime. “I’m impressed that a corporate house (Tata Steel) organised a conclave like Samvaad,” Rua said. “I got the privilege to share my stories of home with people from other countries. There are no words to explain how I feel. I consider myself lucky to have come here halfway around the world. I’ve made lifelong friends,” he said while leaving Jamshedpur on Tuesday. “I’ll miss this place.”