Another date with Bhils today | india | Hindustan Times
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Another date with Bhils today

KISHANGARH PHATA, September 30, 2005. The entire Dewas police and district administration awaited anxiously in the small hamlet nestling amidst the jungles, to see whether Bhil tribals would heed their call and come for a heart-to-heart talk with the administration. As the Bhils came in hundreds and poured out their litany of complaints, the officials were pleased as punch.

india Updated: Apr 13, 2006 12:24 IST

KISHANGARH PHATA, September 30, 2005. The entire Dewas police and district administration awaited anxiously in the small hamlet nestling amidst the jungles, to see whether Bhil tribals would heed their call and come for a heart-to-heart talk with the administration. As the Bhils came in hundreds and poured out their litany of complaints, the officials were pleased as punch.

It was a success - the first proper dialogue between Bhils and the administration after the chasm between them had widened in the wake of massacre at Mehendikhera in 2001, where three Bhils under the banner of Adivasi Mukti Sangathan were killed in police firing.

Tomorrow is another important date. The venue is Udainagar, very near Kishangarh Phata, around 120 km from Dewas district headquarters.

For tomorrow, anywhere between 15 to 20 Bhils, wanted for various crimes, ranging from murder to rape and dacoity, are expected to surrender before the police. It is a step that marks a paradigm shift in the way Bhils perceive the administration.

To the marginalised Bhil tribal, the Khaki dress - be it that of the police or the forest official - evoked nothing but fear and disgust; to them it represented forces that were driving them away from their traditional lifestyle, and into the
path of criminality, so much so that the entire tribe was looked upon as a bunch of criminals.

It is the same Khaki dress that is now coming forward to give them a second chance to join the mainstream. Dewas SP Anshuman Yadav, who first tasted success in convincing the more notorious Kanjar tribals to surrender in a similar fashion, is upbeat but looks at it philosophically, “We should not go into how many will surrender.

Anywhere between 15 to 20 Bhils who have criminal records are expected to surrender, but even if one of them surrenders, it would be a good beginning,” he said.

Those expected to surrender have around 50 permanent warrants pending against them, and the top three include Rem Siya (resident of Kardi, Udainagar), Bantiya (resident of Bhuriapura, Udainagar), Ramesh (resident of Atharkardi in Udainagar), and Roopla of Kardi, Udainagar.

All of them have cash rewards of Rs 5,000 on their heads, and have crimes ranging from dacoity, rape, and murder ranging against them. Many others have rewards of Rs 1000 and Rs 500 on them.

It was not an easy task to convince the Bhils to come forward to surrender. Policemen like Udainagar SO Basant Shrivastava, head constable Mansingh Jhala and other senior police, forest and administration officers coordinated closely with Krishna Sisodiya (who was one of the main architects in getting the Kanjars to surrender) and Adivasi Mukti Sangathan leaders like Kamal Waskale, Nandu Rawat among others, to convince that surrendering was an honourable way of joining the mainstream.

They would have to serve their prison term for the crimes they committed, but the only assurance the administration gave them was they would plead with the judiciary to take a lenient view.

As a final stroke to convince the Bhils, some of the Kanjars who had earlier surrendered were taken to meet them and tell them their story – basically that the administration had not betrayed their trust.

Anshuman Yadav said that though vested interests were against the Bhils’ step towards a new life, he was keeping his fingers crossed, and so were his DIG Ajay Sharma and IG Anil Kumar and Collector Uma Kant Umrao and DFO N K Joshi.