Are you JAYS? And many tribals in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh Jharkhand and Odisha would proudly reply JAYS (yes).
But, what’s JAYS? It is probably India’s biggest mass movement through social media. The acronym stands for Adivasi Yuva Shakti, a group which was started on Facebook in 2012 to spread awareness among tribals about education and their rights.
The movement now has over 10 lakh members across the four states, who participate in many group activities on social media and on the ground, says the man behind the movement, Hira Alawa, a tribal youth who is now teaching at AIIMS (New Delhi). Initially, the Facebook group was created to address tribal problems in Alawa’s home district Alirajpur.
But, soon the movement gathered momentum with increasing members from various states.
In 2013, JAYS organised a “Facebook Panchayat” at Alirajpur which drew over 250 tribal members. In 2014, it was held at Barwani and now it is a rage, admits Alawa.
It’s members wear Jays T-shirts, ride Jays marked motorbikes and four-wheelers in every tribal villages across the four states.
“Now you can see banner of JAYS everywhere in two districts. It is a big movement now and everyone knows this fact. They also fight against the tribal atrocities and against the social ills in tribal society, which is attracting youth,” said Kemat Gewele, a Dalit and tribal leader working in Sodwa block of Alirajpur.
Alawa says the idea is to apprise tribals about their rights, inspire them to gain education and fight against atrocities and social evils.
“We believe that more than a lakh youths of Jhabua and Alirajpur are with us,” he said.
In 2015, the tribal politicians witnessed Jays growing dominance during a rally.
At least 40000 JAYSites had participated in the rally holding the JAYS banners.
Their strength was witnessed when a tribal youth and a sub-engineer in Alirajpur was allegedly beaten up by a senior administrative officer.
The JAYS held a massive protest against the incident and got the case lodged against the officer in February this year.
“They have taken inspiration from Adivasi Ekta Parishad and hence their impact is increasing day-by-day. Many tribal youths are now with JAYS. I also participate in their protest many times. They are youth and sometimes they get very aggressive. They need to control their aggression and concentrate on tribal education and tribal rights,” said Shankar Tavade , a tribal activist of Jhabua and Alirajpur.