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HindustanTimes Mon,24 Nov 2014

West

In tribal belt, a struggle for change
Ketaki Ghoge, Hindustan Times
Sabarkantha, December 11, 2012
First Published: 00:20 IST(11/12/2012)
Last Updated: 10:44 IST(19/12/2012)

A rebellion is brewing in Khedbrahma, the Congress bastion dubbed the tribal headquarters of the Sabarkantha district. At its heart are a few hundred adivasi youngsters, who have decided to ditch the Congress and the BJP and field their own candidate.

Rumal Dramji, 26, former Congress sarpanch of Nada village, has a masters’ degree in social work and a bachelors’ degree in history. He also has the support of 30-odd villages in Khedbrahma.

Dramji and his friends — most of them educated  — are hoping that in the December 17 polls, their people will choose empowerment instead of the bottle or a few hundred rupees.

“It is their test as well as ours. Over the last 10 years, nothing has changed for us in Vibrant Gujarat. And despite this, we were being forced to make a choice between our former taluka president (BJP candidate) and our current Congress MLA,” said Babulal Anjeri, 33, who works with the NGO Save the Children and is a core member of this revolt. “These men and their parties have done nothing for us. If we don’t stand up to them now, we will never do it.’’

They have no money, no muscle and common sense says their revolt is headed for a disaster. But these youngsters could change how political parties view the tribal votebank.

Across Gujarat’s eastern belt, the vote of the tribals is decisive in 26 seats. Mostly, they have been Congress loyalists, but lately, the BJP had made inroads. But now, the tribals are feeling betrayed by both, and with good reason.

Human development index in tribal Gujarat is way behind the state average. The implementation of Forest Rights Act is also abysmal.

Ratwa, 39, who teaches English literature at a local college and has a MA from University of Leeds, represents a section of vocal educated tribals.

“Both the Congress and the BJP have been fielding old leaders who are not aware of today’s realities and have done nothing for the community,’’ said Rasik Kedwa, a volunteer with Adivasi Mahasabha.


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