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Adivasis are original owners of land, must get their rights: Rahul

Aug 14, 2023 12:46 AM IST

The former Congress president alleged that there is a perverted logic behind calling tribals as Vanvasis

Kochi: Tribal communities are the original owners of the land, senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said on Sunday, as he accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) of attempting to restrict tribals to the jungles by calling them “Vanvasi” instead of “Adivasi”.

Rahul Gandhi (PTI)

Gandhi, who was on his first visit to his parliamentary constituency Wayanad in Kerala after his Lok Sabha membership was restored earlier this month, said he spoke recently to the tribal community in Rajasthan about the two ideologies — one uses the term Adivasi and the other calls tribals Vanvasis — fighting in this country.

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The former Congress president alleged that there is a perverted logic behind calling tribals as Vanvasis.

“The term denies that you are the original owners of India. It also restricts you to the jungle. The idea behind Vanvasi is that you belong to the jungle and you should not leave the jungle. This is simply not acceptable to us...,” Gandhi said, in an indirect attack at the BJP-RSS.

This word is a distortion of your history, tradition and an attack on your relationship with this country, he added.

“For us (Congress), you are Adivasi, the original owners of the land. Adivasi means a particular wisdom, understanding of the environment, the earth we live on and a relationship with the planet. The word respects and accepts the fact that our tribal brothers and sisters were the original owners of this land,” he said.

That also implies, the Congress MP said, the original owners should have rights to land, forest and allowed an imagination of whatever they want. “As the original owners, your children should be able to study engineering, medicine, learn computers and run businesses. But you should also get rights to land and forest produce. You should not be restricted and categorised. All opportunities should be accessible,” Gandhi added.

He underlined that while the word “environment” and ideas about its protection are fashionable today, adivasis have been talking about the same for the past 3,000 to 5,000 years.

“We can learn from your history, tradition, way of life, not just about the environment, but how to deal with each other and respect each other. Of course, your children should have access to the best hospitals, education and jobs. We are here to help you,” Gandhi added.

The Congress leader was speaking after inaugurating a high-tension electricity line at the Dr Ambedkar Memorial District Cancer Centre at the Government Tribal Hospital in Nalloornadu in the southern state. Gandhi had allocated 50 lakh from his MPLAD fund for the project.

“I was told that the hospital used to face power cuts frequently and the patients and doctors were inconvenienced. I hope that this new electricity line will solve those problems,” he said.

Gandhi also thanked the people of his Lok Sabha constituency Wayanad for standing by him when he was disqualified as MP.

“I am very happy when I come to Wayanad. I have a relationship with people here, regardless of which party they belong to. Of course, we have ideological differences with the Left, but when I was disqualified, the entire Wayanad stood by me. I consider the entire Wayanad to be part of my family,” he said.

Gandhi, who reached Wayanad on Saturday evening, was given a rousing welcome by the top leaders of the Congress-led UDF at a public meeting in Kalpetta. He also handed over keys of nine houses built under the “Kaithangu” scheme to the beneficiaries.

Gandhi’s Lok Sabha membership was restored on August 7, three days after the Supreme Court stayed his conviction in a defamation case.

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