Jharkhand and Right of Property for Adivasi Ladies

Recently I got an old copy of weekly magazine “Surabhi” dated 28th March 2008. There was an article titled “Adivasi Mahilaon ko Sampati ka Adhikar” by writer “Madhukar”. The writer had mentioned about two ladies – Ms / Mrs Bithiya Murmu and Asha Rathour, who are struggling for the right of Immovable Properties for Adivasi ladies. Some of the sentences of the article were “Bithiya Murmu aur Asha Rathour Jharkhand mei Adivasi Mahilaon ko bhi Sampati ka Adhikar dilane ki ladayi lad rahi hain.” According to Bithiya Murmu, “Sampati mei Adhikar nahin hone ki wajah se hi nirashit adivasi mahilaon ko kabhi DAYAN to kabhi GUNI karar dekar pratadit kiya jata hai, mar diya jata hai, samaj se bahiskrit kar diya jata hai.” It is also stated that “Adivasi samaj se hi inhen (these two) samarthan aur virodh jhelna pad raha hai. Padhi – Likhi aur swavlambi mahilaon ki badi sankhya bhi unke is abhiyan ka virodh karti hain.”
I don’t know about the background of these ladies. The article also reminded me about my college (10+2) days during 1995-97, when I had heard that two ladies were struggling for the property right for Adivasi ladies. The funny thing of that story was that both those ladies were married to NON-ADIVASI gentlemen.
It is indeed commendable that these ladies are concerned of some problems of Adivasi Ladies. But is this aspect I think in another way. Somewhere I suspect these ladies for their “Nice Aims” or Selfishness or Ignorance. I even suspect their integrity. May be these well wishers of Adivasi ladies are not aware to customary laws and the system of Adivasi community, which I think are straight, simple and clear as compared to the Indian Constitution or Indian Law in spite that the Adivasi Customary Laws are not written.   
I have not visited the Santhal Pargana Area, which perhaps Bithiya Murmu belongs. But I have seen the Adivasi villages from extreme remote area to the nearby area of Towns. 
I accept that so many things to be done for betterment and improvement of the conditions of Ladies in Adivasi community. They are to be provided proper food, education and health. Even though I can say that the position and reputation of the ladies within the community is much better in Adivasis than the General or High Class societies. The Adivasi Society has given much power and respect to a lady in the society. A married lady is never called by her name; she is called by the name of her Village (Maiyka). 
Start from the right of Immovable Property. It is well known that Immovable property (Land) of a father is divided among sons. But there are certain rules which take especial care for ladies. An UNMARRIED DAUGHTER has equal right on Land as her brothers. Means – a lady is given equal land as her brothers, if she is unmarried or remains unmarried for the whole life. A WIDOW has the full right over her husbands Property. And, unbelievable rule is that if a person marries to more than one lady, (either because of death or two at a time) his property is divided among the WIVES (not among sons). The Land is divided by the “PANCHAs” in presence of all the villagers, relatives and nearby villagers. 
As far the logic behind the struggle of these ladies is concerned, I do accept that many cases of accusing a lady as DAYAN and expelling her from society is heard. Most of the DAYAN accused ladies are old aged or widows, but there are also the cases of accusing a Man as DAYAN. May be the motive behind these unfortunate incidents is the Property (Land or any other type), but generally most of the DAYAN accused are POOR both with respect to Land and Money. 
In short, the main reason of accusing a lady or man as DAYAN is “False faith (AndhViswas)” prevailing in Adivasi community. 
Forget about these Adivasi Areas, you can see such scenes even in many Hindi Movies where a Widow is accused as “DAYAN, RAKSHASI, apne pati ko kha gayi” by her Saas or Nanad. 
OK, let us assume that the Adivasi community gives right of property to Ladies. But then I have certain doubts and questions. Can these well wishers / society reformer ladies (Bithiya & Ashaji etc) guarantee that no Adivasi lady will be accused as DAYAN after that? Let us assume that the Adivasi villagers make plan and accuse an old lady / widow as Dayan to get rid of her for property. Then, such incidents must definitely increase after they get right on property. 
Secondly, I am a farmer’s son with hand on experience of working in our fields during my school days, college days and engineering days. The land in my village is divided (like any other adivasi village) such that our fields are lying here and there. In a hill area there are different types of land – land with water for 365 days a year, plane land, slopped land, Forest land, under construction land etc. Lands are divided such that each one gets all types of land in equal area. And, it is practically very difficult to do cultivation work (ploughing, sowing, removal of grass, to look after the crops and harvesting) due to distance and random location. 
We might be knowing that Adivasis don’t marry within same GOTRA / KILI (TITLE). This means no marriage is possible within same village as most of the villages have only one “GOTRA”. After getting the right of property, wife will also get land at her father’s village, which may be more than 50 kms away from her husband’s village. Can she and her husband be able to do the cultivation work at both places? The answer is a big NO. This will be practically not possible. This means UNCULTIVATED LAND will definitely increase and land productivity will certainly decrease. 
At present, the brother and sister relationship in adivasi community is much stronger than the so called high class society, in spite of that there is no festival / custom of RAKHI or RAKSHABANDHAN basically in Adivasi Community. The day the right of property is given to adivasi ladies, the strength of this relationship will definitely weaken or even shatter. 
You might have seen in general or high class society or in Hindi Movies, where the “Fatichar / Gareeb / Chalu / Villain boys / Families try and plan to marry a daughter of Rich Father for the sake of Money or property. You give the right of property to adivasi lady; such things will certainly increase in adivasi community. General or non-adivasi guys will also try to lure the adivasi ladies only for land. It may also happen that nobody will be marrying a daughter of poor father (with less land) and there will be a long line of guys for marrying a daughter of Rich father (with high area of lands). At present, a daughter of a poor father can marry as nobody thinks about her property. 
Then, there is also the certainty of introduction of “DAHEJ / DOWRY” system in adivasi community. The “DULHA” (bridegroom) and family will be asking the father or family of a “DULHAN” (bride) for more and more land. The bride may be burnt to kill for land. Many funny and strange things will start to happen in adivasi community. A father of a daughter will be asked to show the statement of property / land (Khatiyan) before his daughter’s marriage – “Pahle Zameen ke kagaz phir shadi!” Then the activities of killing a baby girl inside her mothers belly or throwing a baby girl into the river or forest will increase. At present female/male ratio is much better in Adivasi Community than the national average. This ratio will certainly decrease drastically in Adivasi community also (like general society). You see the non adivasi community, where a baby girl is considered as BURDEN due to Dowry. 
I sometimes think why suddenly a lady from non adivasi community – Ms / Mrs Asha Rathour has suddenly started thinking about adivasi ladies. It is very nice, that she is thinking for “GOOD” of adivasi lady. But why doesn’t she go to her own community and work for the betterment of ladies belonging to her community? Why this struggle is being initiated by those adivasi ladies who are married to non-adivasi boys? Here also I doubt the motive and integrity of these so called struggling ladies. Do they want to destroy the entire Adivasi Community and also the reputation / position of Adivasi Ladies?
Personally I don’t have problem if my sisters also get part from my father’s land. But I know this will yield no positive result or advantage for them also. 
In fact, the Adivasi Ladies know very well that the present system is the BEST for the ladies and Adivasi Community. That is why the educated and self dependent adivasi ladies are also opposing this struggle (as stated in that article). 
I personally think that the adivasi ancestors were much more intelligent / prudent that they have established the better social system / rules which protected the adivasi community and its customs and civilization from ancient ages. Adivasi community is free from many social evils which are prevailing in general communities.
However, the incidents of accusing a lady or man as DAYAN has come down now, even though, if we want to stop this completely, we have to educate the adivasi people and particularly the ladies for realizing that this is their “False belief.” 
As you all know, that most of the Adivasis are uneducated or insufficiently educated. Also, the Health Facilities / Centres are very rare in the adivasi areas of Jharkhand. Generally the health centres are located in block headquarters or district headquarters. I need not tell about the very poor availability of medicines, nurses or doctors in such government hospitals. In the remote villages illness of kids and ladies is common due to insufficient grains and nutrients. When some diseases like Malaria, Diarrhea etc. spread in the village or unfortunate accidents of falling from tree, snake bite etc happen, these villagers still think that this is because of “Buri Nazar” of some DAYAN due to “ANDHVISHWAS”. 
In short, what I want to say is that giving the right of property to Adivasi Lady is NOT the solution of stopping a Lady from being accused as DAYAN. To stop this social evil, we need to educate the Adivasis, especially the ladies and assure them that there is NO DAYAN, NO BURI NAZAR etc. We need to make them realize that this is their False Faith. Giving the property right to ladies may not yield any good for ladies and the entire Adivasi Community, rather it may affect the community (and property also) unfavorably.

 

Maheshwar Munda 
Jharkhand Forum
A Global Network of Jharkhand
E-mail: forum@jharkhand.org.in
http://www.jharkhand.org.in/forum
 
http://in.groups.yahoo.com/group/Jharkhand/message/1916
 
 
 
 
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