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Translating the Adivasi Worldview

Brief introduction

The Adivasi Academy, Tejgadh, in Chhota Udepur district (Gujarat) was established in 1999 by Bhasha Research & Publication Centre, Vadodara (Bhasha), with the vision of it evolving into an institute of national significance to undertake the study, research and documentation of the Adivasi communities of India. The Academy acts as a think-tank and functions as a one-stop resource centre for the study of multifarious aspects of the kaleidoscopic worlds of Adivasi communities, ranging from history, mythology, folklore, anthropology, ethnography, demographics, art, music, culture, geography, medicine, economy and languages. The Academy is administered and managed by Adivasi community members trained through various educational and vocational activities. The Adivasi Academy houses the Vaacha museum, a research library, Lakhara art studio, Bhasha Van—an open-air museum of languages—Vasant Shala—a residential multilingual school for Adivasi children, and Prakruti health clinic. The Academy has executed several national-scale initiatives in linguistics, ethnography, Adivasi art and Adivasi music.

 

History

To understand the significance of an institution such as the Adivasi Academy at Tejgadh, it is important to focus on the events that culminated in the establishment of this academy.

In March 1996, a decision was taken by a group of scholars, experts and writers at a meeting in Saputara to establish an organization to specifically work in the areas of Non-Scheduled Languages. Towards this end, Bhasha Research & Publication Centre was established on April 12, 1996, by G.N. Devy, Ravikant Joshi, Surekha Devi, Nisha Grover and Sandhya Gajjar, as a Non-Charitable Trust with the focus to undertake research, documentation and dissemination of marginal languages which primarily fall in the category of Non-Scheduled Languages, the majority of which are tribal or Adivasi languages. The primary objectives for which Bhasha functions are:

  • To undertake research, documentation and dissemination on languages, literature and art of Adivasi communities
  • To create awareness for the preservation of imaginative Adivasi life,
  • To establish a national institute for the promotion of imaginative Adivasi  life,
  • To undertake socio-economic development activities among Adivasi communities,
  • To collaborate with national and international institutes working in the field of Adivasis

(Source: Bhasha website)

 

The first endeavour towards this initiative was in the form of Dhol magazine which was published in 18 tribal languages with contributions from scholars.  Dhol (drums) is regarded as a cultural icon and plays various roles for the community, from its being played in festivals and weddings, to relay official notices, and for other announcements. The most memorable accomplishment of Dhol magazine was to introduce Adivasi languages for the first time in written form using Gujarati script.

 

In 1999, Bhasha Research & Publication Centre decided to set up the Adivasi Academy as an institute of national repute to conduct extensive research and documentation of the indigenous Adivasi population of India. According to the organisation's website (www.adivasiacademy.org) 'The Adivasi Academy is established to create a unique educational environment for the study of tribal communities. The Academy is aimed to become an institute for the study of tribal history, folklore, cultural geography, social dynamics, economy, development studies, medicine, music, arts and theatre. With its multidisciplinary approach and related interventional measures, the Academy is striving to create a new approach of academic activism.'

 

The Adivasi Academy is a people's institution, so it is consciously situated in close proximity to a tribal belt. In tune with the vision of the Academy, the suitable site was near the village of Tejgadh in Chhota Udepur, which is 90 km away from Vadodara. There were several reasons for selecting Tejgadh for the site.

  • The most significant aspect was its geographical location. Tejgadh stands at the crossroads of four states, i.e., Gujarat (the state in which Tejgadh is located), Madhya Pradesh (40 km to the east), Rajasthan (100 km to the north) and Maharashtra (about 80 km to the south).
  • Adivasis, especially the Rathvas, form the majority of the population at this confluence of four states. 
  • Another significance of the site of Tejgadh is the historical richness. Apart from the history associated with the Khichi Chauhan dynasty that ruled Chhota Udepur (www.maharajachhotaudepur.com), Tejgadh is archaeologically significant due to the presence of a wide range of hills which house prehistoric cave paintings dating back to before 10,000 BC. According to Naran Rathva, the curator of Vaacha Museum and co-author of Tribal Cave Paintings, 'these cave paintings are proof that Adivasis have been residing in these areas for over 1000 years.'
  • A weekly haat or market is held each Saturday in Chhota Udepur which is 14 km from Tejgadh. The haat is more of an event than a market. Adivasi from several villages come to buy their necessities and also to sell their products in these local markets. Several Adivasi marriages are arranged at these haats.

 

The site on which the Academy stands was a common grazing site, under the jurisdiction of the Tejgadh village panchayat. The land was handed over by the panchayat to the government of Gujarat, and was then leased out to Bhasha on March 10,1999, for 30 years.

 

 

Early Initiatives

In 1997, the Adivasi Academy commenced its work in Tejgadh by starting a library. The sarpanch of Tejgadh donated a room for this purpose, and with a total of 425 books the library was instated. Simultaneously, a course in computer education was also introduced in Tejgadh. Around 100 students from Tejgadh and adjoining areas enrolled themselves for this course.

 

In 1998, the Adivasi Academy organized archery competitions between the Adivasi and local police officials with the aim to reduce the communication gap between the two groups. The activity proved immensely popular and succeeded in bridging the gap between them.

 

On January 15, 2000, a diploma course in Tribal Studies was initiated at the Academy. The first batch consisted of 15 students from nearby villages around Tejgadh, Panchmahal and South Gujarat. This diploma course was aimed at introducing the adivasi students to the tribal worldview. Lectures were conducted under the mahua tree, situated outside the campus. Prominent scholars, writers, activists and educators were invited to give lectures and contribute. Among them were Mahashweta Devi, Ramchandra Guha, Ajay Dandekar, Kanji Patel, Lachchman Khubchandani and Ramkrishna Reddy. They visited Tejgadh, spoke to the students, and discussed various themes and subjects, opening up a range of thought-provoking concepts. As many of the students who were part of the first batch of this diploma course have shared, 'though all of the students in the first batch were adivasi, they had no idea about what it meant to be an adivasi. They felt that we were the only adivasis around. According to them these lectures enhanced their concept of "adivasiness" and knowledge of the world in general.’

 

As part of the curriculum, students were to submit dissertations after conducting fieldwork in adivasi areas. Each of the 15 students visited various adivasi areas in the eastern belt of Gujarat. They conducted field research and wrote their dissertations on themes such as agriculture, food grains, art etc. During this fieldwork, they realised that their adivasi brethren everywhere were facing similar problems and issues. These experiences were further discussed in a group with G.N. Devy. This group discussion was aimed at identifying parameters which would eventually answer the question, what would it take to improve the lives of the adivasis? Five basic issues were identified, which if eradicated/worked upon would improve their living standards:

  1. Debt                 an adivasi village should be free from all debt
  2. Hunger             an adivasi village should be free from hunger
  3. Illiteracy           an adivasi village should be free from illiteracy
  4. Health              an adivasi village should be free from diseases
  5. Migration          an adivasi village should be free from migration.

 

These five objectives became the foundation for all future initiatives to be implemented by the Academy, laying the groundwork for the model of development and activism to be initiated. Students were given the freedom to select any sector related to the identified objectives and take responsibility and start their work with the community. The methodology and aim of each action initiated by the Academy, was ‘interaction’, ‘to listen’ to the communities and formulate action plans based on these interactions.

 

The environment and architecture of the Academy

The Adivasi Academy building stands at the foot of Koraj hill, where prehistoric rock paintings are to be found, and the remains of a 15th-century medieval fortification wall, adding to the cultural legacy of the location. The buildings of the academy have been designed by architect Karan Grover. Structures have been constructed in exposed red brick designed to complement the local architecture and historical monuments found in and around the adjoining areas of Tejgadh (www.adivasiacademy.org). The 10-acre land has several plantation areas, with a range of medicinal trees, a pond, an open-air amphitheatre, several open spaces and two playgrounds for the school children. About the architecture of the building, Naran Rathva states that when he looks at these buildings even today he feels as if his ancestors have built these structures. The semi-circular main building overlooking the Koraj Hill leaves many visitors speechless.

 

Art and Culture

Art is an integral element of Adivasi life. According to the website of Adivasi Academy, the museumization of culture is not on the Academy’s agenda: initiatives in art and culture of the Academy act as an intellectual platform for likeminded people who wish to conduct research and documentation of various facets of Adivasi art and culture. Naran Rathva who took responsibility for the initiatives of Adivasi Academy in art and culture, conducted field trips to several museums across India to understand the composition of museums. Based on his experiences, he decided to create a collection which the local people would be able to identify with.

 

On August 15, 2004, in the presence of Mahashweta Devi, a plaque was installed and the Vaacha Museum was inaugurated.

 

Vaacha

In the local Rathvi language, the term ‘Vaacha’ means Voice. ‘Vaacha’ acts as a metaphor for the unheard Adivasi voice. The museum building is designed in a way where there are no closed walls for the galleries encircling the central veranda.

The collection of museum includes:

  • Musical instruments of various kinds and types
  • Household articles from the kitchen, for cooking and storage
  • Clothing and textiles of various communities,
  • Sculptures in wood, metal and terracotta
  • Artefacts related to religious practices and ritual
  • Ornaments
  • Embroidery artefacts
  • Clay artefacts
  • Paintings of various communities for instance Pithora Painting of the Rathvas of Gujarat, Idital Painting of the Lanjia Saora community of Odisha
  • A collection of self-documented and donated photographs

 

The collection of around 4000 artefacts in Vaacha Museum represents 64 communities across India.

 

Museum shop

The museum shop at the Adivasi Academy houses articles created by members of Adivasi communities from across the country, including kitchen articles, ornaments and paintings. The shop also sells various publications of the Adivasi Academy ranging from folklore and art to linguistic studies and pictorial glossaries.

 

Bhasha Van

In 2010, Bhasha initiated a nationwide survey to undertake the research and documentation of the living languages of India. This survey named ‘The Peoples Linguistic Survey of India’ documented 780 languages of India.

 

Bhasha Van ('The Forest of Languages') at the campus of Adivasi Academy acts as a movement appended to the Peoples Linguistic Survey of India. The concept of the Bhasha Van emphasises the vital consideration required towards the need to conserve languages and trees. In 2010, the Bhasha Van was planted to represent the linguistic and floral diversity of the country. Bhasha Van is experienced through audio guides, which contain snippets from various languages of the country through stories, songs, jokes, history etc. Information panels with codes are hung on trees. Visitors go up to these trees, press codes and trees narrate their stories. There are five gazebos designed according to Adivasi architecture. The entire walkabout of Bhasha Van is illuminated with Adivasi paintings, terracotta articles, and sculptures. The Bhasha Van provides visitors comprehensive information about the linguistic diversity of India with regard to language families, scheduled and non-scheduled languages in tri-lingual formats, which aids in engaging visitors from all backgrounds. The Bhasha Van currently houses information in about 70 languages and plans to extend and incorporate information about all 780 documented extant languages of India.

 

Lakhara Studio

In Rathva culture, a creative individual, especially an artist, is referred to as a ‘Lakhara’. The Adivasi Academy promotes artists from various communities across India, working in various media. They are invited to reside and share their community art at the Academy. Towards this end, the Adivasi Academy has taken the initiative to create the ‘Lakhara Studio’ at its campus. The studio is rustic and has been adorned with paintings from various Adivasi cultures of India. The objective of the studio is to invite artists from different artistic communities of India and document their art, and also to create a wide range of artefacts to enhance Vaacha Museum. The aim of Lakhara Studio is to revitalise Adivasi art and become a national-scale resource centre of Adivasi arts and crafts. It also aims to bring together the traditional and contemporary forms within Adivasi arts.

 

National Consortium of Tribal Arts and Culture

In 2008, Bhasha Research & Publication Centre was recognized by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India as a ‘Centre of Excellence’. The recognition was backed by sponsorship for various initiatives in art and culture of the Adivasi communities. The Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India has instituted several Tribal Training and Research institutes across India, which run 14 ethnographic museums containing artefacts of different communities, ranging from paintings, sculptures, ornaments and associated materials from Adivasi life and culture, with a collective holding of almost 25,000 artefacts (Bhasha website).

 

Bhasha and Adivasi Academy initiated a project named ‘National Consortium of Tribal Arts and Culture’ to bring the collection of all 14 ethnographic museums into multimedia format, which culminated in the creation of ‘Vaacha’ a virtual portrayal of an Adivasi village containing animation, still photography, short films and music. The interactive journey moves through a range of aspects of an Adivasi village, such as festivals, markets, rituals, hunting religious and ritualistic practices. A national inventory was also published under the title Tribal Arts in India.

 

Bhasha Archives (www.bhashaarchival.org)

The Adivasi Academy has been conducting research and documentation of the indigenous communities since its inception. This journey has contributed to creating a collection of almost 50,000 photographs along with over 1000 hours of associated audio-visual documentation. Photographs showcase the diversity of the cultural lives of the Adivasis—their village life, festivals, dance, art, rituals, farming and agriculture, clothing, ornaments. To showcase this collection from a modern perspective, the Adivasi Academy created an archival website named ‘Bhasha Archives’ (www.bhashaarchival.org) in collaboration with the Ministry of Tribal Affairs under the scheme of the Centre of Excellence. The archival website currently has a selection of 5000 photographs along with audio-visual data. The website is an open source for scholars, students, and researchers. The Adivasi Academy plans to continue the multimedia documentation process.

 

Melas

Kaleshwari Mela

Every year, since 1999, the Kaleshwari Mela is organized on Mahashivratri at Kaleshwari, an archaeological site 16 km from Lunawada in Panchmahal district. The mela is an amalgamation of artists, writers, singers, dramatists and scholars from Adivasi and nomadic communities. The Kaleshwari mela is a spectacle to be experienced.

 

Tur Mela

The Adivasi Academy organized the Tur Mela in 2008-10 in Tejgadh, bringing together community artists from all over Gujarat to undertake on-site research and to document their musical traditions.

 

Exhibitions

The Adivasi Academy has been organizing several exhibitions over the years on various themes. An outstanding exhibition was the ‘Purvajon ni Ankh’ (Through the eyes of our Ancestors). On display were photographs donated by institutions such as the University of Cambridge, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), the City Museum of Leipzig, and the Berlin Ethnographic Museum. These 80-year old photographs from colonial times were exhibited in locations of ancestral importance. Naran Rathva who curated this exhibition states that, ‘people from almost 40 countries participated in this exhibition along with local people in large numbers. They came with dhol and nagara and simply converted this exhibition into a festival.'

 

Gujarat nu Aadim Sangit (Adivasi Music of Gujarat)

The Academy's next project in experimentation with multimedia technology is to develop Gujarat nu Aadim Sangit, an interactive primarily on Adivasi music and its associated dance forms, along with aspects of the cultural life of almost 70 Adivasi communities of Gujarat.

 

Education

Primary Education

Vasant Shala Residential Multi-Lingual, Mother Tongue Education School

The Academy identified several reasons for vast disparities in levels of literacy among Adivasi children especially at the primary level:

  • Migration: many Adivasis migrate to cities for work, where they also take their children.
  • Linguistic Disparity: teachers appointed in government schools lack knowledge about the linguistic needs and capabilities of the Adivasi child.
  • Literacy of Parents: the lack of education among parents hampers the child’s educational needs.
  • Location of schools: the inaccessibility of schools for Adivasi children who live in remote areas.
  • Dropout ratio: the combination of all the above reasons cause the Adivasi child to lose interest in education, thus escalating the rate of Adivasi children dropping out of school.

 

In 2005, the Adivasi Academy set up Vasant Shala to address the issue of primary education among Adivasi children, especially dropout children. According to the www.bhasharesearch.org the objectives of Vasant Shala are:

 

  • To provide access to quality education to tribal children
  • Bridge the learning gaps of out-of-school tribal children and help them attain age-appropriate learning levels
  • Enrol children to Ashramshalas or Eklavya Model Residential schools at age-appropriate levels
  • Ensure that children enrolled to formal schools do not get pushed out again
  • Design culturally and contextually relevant curriculum, educational tools and pedagogies for tribal children that will also match the requirements of mainstream institutional schooling

 

Teachers and volunteers of the Adivasi Academy make field trips to villages to identify children for the Vasant Shala. Special attention is paid to drop out children. They meet the parents, explain to them the need and importance of education and facilitate enrolment of children in Vasant Shala. The drop-out children stay in Vasant Shala for two years, during which the course components are tailored to bridge the child's educational gaps, and after two years they are enrolled in formal Government schools. A total of 383 Adivasi children have graduated from Vasant Shala. For the past three years, Vasant Shala is undergoing a transition and has become Gujarat’s first multilingual, mother-tongue education schooling centre. Students enrolled in Vasant Shala from various Adivasi communities are by nature multilingual. Several studies have shown that education in the mother tongue encourages creativity, multilingual proficiency, cognitive development, critical and divergent thinking, and social tolerance (Bhasha website). The Adivasi Academy has been working in the field of education among Adivasi communities since its inception in form of study centres in villages parallel to the government schools. The methodology was to train an educated youth from the village in teaching the children with the aim of reviving interest in education. A total of 20,813 children have learned at these study centres.

 

Multi-Lingual Education Training Workshops

The model of Adivasi Academy’s multilingual and mother tongue education system has earned success and recognition amongst several similar institutions working in the field of education in Adivasi areas. The Adivasi Academy has convened workshops with several institutions on the same subject, with special focus on training teachers. Institutions like Ekalvya (M.P.), Samavesh (M.P.), Muskaan (M.P.), Aide-et-Action (T.N.), Pratham and the Indian Institute of Education (Pune) have participated in the workshops organized by the Adivasi Academy.

 

Educational Literature

The Adivasi Academy has developed several parallel educational materials to complement the existing formal literatures on education. The ventures of Adivasi Academy in lexicography led to the development of dictionaries in several Adivasi languages, namely Rathvi, Dehwali, Gamit, Chaudhari, Kunkna, etc. which were prepared by members of community in the form of dissertations for the various higher education courses run by Adivasi Academy.

 

The Adivasi Academy in collaboration with the CIIL, Mysore created pictorial glossaries as media of communication and reference tool, especially aimed at aiding the teachers in Adivasi areas. The Sarva Shikshan Abhiyaan Department of the Gujarat Government recognised the vital importance of this study material and prescribed it as reference material in schools located in tribal areas of the state. So far, the pictorial glossaries have been prepared in Rathvi, Dungra Bhili, Dungri Bhili, Panchmahali Bhili, Naiki, Madari, Chaudhari, Gamit, Pavri, Dehwali, Wanjhari, Chamthi, Bhantu, Garasia and Kunkna. The Adviasi Academy plans to create pictorial glossaries for all Adivasi languages in India.

 

Higher Education

In 2000, the Adivasi Academy initiated their work in higher education with the introduction of a Diploma in Tribal Studies. Between 2000 and 2012, the Adivasi Academy offered the following courses:

Post-Graduate Diplomas:

  • Tribal Studies
  • Tribal Culture and Museum Studies
  • Media, Publication and Rural Journalism
  • Development Initiatives in Panchmahals
  • Sustainable Agriculture and Forest Management
  • Food Security and Women’s Empowerment
  • Adivasi Languages, Society and Culture
  • Arts, Crafts and Documentation
  • Indigenous Knowledge for School Education
  • Theatre, Media and Journalism
  • Tribal Arts and Culture

 

Certificate Courses:

  • Theatre
  • Micro-Enterprise
  • Rural Healthcare Training
  • Accountancy and General Management for Rural and Community Based Organizations
  • Indigenous Environmental Knowledge
  • Indigenous Knowledge for School Education

Until 2012 the Adivasi Academy was registered as a Special Study Centre with the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and facilitated Distance Education among undergraduate and postgraduate adivasis.  In all, 320 students were trained at the Adivasi Academy (Adivasi Academy website).

 

Health

Awareness Programs

Since 2000, the Adivasi Academy has been conducting health awareness programs with a special focus on sickle cell anaemia and silicosis, effects of which have been widespread among Adivasi populace. The Academy has invited teams of doctors from Red Cross and other organizations to conduct screening camps for sickle cell anaemia. The efforts gained success in 2008 when the Chhota Udepur Community Health Centre opened a wing to screen patients for the illness. The Academy has been organizing drives to create awareness among Adivasis about availing of government health schemes and infrastructure.

 

Prakruti Health Centre

The Adivasi Academy runs a free, primary outpatient department under the name ‘Prakruti’ Health Centre, which provides basic diagnosis and medical care. The clinic provides free allopathic and ayurvedic medicines. The OPD clinic runs every Sunday and doctors from Vadodara volunteer to treat the patients along with Dr Aravind Pratap, the resident doctor and Deputy Director of the Academy. The health clinic has treated over 2 lakh patients, conducted 323 awareness camps in 776 villages from the districts of Chhota Udepur, Naswadi, Sankheda, Kawant and others.

 

Health Insurance

In 2008, the Adivasi Academy initiated health insurance among the local residents utilising the health centre, through which a family is insured annually for a marginal fee of Rs. 200 per year. The cost of medicines and referrals to Government hospitals are included in this insurance scheme. A total of 11,000 families have joined this insurance drive. 

 

Training in Health (Certificate Course)

The health centre also administers a certificate course for Adivasi girls in ‘Rural Health Management’. They are sent to Muni Seva Ashram for practical training which ensures them employment in local hospitals. The course is certified by the academy and government of Gujarat. The number of graduates from this course is 162.

 

Collaborative Projects

The Prakruti health centre of the Adivasi Academy is currently undertaking collaborative projects with UNICEF in Child Health Care and with the Ministry of AYUSH in Ayurvedic medicine.

 

National Initiatives

The People’s Linguistic Survey of India

The first linguistic survey of India was conducted by the British official George Grierson in 1894–1928 and documented 733 languages. After independence, the People’s Linguistic Survey of India (PLSI) by G.N. Devy is the first such national endeavour, and was initiated in 2010 at the Bhasha Language Confluence (a conference). This survey was carried out by persons of respective speech communities or those working with  languages over a considerable period of time (www.peopleslinguisticsurvey.org). The vision of the survey was to capture people’s perception of language. In 2013, at the Gandhi Smarak in Delhi, Bhasha announced the completion of the survey having comprehensively documented 780 living Indian languages.

 

The survey appears in over 50,000 pages by 3,000 contributors, which is being published by Orient Blackswan Publications. A total of 50 volumes are being published. Every state has a volume in its state language and English, while there are a total of 19 National Volumes. The PLSI also has a volume for Sign Languages. The National Editorial Collective has formed the Continuity Committee with the aim to prolong the movement along with ‘Bharatiya Bhasha Lok Sarvekshan Expert Committee’, with the objective of translating PLSI volumes into Hindi. 

 

Community/Insider Ethnographic Survey of India

Colonial sources and methods have influenced all ethnographic studies in India. This has resulted in the circulation of various conflicting reports about the indigenous communities of India, especially in the case of primitive tribal groups and pastoral communities. Similarly, there was no ethnographic information available about the various coastal communities (Adivasi Academy website). The Adivasi Academy has initiated a national ethnographic survey of these communities on the unique principle of having it undertaken by the community itself, under the title ‘Insider Ethnography’. The project has been guided by Kanji Patel and currently 78 communities of Gujarat have been documented, while research is being conducted in states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra to compile more monographs. The data collection comprises information on everything from life to death, in terms of origin stories, mythology, folklore, customs, rituals and festivals.

 

Tribal Music Documentation

Music is a medium of cultural expression deeply rooted in every community. The diversity of Adivasi music in India is vast and is entwined with their belief systems and practices. Since 2010, the Adivasi Academy has with ethnomusicologist Prachi Dublay taken up an initiative to document this uncharted facet of the Adivasi and nomadic communities of India. The music of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh have been documented and published in the form of CDs and books.

 

The highlight of this initiative is the compilation of notations, which would aid in bringing Adivasi music into the mainstream . The Adivasi Academy aims to create an anthology and map of Adivasi music.

 

DNT Movement

In 1871, the British government instituted the ‘Criminal Tribes Act’ to regulate the movement of nomadic communities who were considered an intelligence threat after 1857. This act stigmatized the members of these communities as ‘criminals by birth’. In 1952, the Government of India de-notified these communities but the taint continued to linger. In 1998, Bhasha launched the De-notified and Nomadic Tribes Rights Action Group (DNT-RAG) to create a national campaign for protection of human rights of the DNTs. The campaign, led by Mahasweta Devi and G.N. Devy, saw the formulation of the National DNT Commission and the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) by the Government of India, chaired by G.N. Devy. After the submission of the TAG Report (2006) to the Government, the DNT-RAG was dissolved in 2007 (see Bhasha website).

 

Budhan Theatre

The Budhan Theatre was instituted to act as a medium to channel the anguish among the community youth in a constructive way. Budhan theatre is named after Budhan Sabar, a member of Sabar community who was killed in police custody in West Bengal. The theatre group depicts incidents related to DNTs across India, with the aim of creating awareness. Their performances have earned them national and international recognition. The Budhan Theatre functions from Chharanagar, Ahmedabad and has developed a museum called ‘Museum of Hope’ which has photographs and stories of the Chhara community and acts as a symbol of DNTs of the entire nation.

 

Other Initiatives

Economy

The Adivasi Academy started Micro-Credit self-help groups or ‘Bachat Mandalis’ to tackle the issue of indebtedness among Adivasis. These self-help groups were aimed to create a habit of saving among the Adivasis, who were never accustomed to save money. They used to borrow money from local moneylenders at exorbitant rate of interests, sometimes ranging between 60%-120%. These self-help groups were aimed to eradicate the monopoly the money lenders had on the economic lives of the Adivasis. The methodology was simple, a self-help group was initiated in a village, and members would contribute a certain amount to the group, and the total would be saved in a nationalised bank under the chosen name of the group. The money saved would be used to give loans to members of the group or even to other groups. In 2011, the total number of Self-Help groups formed by Bhasha was 2,200, involving about 25,000 families and with a credit of over 80 million rupees (Devy 2012).

 

Library

The Adivasi Academy houses an extensive research library with a collection of almost 60,000 books covering 35 subjects. The library houses collections donated by G.N. Devy, Lakshman Khubchandani, Ramnika Gupta, Kanji Patel and K.K. Chakravarty. It subscribes to 185 journals and magazines. The library has also undertaken the archiving of articles from newspapers related to any news on Adivasis. Till date, 3850 articles have been archived.

 

The Adivasi Academy also has a library for the students of Vasant Shala, with a collection of 10,000 books.

 

Purva Prakash

In 1996, Bhasha set up its publication house, ‘Purva Prakash’ to provide a platform to indigenous writers. Bhasha has published books in 32 Non-Scheduled languages and thereby introduced these languages to the world as many of them did not have scripts. Each language is a treasure trove of people’s memory, knowledge systems, traditional wisdom, history and literature. Through its publications, Purva Prakash thus aims to gain recognition for the oral, and obliterate the distinction of superiority that marks the written from the oral (Purva Prakash Publications).

 

Naran Rathva (Curator, Vaacha Museum) and Vikesh Rathva (Assistant Curator, Vaacha Museum) have done research on various subjects among their very own Rathva community and also in adjoining areas of Tejgadh. They have collected information on themes wedding songs, dances, Baba Pithora paintings and the pre-historic rock paintings. The Adivasi Academy has enabled them to convert this research into publications that include Rathva samajna Lagna Gito ('Wedding Songs of the Rathva Community'), Adivasi Gufa Chitra ('Tribal Cave Paintings') and Baba Pithora Paintings. Similarly, several writers have been encouraged and motivated to do research, write and preserve the knowledge of their community. Books on Adivasi folklore, mythology, music, langauges and poetry have been published. Bhasha has introduced these publications to the world in form of digital e-books through their website (Bhasha E-books). 

 

Magazines

The Adivasi Academy has been publishing several magazines on themes related to the Adviasi culture. Dhol was in circulation in 1996-2006. It was edited by community members and published in 11 languages. Dhol is credited with bringing several of the Adivasi languages of Western India into print using Gujarati and Devanagari scripts. A childrens’ magazine, Bol, was published in 2001-10 and included writings on mythology, folklore, and science with imagery created by the non-literate Pithora artist, Desing Rathva. Purvapara was published in 2012-15 on themes in Adivasi literature and education. Lakhara a literary magaine is active since 2012. The Lakhara uses Devanagri script for all of its writings in Adivasi languages.

 

Thoughts of Past, Present and Future

The modus operandi of the Adivasi Academy and Bhasha has always been interaction, ‘to listen’ rather than ‘to speak’ or tutor. The Academy has always aimed to empower through education and knowledge gathered from the experiences of working closely with the communities, self learning and action. Through experiments in inclusive activism in various facets of the Adivasi life, the Academy has created awareness of their methods of living a life minimally and maximally. There is a vast gulf between the knowledge systems of these communities and urban knowledges which sadly overshadow the former. The wealth of intangible heritage possessed by the communities is magnificent but since they are transmitted orally, they are sadly neglected. The epic literature of these communities is just a small glimpse of Adivasi life. By promoting members of community and publishing books, the Academy has introduced a wealth of unique literature to the world. The Academy’s work in education, art, culture, eco-museology, ethnography, linguistics and ethno-musicology are meticulously designed, and are potential models of learning, research and documentation.The Adivasi Academy, to put it most simply, is evolving into the very Adivasi worldview it set out to seek.

 

On August 10, 2015 at Lukshmi Vilas Palace, in the presence of Shri O.P. Kohli, Governer of Gujarat, G.N. Devy announced that Bhasha and Adivasi Academy would be collaborating with the University Grants Commission, Delhi and The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Vadodara for the next 10 years to take the activities of these two sister organizations into the future.

 

References

 

Adviasi Academy website. Online at www.adivasiacademy.org.in  (viewed on September 26, 2016).

 

Devy, G. 2012. ‘Culture and Development, an Experiment with Empowerment’, Field Actions Science Reports, Special Issue 7. Online at http://factsreports.revues.org/2404 (viewed on September 26, 2016).

 

Bakshi, R. 2013. ‘Adivasi Academy: Acknowledging Adivasi Knowledge', reprint from Rethinking Universities in India: Intermediaries for Socially Inclusive Development, eds. Shambu Prasad and John D'Souza. Online at http://ced.org.in/docs/kics/UNIID/rajni.pdf (viewed on September 26, 2016).

 

Bhasha (official website). Online at www.bhasharesearch.org (viewed on September 26, 2016).

 

Bhasha E-books (official website). Online at http://www.bhashaebooks.org/ (viewed on September 26, 2016).

 

Bhasha Research Archival Website. Online at http://www.bhashaarchival.org/ (viewed on September 26, 2016).

 

Budhan Theatre (official website). Online at www.budhantheatre.org  (viewed on September 26, 2016).

 

Daily News and Analysis. 2015. 'Budhan Theatre’s Museum, A Hope for Denotified Chharas. DNA Syndication, August 14. Online at http://dnasyndication.com/showarticlerss.aspx?nid=eOD9tkS3dPulsiUMsmQgeO8WL3dPulsVr9Lmr/9hWQFveOo1394vQ= (viewed on September 26, 2016).

 

People's Linguistic Survey of India (official website). Online at www.peopleslinguisticsurveyofindia.org (viewed on September 26, 2016).

 

Purva Publications. Online at http://www.bhasharesearch.org/Publication/Default.aspx (viewed on September 26, 2016).

 

Shastri, P. 2015. 'Chharanagar to get Museum of Hope'. The Times of India, August 15. Online at http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/Chharanagar-to-get-Museum-of-Hope/articleshow/48487692.cms (viewed on September 26, 2016).

 

Technical Advisory Group. 2006. 'Recommendations of the Technical Advisory Group 2006'. Online at http://www.bhasharesearch.org/reports/TAG%20Report.pdf (viewed on September 26, 2016).

 

Online Resources