Most upper caste scholars and academicians attribute the advent of liberalization and free market only after 1991 trying to dilute the upper caste hegemony and its feudal practices that has been for centuries plundering resources freely while exploiting Dalit Adivasi toiling labour for their capital accumulation. This still goes on in different forms. Contesting this dominant narrative of free market as a recent phenomenon reiterated in academia, I bring some stories of Upper caste hegemony, bonded labour and forceful land acquisition which tore apart the lives of Dalit Adivasi – Dom (Dalit ) and Kondh (Adivasi ) families in southern Odisha in a free market system where toiling labour is enforced while all the capital is consumed by the Baniya and Sundi folks in the past 40 years in parts of Southern Odisha. Dalit Adivasi are suffering in India and no one wants to listen their pain.
The forceful land acquisition process and Goti practice (Bonded labour) by the Komtis (Baniyas) in parts of Southern Odisha (Koraput and Rayagada districts) has a history related to the Srikakulam armed struggle of 1968. After the 1968 armed struggle of Srikakulam many Komti families migrated to these southern districts of Odisha bordering Andhra Pradesh. They gradually started encroaching and acquiring forcefully thousands of acres of lands of Kondh and Dom community through fraudulent manners.
We grew up with stories of how these Komti Sahukars would forcefully take your finger stamp on your Jomi Pota papers (land ownership papers) defying the regulation 2 of 1956, Odisha scheduled areas transfer of immovable property by scheduled tribe regulation which prohibits any such encroachment by non-tribal, how they would put large no of coins in Bostas (Jute bags), lie and force the Kondh and Dom families that it is a huge sum of money for acquiring the land. Due to an enforced fear and the deprivation of never being allowed to schools pushed them into these feudal practices.
These Komtis also are in Nexus with the Sundis and other dominant castes around the place in occupying all the other institutions. Gradually so many Kondh and Dom people were forced to work Goti labour (Bonded labour) in their own lands forcefully taken by the Komtis and Sundi Sahukars. In their times of need, they would lend money with a very high rate of cumulative interest by the Komtis while deteriorating their lives even more with the inability to pay debts while forced to work as goti labourers for years .
Liquor has always been a very important part of our local culture in almost all the important festivals which are usually home made and sold in few houses of the village. But now even selling liquor was regulated with the license, a license which only the Sundi Sahukars would get. This regulation deprived many Kondh families of their livelihood. Coupled with this are stories of caste brutalities on Dom community by the Sundis and Komtis. It is in this socioeconomic context that Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh (CMAS) springs up. It is with this background PWG (People’s War Group) and (Party Unity) comes up. For the past 15 years, I have been gradually made aware of all these developments through conversations in our villages, listening to the elders in the village speak and my parents who keep telling us about how it all started. It’s not that our people were not fighting against these dominant castes and corporate forces but their struggles now have been appropriated by the Peoples War Group and Party Unity factions. Now we know in which juncture we stand after having so many of my own relatives getting scattered to nearby small towns finding it difficult to survive in new places.
Our people were fighting to get back their land rights but where are we now, we are all scattered leaving our homes and villages our lands we grew up with. Appropriation of our struggles by the CPI (Maoists) and few leaders of CMAS have done more harm to us than any good. It is due to these groups and their internal fights that now two oppressed Dalit Adivasi community Dom (Dalits) and Kondh (Adivasi) are made to be at loggerheads in many villages.
All in the name of a so-called “Revolution “. We don’t need this “Revolution “.
Please spare us we can fight on our own at least by staying in our villages and in our lands. Stop appropriation of our people, our culture, our history, our food, all of you (CPI (MAOIST), CORPORATES, DOMINANT CASTE SCHOLARS OF ODISHA AND THE LIBERAL ELITES IN COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES!