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Anger of Adivasis turns to poetry of protest in a young woman's hand

  • Published at 01:16 pm March 2nd, 2017
  • Last updated at 02:25 pm March 7th, 2017
Anger of Adivasis turns to poetry of protest in a young woman's hand
Till the time Jacinta Kerketta went to a missionary boarding school in Jharkhand's Manoharpur at the age of 13, she was witness to her mother Pushpa Anima Kerketta being beaten up and abused. This was at home in Siwan in undivided Bihar, where her father worked as a policeman. In her book Angor ("embers" in her language, Sadri), Kerketta, an Adivasi, says: “For a long time, it was my mother's sobs that resounded in the silence of my heart.” Kerketta gets angry even now when she speaks of watching her mother walk behind her father in public, or having to wait till he finishes his meals before she can eat. It is this anguish that the 32-year old expresses in her poem “Bawandar aur Dishaayein,” talking of a tribal village being blown away like chaff by “development”, because “someone ought to make a sacrifice” – and this time too it is the turn of the Adivasi village. The book, a collection of 41 Hindi poems, published in Hindi and English by Adivaani and co-published in German by Draupadi Verlag, was released on May 20. The poems are Kerketta's attempt to express the struggles and hopes of young Adivasis of Jharkhand, within the state and outside in big cities while they look for jobs. Kerketta speaks Santhali, Sadri, Hindi, and understands Ho, Mundari, Khariya, and English. The poems deal with issues of displacement, violence against women, hunger, apathy of governance. A Madua Sprout On The Grave On a little mound of mud in the village Has emerged a tiny madua sprout. Not a mere mound it is, but a grave, In which lies the dead remains Of Sugna, perished of hunger and starvation. Having soaked in the life-giving dew That madua seed cringing in fear hitherto Has now emerged from hiding. His children squirm about Watching seedlings of paddy sprout On the long unlit earthen stove In the cow dung smeared courtyard. And his widow, famished and distraught, Stares at the blackened bottom of the rice pot Kept upturned, empty, unfed, As if by fire of hunger charred. Sugna's wife and children Will this time not starve to death. They will take their own lives instead. For dying of hunger, they know too well, Stirs up no storms, does not sell. A suicide, on the other hand, Guarantees their corpse will make headlines, And probes into the whys and wherefores Will lead them to many more doors With stoves unlit and ovens gone cold. The Six-Lane Freeway Of Deceit Emerging from the forests of Saranda, Gathering are people in a certain village. Women with infants in slings on their backs, The aged scaling the valley leaning on their staffs, The young leaping over the hills, And children counting the sakua trees as they walk. They gather not for a protest march, But a football tournament to watch, Where a goat is to be the winner's trophy. No sooner is a child From her mother's milk weaned, Than he is made a member Of some youth club in Saranda, While something else goes on behind the scenes. A football instead of books is places in every hand That may someday join in protestors Against the illicit mining of their land. To win goats as tournament trophies Kicked to the curb are books and studies. Slowly but steadily the child inhales The addicting opium of football. Eyes, dazed and deadened by the game, Fail to see beyond victory and loss Their strife and struggle for survival. Agents of mining corporations Knock on every village door. And no sooner is uttered a desperate sigh of hunger, Than disease, unemployment and helplessness, Are shoved down their throats Grains, medicines, utensils, and clothes. And the family carried away As labourers, for a pittance pay. In the name of progress, now There are to be four and six-lane roads. But those labouring away on concrete and asphalt Are unaware. They know not How many more free lanes of deceit Run through the forests of Saranda. (Excerpted from an article first published in Scroll.in on June 05, 2016. The poems have been translated into English by Bhumika Chawla D'Souza, Vijay K Chhabra, and Father Cyprian Ekka)