By Gladson Dungdung
The term ‘Civil Society’ is mostly used for the voluntary organizations, non-governmental organizations and non-profit institutions. These are also called as the civil society organizations. Interestingly, most of these organizations are always busy in criticizing the state (which is of course not wrong as the state is failure) but they themselves behave like the state, when it comes to the matters of the Adivasis, Dalits and Women of the D-section (deprived sections) even though they have also failed in delivering justice to the marginalized people. The most of these organizations are lead by the elites even after 62 years of the Indian independence. They enjoy the corporate rate salaries, luxurious accommodations and air travels in the name of the Adivasis, Dalits and women of D-section. The misappropriation of the funds in the name of the marginalized groups remain uncounted despite they are master in lecturing on the issues of responsibility, transparency and accountability.
There are very interesting kinds of the so-called civil society organizations – 1) based in the small cities or villages getting less fund, 2) headquarters in Delhi and other big cities bagging huge fund and 3) NGOs’ federation called people’s organizations. Perhaps, the secretary, director and chief functionaries of these organizations are never replaced against their will though they talk much about the democracy. These civil society organizations also bring the mass organizations, social movements and displacement movements in their clutches and cash these in dollars, euros and pounds. Don’t be surprised if some organizations based in Delhi show you a beautiful power point presentation about the Adivasi movements against displacement in Jharkhand, Orissa or Chhatishgarh.
There are also the holy cows called ‘funding agencies’ (national and international), who love to be called as the civil society organizations, whose prime job is to collect the money, enjoy the most of it and give the rest to the other organizations. Ironically, these organizations fund those NGOs headed by the non-Adivasis for the revival of the Adivasis’ tradition, culture and ethos but at the same time they avoid to join hands with the Adivasi headed organizations for the same purposes. The sad part is, the Adivasis are still unqualified for the funding organizations therefore a few Adivasis can be seen in the lowest strata of these organizations despite their professional qualities, commitments and dedications. There are also some organizations who advocate for the Adivasi Chief Minister for the state of Jharkhand but when it comes to the matter of their organizations, they can not bear to see an Adivasi in the driving seat. They also advocate for promotion and protection of the Adivasis’ languages but their doors are always closed for the non-English speaking marginalized people.
These organizations tirelessly use the connotation ‘empowering the marginalized’, ‘voice to the voiceless’ and ‘women empowerment’ but when it comes to the question of leadership, they just escape one or other ways. Why did the civil society organizations fail in bringing up the Adivasis leadership was the most important question repeatedly asked in the National Consultation on Adivasis of India organized by the National Centre for Advocacy Studies (NCAS) in Delhi on December 15-16, 2009. A noted Gandhian and founder of the Ekta Parishad, P.V.. Rajgopal accepts in denial mode that the civil society organizations have failed in bringing up the Adivasis leadership but he also advocates for united fight by saying, “The issue like displacement is not just limited to the Adivasis but it is also hitting to the farmers, vendors and fishermen.” But does it mean the question of Adivasis get less priority?
Ironically, the non-Adivasi leaders of the civil society organizations not only respond diplomatically but also justify their leadership for the Adivasis. While responding to the questions of Adivasis leadership, a prominent social activist from Jharkhand, Sanjay Bosu Mullick says, “Since the Adivasis do not know about the exploitative system and structure of our (non-adivasis) society therefore we are fighting with our people on behalf of them.” One can only appreciate the diplomatic response and thank to the God who has given wits and wisdom only to the non-Adivasis for not only to understand their society but also the Adivasis and shame on those Adivasis (like me), who do not even possess the wisdom to understand their own society.
However, the Adivasis are racially discriminated, exploited economically and denied their rights in the civil society organizations. Similarly, the Dalits are treated like untouchables, uneducated and inhuman, and the women of d-sections are not only exploited socially, economically and mentally but they are also exploited sexually by the Big-bosses of the civil society organizations. Irony is, our participation for them is to listen our sorrows patiently through their tongues in a conference hall, give our consent to their words and always make ensure that they are our messiahs. How would you explain it when your wisdom, commitment, dedication, capacity and efficiency do not matter for them but your race, caste, class, colour and relationship posses multiple values for them instead?
When the Adivasis enter into these organizations specially in the funding one, their years of work experiences are counted as one or two years (so that they can be kept in the lowest strata), they are compared with their counterpart (always a non-adivasi is used as parameters for them) for further promotion and their ten achievements are not enough to beat the couple of achievements of a non-Adivasi. When one raises these issues in the organizations, they would manipulate, manufacture the consent with their folks and dilute the whole debates to ensure that the Adivasis lose the game. Finally, if the Adivasis leave these organizations, they would frame them as opportunists, non-committed for the Adivasi causes and count as one more enemy of the Adivasis.
One can question that why are the marginalized people of these organizations keeping quit in these circumstances? The instant answer is, a wage labourer bears all kinds of discrimination, exploitation and torture only because he/she knows that the day a question is raised he/she would be thrown out of the jobs. Similar theory is applied to the marginalized people, who are ensuring their daily bread from these Civil Society organizations. How can one dare to question to the big-boss, when he/she is just struggling for survival? Can you imagine how the marginalized people are being exploited, denied and discriminated in those organizations, who tirelessly talk about the participation, empowerment, rights, equality and justice?
The fact of the matter is the perception, attitude and behaviour of the elites heads of the civil society organizations with the Adivasis, Dalits and women of d-sections are not different from the common people of the so-called civilized society. They talk much about the participation, empowerment, rights, equality and justice merely to ensure the luxurious life, bag awards and become role model in the name of the Adivasis, Dalits and Women of D-section therefore they also play the games of words like the politicians do. Can anyone remind me about how many Adivasis, Dalits and women of d-sections were awarded (megasese) for their extraordinary work and became role model for the Indians?
Interestingly, the visions of these organizations are more or less the same – formation of equitable and just society but the pertaining question is how it can be achieved through the discriminatory, inequitable and unjust practices? In fact, the elite heads of the civil society organizations should stop their uncivilized practices, which they are carrying out for the decades. It is the right time to let the marginalized people play their game, become umpires and take over as the match referee. And the elites should only become the fourth umpires rather than playing match for the marginalized people then only their talks about the empowerment, equality and justice can be fulfilled.
However, before the civil society organizations organize the next consultation, convention or conference on Adivasi, Dalit or Women’s Rights, all the marginalized people should stand and say strongly that enough is enough, let the Adivasis, Dalits and women of D-section speak for themselves. The time has come to tell them (non-Adivasis heads) that we are grateful to you for advocating on behalf of us for the last 6 decades but no more manipulation please. Now we are tired of hearing about our grievances through your holy tongues therefore we want the world to listen our grievances through our mouths, we want to speak for ourselves and we are capable enough to save our culture. But the question remains unanswered is will the Messiahs of the Adivasis, Dalits and women listen these?
[Gladson Dungdung is a Human Rights Activist and Writer from the Adivasi (Indigenous) Community of Jharkhand. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org]