This edition in the series of Critical Stories of Change presents the story of Sahariya tribals categorized as a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG). They reside in contiguous areas of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
Historically, they practiced shifting cultivation, hunting, gathering, pastoralism, and sometimes also adopted a nomadic life. Over time they were displaced out of their traditional habitats under the pretext offorest conservation and development projects resulting in loss of identity, culture, tradition, and livelihood.
Declared as encroachers over their own land and unable to cope up with the modern monetized society forced them to mortgage their land and compelled them into debt, and bonded labour. But what kept them there was the scale and severity of oppression by the upper caste that remained unchecked for decades. The Sahariya women were even further marginalized by the stranglehold of caste oppression, poverty and patriarchy.
This paper tells readers about the efforts of Manavadhikar Forum-a platform of 5 civil society groups who decided to take on the issues of the state of fear, chronic hunger and exploitation of the Sahariyas through their own organisation called Sahariya Jan Gatbandhan (SAJAG).
SAJAG’s efforts over the last decade have resulted in, freedom from fear, greater food security, improved access to government schemes , universal coverage of antodaya ration card, health-card and other social security schemes, release of bonded labourers and participation in governance structures of the village. Women have united under the banner of Jagrat Mahila Sangathan (JMS) and have addressed cases relating to domestic violence, atrocities and rape and have started challenging patriarchy within the community.