Exclusion Inclusion

Adivasis, the indigenous peoples of mainland India, have faced longstanding systemic oppression and dispossession in their own country. Today, Adivasis are studied through texts written by white colonial and upper-caste scholars from dominant communities at Indian universities. As Adivasi students who have entered celebrated spaces of higher education, we often find dissonance between lived realities and the vocabularies of development used to study our communities.

In this poem, we try to capture the tumult of emotions we’ve experienced in such classrooms.

The temples of modern India
– the dams, industries and steel plants –
were built on our lands.

Our forefathers were promised
electricity, employment and a place at the table.
And yet, here we are seventy years later,
entering spaces where our names are unheard of.

In classrooms, we are taught
of inclusion and exclusion
as if
the hills detonated
the forests scorched
the houses submerged
all on the offhand.

And yet, in the silent pauses
the words you do not use,
racism and appropriation

We are weary
of your excuses
about savagery and backwardness
being textbook terms.

We are exhausted
with your frameworks
and the studies commissioned,
still trying to comprehend
why is it that hundreds of tribes
millions of people
still enumerate a minority?

Manish Surin is an independent researcher. You can find him on Instagram @ _manishms_. Nolina S. Minj is a writer and researcher. You can find her on Twitter @knowleena.

Featured image credit: Pixabay/Illustration: LiveWire