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Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Meaning of Faag

25 March 2011

      Faag maangna is a wide spread tradition in North India. To ask for grains is almost a traditional right of dalits in many states. In the western Indian districts of Alirajpur, Jhabua, Dhar, Barwani, Khargone etc.,five days after Holi is bhoor or gaanda dahda, literally translated – crazy days. It is adivasi tradition that groups of people dress up in interesting attires and go from house to house in villages and ask for Bhangoriya. People give grains or money or whatever they have made or brought for the festival. After five days of collection, the team has a joint feast (funded from the collections) where the whole village or hamlet eats together. Small groups of children also do the rounds. It’s generally fun time. Many teams block roads with boulders and logs and ask all those who pass by – on foot, cycle, jeep or truck or bus. Some teams of Alirajpur and Chota Udaipur and Dharagaon districts are so beautifully dressed that they are a big tourist attraction too.

     People’s movements and activists have always been wary of funding agencies. But funds are needed. There is always an impasse. Ultimately many bow to the Funding agencies, taking indirectly, through agencies who are friends or not that bad etc. and keep nurturing a guilt complex at having succumbed to making a compromise. They try to work, mostly in donation mode. In spite of this having been a very important issue with activists, they have not been able to work out ways of reaching out to ordinary people to raise funds for their work. Many times they don’t have the time. Basically fund raising has to be seen as part of the political activity and politicization of people.

One plus Two
     There is no dearth of creativity and spirit at Adharshila. And being part of the Khedut Mazdoor Chetana Sangath tradition we are diehard about combining fun with politics. Jayashree decided to take to the streets during bhoor, after Holi with Adivasi Mukti Sangathan activist Bijoy bhai, a leading Congress leader Mr. Motiyani and a band of enthusiastic students and ex studs of Adharshila. A pamphlet was printed highlighting the state of the country due to the policy of liberalization. They distributed the pamphlets and explained the issues to the people while asking for faag to support various struggles taking place all over the country against land acquisition by highways, SEZs, mining corporations and the likes.

     It was also a great public relation exercise and there were some interesting interactions with people. Some reacted with much empathy like the police commissioner – who told us how alarmed he was at the 165 Adivasi suicides that came across his desk in rural Sendhwa Thana in the past year alone. Others reacted with less emotion – like a hardware store manager who didn’t see the point of what we were doing with the flyer, as all the information could be found daily in the newspapers. And others with questioning minds – What you’re doing is fine, but is it really going to change anything? I mean, if people, just planted trees that would be more change than anything. Our response to this last comment… You are so right! Come to Sakad, and see our school. What was once barren land is covered with greenery because of our students and teachers planting and raising trees.
      We hit everywhere we could from chai-walas to local public offices. They were people we had pre-existing relationships with, and many new friends were found.
     The money collected from the faag is to help people doing this kind of consciousness - raising work and to take forward the work of people’s struggles. Though our team was small (as most of our students were on break), our presence was definitely felt and appreciated.

We hope to do it even bigger next year ……….