''We are NOT Hindu''
This was the rallying cry of the 200-odd participants demanding for protection of their identity on International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, August 09
''It was our people who the world first knew from this land; now it is pandits - no - pakhandis (crooks) - who represent the country,'' bellowed Madanlal, representing the Gond Adivasis from Uttar Pradesh, ''We are coerced to become Hindu, and our own religious practices - that worship nature and uphold harmony - are scoffed at; but, we will fight back, we will not allow our culture, language and way of life to be wiped out.''
Madanlal was joined by supporters from other states, like Jharkhand, Chhatisgarh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, etc. Ranjita, who moved from Jharkhand to Delhi 20 years ago, and works as domestic help, echoed the sentiments, ''We are not slaves, our culture must be respected.''
Madanlal, Activist From Uttar Pradesh
Nabor Ekka, President, Indian Confederation of Indigenous & Tribal People (ICITP), also reiterated the importance of protecting their access to ''jal, jungle & jameen'' (water, forest & land) that is systematically being destroyed, with which the indigenous people's identity is closely linked.
Nabor Ekka, President, Indian Confederation of Indigenous & Tribal People (ICITP)
Ekka, a social activist, works full-time with one of India’s largest network of indigenous organizations and communities, adivasi – original inhabitants – dedicated to promoting their empowerment, rights and eco-cultural heritage.
''Although ICITP primarily focuses on adivasi concerns within India, we are well aware that most of these same issues are also now impacting our indigenous brothers and sisters worldwide. We have already been blessed with rewarding relationships with many foreign indigenous associations and look forward to developing many more.
Ranjita, participant from New Delhi
A truly global network of indigenous voices is now needed to protect the health and diversity of our cultures, communities and ecosystems from the corporate globalization now running roughshod across our world,'' says their website.
Ekka adds, ''We are worried, things are becoming worse; our language, culture and identity are under threat, we really need to consolidate, and fight back,'' he asserts.