And here’s to you Mrs Draupadi Murmu!

draupadi murmu 1

Dear Mrs Murmu

Your nomination by the ruling party of Hindutva to be the next President of India fills the hearts of all Adivasis around India with great joy.

At last the country will have one person from its most underprivileged and oppressed community as the President of India. Never mind the fact that all other Adivasis will still remain underprivileged and oppressed. There is nothing new about that at all, so no point bringing that up.

What matters is not how most Adivasis live or die but the fact that you – one of us – will be finally saluted by the entire Indian armed forces at the Republic Day parade. Imagine, all those hundreds of heavily armed Indian soldiers marching past, smartly lifting their hands to tilak-smeared foreheads, saluting the first Adivasi President of India!

Of course, on all other days those soldiers will be free to shoot us in the hills, forests and homes where we live. But don’t let that worry you the least. We Adivasis are used to such atrocious behavior by the Indian state machinery, since the days of the Ramayana and Mahabharat. For the Hindu savarnas Adivasis have always been ‘rakshasas’, ‘asuras’, ‘daityas’ and ‘danavas’.

To be demonized, hunted down, murdered and vilified forever through the sacred tales of Hindu mythology. But then, why should anyone care about this several millennia old tradition of institutionalized racism, now that Murmuji will be the President of India.

There must be a very good reason why you have been chosen to be the shining Hindu Rashtra’s new Head of State. Now every Brahmin, Bania and Kshatriya can fire  their guns from your very able shoulders and say ‘Who said we are against Adivasis? We have elevated Mrs Murmu to the highest post in the Indian Republic, which empowers her to hoist all the flags and cut all the ribbons she wants!’.

Sorry, if that sounds a bit sarcastic. We should not be asking too many questions or making any nasty insinuations on the eve of your becoming India’s President. That would be so churlish of us. No, truly, it is indeed a great day for the entire Adivasi population of India.

Yes, Adivasis are right at the bottom of the country’s social and economic ladder and have the lowest Human Development Index. The proportion of the scheduled tribe population living below the poverty line in rural India is 47.4%, compared to 33.8% across India. In urban areas, the proportion was 30.4% for scheduled tribes and 20.9% for the entire population[1].

But Murmuji, though you may have known poverty in the past,  your future is very bright now and you have nothing to be concerned about. As President of India, you will receive a salary of Rs. 5 lakh per month and when you retire, a pension of Rs. 1.5 lakhs every month.  That is enough to feed many Adivasi villages for the rest of their lives too – but don’t let our hunger come in the way of the feast that awaits ahead for you.

Yes, it is also true that thousands upon thousands of Adivasi children die of malnutrition before they reach one year of age, way more than the rest of the India population. Even adult Adivasis are more vulnerable to disease and malnutrition than the rest of the Indian population.

In 2015, Adivasis accounted for 30% of all cases of malaria, including brain malaria, and 50% of deaths because of malaria. But it is not just the mosquitoes who are to blame as all these lives could be save with proper access to healthcare. But Adivasis typically have to cover a distance of up to 80 km to reach a community or district health centre while in the rest of India, the average is 13.5 km[2]. The scenario is similar in the sphere of education, with the literacy rate of Adivasis just 47 per cent as compared to 69 per cent for the general population.

And yes, before we forget to mention it, India’s Adivasis have also paid the heaviest price for big development projects carried out in the ‘national interest’. Though they form only 8.6 % of the national population, 70% of all people displaced due to big development projects since Independence are Adivasis.

But Mrs. Murmu, you will not have to suffer any deprivation or displacement anymore, not just for the next five years, but for the rest of your life too. While most Adivasis live in their humble huts or remain homeless you will live in the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the world’s largest Presidential Palace, with 340 rooms and a floor area of 2,00,000 square feet (enough to shelter hell of a lot of displaced Adivasis).

The National Crime Records Bureau’s  Crimes in India report of 2020 records that crimes against scheduled tribe communities increased by 9.3% to a total of 8,272 cases in that year[3]. Our men are killed and women raped by Indian security forces all around the country routinely.

But as far as your own  personal security is concerned there will be no problem of course. To protect you from people like us – you will get a custom-built Black Mercedes Benz S600 Pullman Guard. For official visits you will have a heavily armoured stretch limousine, which so, so long that it will take days for many of us to walk from one end to the other!

All Adivasis will celebrate your becoming the President of India– because your security is as good as the security of the entire population of Adivasis in India. No, no, no! Don’t worry, we will not ask you to share anything with us at all.

We know your becoming President is only a token gesture towards India’s Adivasis  and know nothing substantial will ever come our way. But the Santhals will continue to dance to the beats of the Tumdak and the melody of the Tiriao and not stop for even a moment because even the purely symbolic is better than nothing at all.

Please don’t take offence to anything that we have said in this letter so far because we suddenly realized that perhaps you are no longer an Adivasi anymore. Adivasi means the ‘original dwellers’ but you have instead been elevated to the status of a ‘Vanvasi’ by your friends from Nagpur – who have never accepted us as the original inhabitants of Bharatvarsha.

You are now on the path to  attaining individual moksha, which is the highest goal of a good Hindu – which you have now become abandoning your ancestral faith. You have become another deity of the indigenous people of India stolen by caste Hindus to put up on their shop windows. To fool everyone into believing they are very ‘tolerant’ and ‘inclusive’ – while stealing our resources and denying us our basic human rights.

And as President of India soon you will go further  from ‘Vanvasi’ to become a ‘Funvasi’ – so please do go ahead and have lots of fun!

Our deepest and sincere apologies for disturbing you with our tales of sorrow and sharing all the problems that we Adivasis face routinely, every day.

Yours truly

All the Adivasis of India Minus One


[2] ibid


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