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How Adivasi Lives Matter Brought Me Closer To My Indigenous Roots

The following article by Prakash Debbarma, an Adivasi Awaaz creator outlines his journey of becoming a part of Adivasi Lives Matter, visiting tribal communities, learning new cultures and creating content on Adivasi/Tribal histories, traditions, culture and way of life.

Prakash Debbarma; Image Source: Prakash Debbarma

I joined Adivasi Lives Matter (ALM) as a content creator last year. I attended the Adivasi Awaaz seven-day digital story-telling training where the trainers discussed how we can write articles, take better photos and make video content using just our smartphones. We were also trained in managing our social media presence more efficiently. This year I was part of the outreach programme by ALM and video journaling. It focused on how to manage social media more efficiently. ALM has been working in Tripura for the last two years reviving and documenting more than 19 indigenous cultures. They have mentored the tribal youth in creating digital content through article writing and video making.

In the past years, ALM was focused on the capital city of Agartala to document tribal culture and stories and to train tribal youth. It was here that I learnt about the opportunity to present tribal stories, culture, society and way of living to the world. Gradually ALM moved to the outskirts to bring stories from the grass root levels. I have friends and relatives residing in villages and outskirts of cities, but I rarely visited them as I pursued my education in a residential school away from home, in the city. However, ALM gave me the opportunity to get in touch with my indigenous roots of Mog and Tripuri all over again. As ALM reached my maternal district Dhalai, I came in contact with them and began visiting places in search of tribal stories.

Training sessions conducted by ALM; Image Source: Prakash Debbarma

On the first day, I travelled with the ALM team to meet the Mog and Garo communities of Bagmara and Ambassa. We then visited the Tripuri community of Kanchancherra, where a young Tripuri gentleman is running a newly opened English medium school. After these visits, due to bad weather, our plans for the evening and the next day got cancelled. However, after some deliberation, we decided to move towards the Unakoti district and landed in Kumarghat at night. The next day we made it to Pecharthal and got a chance to meet with the Chakma community. After a hearty conversation about local cultures and festivals like 'Bizu', commemorating the Chakma new year, we landed in North Tripura, amongst the Ranglong community. I had never met anyone from the Ranglong community before. Hence, I was excited. This community resides at the foothills of North Tripura, so it was a little difficult to reach them. We travelled through unpaved muddy roads and finally reached the villages. I witnessed a completely new culture and environment there. Their houses were also constructed differently, and I got acquainted with a new language. We met the head of the community and learnt about their folklores. The head also informed us that their population was only around 10,000. Hence, they were very protective of their culture and shared a deep bond and connection with one another. They were glued to their roots. They also discussed with us about language preserving programmes.

ALM trainers with Tribal trainees; Image Source: Prakash Debbarma

During the training programmes, I realized that it was difficult to reach out to the people as they were sceptical about companies and organizations bringing them into their folds and then snatching off their hard-earned money. The lack of education, job and money for the tribals in this area has often led them towards fraudulent companies and organizations that promise them better jobs and end up stripping them of whatever little money they have. However, it makes me happy to see organizations like ALM that endeavour to reach out to remote villages, with the aim of bringing tribal voices to the forefront. The outline of their programme is based upon reaching out to tribal communities, training them in the art of digital content creation and helping them secure jobs as storytellers. These trained tribal content creators also create content for ALM which can be found on their website Adivasi Lives Matter. I would like to especially thank Nitesh Mahto and Kamal Jamtia for bringing me aboard this programme. I not only learnt new things about different tribal communities but also came close to my roots.

This article is created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.


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