English Politics

A Deep Dive into the Bhil Pradesh Movement

इस लेख को हिंदी में पढ़ें

Overview

  • The demand of Bhil Pradesh has once again surged in the lockdown. #WeWantSeparateBHILPRADESH has been one of the most trending keywords on 25th May. 
  • The largest tribal group of India has claimed that the government is violating the Section 5 of SC and ST act of 1989 by displacing them from Kevadia, Gujarat.
  • The demand has been boosted by the Bharatiya Tribal Party(BTP), formed in 2017. 

Table of Contents

  1. Who are Bhil People?
  2. History of Bhil Movement
    1. Bhils before British Era
    2. Role of Govind Guru Bhil
  3. Reasons which Triggered the Movement
    1. Development Factor
    2. Sardar Sarovar Dam
    3. Statue of Unity
    4. Role of Bharatiya Tribal Party
  4. Interesting Facts Revealed by Data
    1. Movement Sentiment Analysis
    2. What the Demographic Study Reveals
    3. Bhils v/s Other Tribes
  5. Endnotes

1. Who are Bhil People?

Bhils are a tribal ethnic people. They are found across several states of India. Most of the Bhil population is concentrated in the Western Deccan region of the country (Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh), Madhya Pradesh and Tripura. Some of the experts believe that Bhils are a set of tribal communities who use bows. The word Bhil is believed to have originated from the Dravidian word Billa or Billu which means bow.

Citations of the Bhil Community are also found in Ramayana and Mahabharata. They are closely connected with Jal, Jangal and Jameen (Water, Forest and Land)

This largest tribal group (in terms of population) of India is believed to have dwelled in the subcontinent for thousands of years. Mentions of Bhils can be found in Mahabharata and Ramayana also. 

Bhils are tightly coupled with their local environment. Jal, Jangal and Jameen( Water, forest and land). Their main occupation is farming. However, the recent developments have led their resettlement. Most of the Bhils live in the most undeveloped areas of Gujarat and Rajasthan. This has increased the dissatisfaction in the community.

In the next section we will see how the movement developed over the years.

2. History of the Movement

In this section we will see how the movement built up over the course of time.

2.1. Bhils before British Era

Before 1818 Bhils played an important role in the Mewar, Banswara and other local kingdoms. They were allowed to collect the security taxes from the regions under their control. In 1818,  these states signed a treaty with the British administration. As a result of this the taxes which were collected by Bhils for their settlement, was taken over by the British administrator. 

This fired up the first wave of dissatisfaction amongst Bhils. It resulted into first Bhil revolt. This revolt was crushed up by the administration with the help of army. But the peace was not permanent. 

In 1841, Mewar Bhil Corps(MBC) was raised to maintain law and order in these areas. Within a few years, the 1857 revolt happened. Britishers imposed new taxes on Bhils. Now Bhils were not allowed to use the natural resources without paying the taxes. 

2.2. Role of Govind Guru Bhil

In the early decades of the 19th century, a new name became popular amongst the Bhil community. The name was Govind Guru. Govind Guru was seen as a religious leader and social reformer who united the Bhil community. It was him who openly addressed the wrong habits and acts. Eventually, Govind Guru was the first person who demanded a separate dedicated area for Bhil from the British regime. 

The Britishers couldn’t swallow it. The Mangarh Massacre is one of the black pages of British history when several followers of Govind were shot dead in a gathering in 1913. Later on Govind Bhil died in 1931. Then, the Bhil movement got merged into the independence movement of India.

3. Reasons which Triggered the Movement

3.1. Development Factor

Post independence Bhils were promised employment and several perks by the government. They had dreamt of their own government. They had dreamt to see back the days when they ruled the place. But they could get nothing more than promises. The so-called Bhil Country region of the British India was eventually divided into four states. The Bhils claim that all the ruling parties have used them as vote banks. The areas with the higher concentration of the Bhil community are amongst the most undeveloped regions of Rajasthan and Gujarat. The Bhils claim that the government schemes don’t provide them what they are promised. 

3.2. Sardar Sarovar Dam

In the 1990s and 2000s the Sardar Sarovar Dam project led to the forced resettlement of the Bhil community. More than 41000 families were locked out of their homeland. Around 250 villages got submerged. Initially the Bhils were reluctant to move out of the place. Because of lack of communication many of them had no idea of what was coming towards. Later on a few Bhil leaders accepted the resettlement plan of the government. But it was not easy to adjust in the new settings. It took several years to settle down. This affected the community in a negative way. 

3.3. Statue of Unity

In the Modi government, the Statue of Unity was planned in Narmada river. It is situated in Kevadia. A tourism hotspot is promised around the statue. This also requires resettlement of the Bhil population living in the vicinity. Many of the people and video clips circulated on social media claim that they have been forced to move out of their places. They have been tortured. This fueled their demand for rights.

3.4. Role of Bharatiya Tribal Party(BTP) 

A new twist in the story comes in 2017. A tribal leader named Maheshbhai Chhotubhai Vasava established the Bharatiya Tribal Party(BTP) just a few weeks ahead of Gujarat assembly elections. The party emerged out of Bhil Adivasi Vidyarthi Morcha, a student organization founded in  2015. The major objective of the BTP was to put forward the demand of tribal people by joining active politics. They put the demand of separate state for the Bhil community. 

Within a few months the party succeeded in making into the Gujarat assembly with its two MLAs. Later on they won two seats in Rajasthan too. 

On May 25th, the party invited the community members to raise the demand of Bhil Pradesh on social media. Within a few hours the hashtag #WeWantSeparateBHILPRADESH reached upto 503k users.  In the next section we will try to see some of the interesting facts we have dug out of the data.

4. Interesting Stories Revealed by Data

Having talked about the whole story let’s discuss what we could find from the data analysed. 

4.1. Movement Sentiment Analysis

In order to analyze the possible future outcome of the movement, we tried to understand the sentiment of the Bhil community in the tweets posted during 25th and 26th of May. We were able to find 440 tweets related to Bhil Pradesh. Or study reveals following results:

  1. The number is not very large. It means that the movement is not very rigorous. 
  2. The sentiment analysis reveals that the most tweets are positive. Although Anger is the most dominant emotion. This is a good sign as it implies that this movement doesn’t have any chance to go on the wrong track like the Jatt Movement, where masses intend to harm the surroundings. This is based on the data fetched on May 31st. In the below image one can find the concentration of various emotions in the tweets. 
Concentration of Various Emotions in the Tweets
  1. The frequency of words had been represented below in the form of a word cloud. Here we can see a few 1896 as an important word. It is because many a tweets talked about a British Era Map which calls the demanded Bhil Pradesh area as a country. It can be possible as Britishers did not consider India as  a single entity in 1890s. Indian subcontinent was a collection of over 500 estates for Britishers. 
Wordcloud representing the trending keywords related to Bhil Pradesh, currently
Trending keywords on Twitter

In next section we will talk about the demographics of Bhil community across major states. 

4.2. What the Demographic Study Reveals

We have analysed the census data of 2011 in order to develop insights for this subsection along with the next one. Following donut chart displays the distribution of the Bhil community across the states.

Distribution of Bhil population across various states of India

We can tell following facts about the Bhil community:

  1. The sex ratio within the community across various states looks similar. It reveals that it is natural sex ratio and practices like female foeticide don’t seem to be very common.
  2. We could find a positive correlation between the Literacy Rate and Migrant Worker Percentage. This reveals that the educated Bhil community people generally leave their native place. This means that most of the localities where Bhils reside, don’t have enough opportunities.

4.3. Bhils v/s Other Tribes

In the next phase we compared the basic stats of Bhil people with the average stats of all the tribes living in various major states. We were able to find that:

  1. In most of the states sex ratio of Bhil people is either equal to or more than the sex ratio of all tribes combined. Only Karnataka and Tripura show the opposite figure. 
  2. In most of the states, literacy rate of the Bhil community is lower than the combined literacy rate of all the tribes.
  3. In Gujarat and Karnataka Migrant Worker Percentage of Bhils is higher than the average rate of all the tribes in the state. In rest of the states it is lower than the average. It shows that normally they have lower tendency to leave their home state as compared to other native tribes. 

Above facts reveal that Bhils are among those communities where the government schemes haven’t brought the positive change as much as they have brought in other tribes.

5. Endnotes

In our study we found that the Bhil community is a deprived community. It’s people are connected with their homeland. Recent developments and schemes have affected them negatively. There is a need to look at their demands and ensure that they get their rights. For now, the Bhil movement is a peaceful movement and government should ensure that their peaceful demands are heard about, ignorance of which can affect the format of movement.

9 comments

  1. Very good work, with the information you have given us, we came to know how many problems the Bhil community is facing in today’s time. good work keep it up👍

    Liked by 2 people

  2. बेहतरीन जानकारी, समस्त जगत में जहां पर्यावरण के प्रति भिन्न भिन्न रूप में अभियान चलाए जा रहे हैं , सदियों से इसके प्रति भील व जनजातीय समुदाय में जागरूकता थी । भील समुदाय प्रकृति से जुड़े है ।यह लोग आज भी मूलभूत सुविधाओं जैसे शिक्षा, स्वास्थ्य, मकान व कुशल नेतृत्व से वंचित हैं । जिससे इनके जीवन स्तर मे बदलाव नहीं आया।सरकारों व सामाजिक जन प्रतिनिधियों के द्वारा उचित पहल करने की जरूरत है। इनके संरक्षण से ही प्रकृति का कुछ हिस्सा बचा हुआ है । अनेकों प्राकृतिक आपदाओं का सामना जिस प्रकार आज पूरा विश्व कर रहा है , इस पर विचार करना होगा। जिससे समाज के हर वर्ग की सुरक्षा सुनिश्चित की जा सके।
    धन्यवाद

    Liked by 2 people

  3. बहुत बढ़िया नीतू 👏👏 आपनें भील जनजाति के बारे में बहुत अच्छी जानकारी दी है ज्ञानवर्धक लेख है 👍

    Liked by 1 person

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