Chhattisgarh government corrects tribal devgudis to counter Maoists in Bastar region
In its efforts to win over the tribes in the battle against the Maoists in the Dantewada district of Bastar in Chhattisgarh, the state government has begun to beautify and preserve Devgudis, or temple-like structures of tribal deities. The devgudis play a vital role in the life of the tribes.
Officials said the decision followed a demand from Sarva Adivasi Samaj and other tribal representatives for basic services such as water and toilet facilities in Devgudis of the district’s 143 panchayats.
Although the local administration heeded the demand, the Maoists reportedly threatened the residents of a couple of villages into not accepting government aid. Despite that, Devgudis have been preserved in about 15 village panchayats, authorities said.
“We had conversations with the people and tribal representatives in the region and came to the conclusion that Devgudi is a place through which people connect with the administration. The representatives told us that during any local festival, they visit Devgudis but suffer from lack of clean water, toilet and other basic services. So we decided to help the tribes by giving Devgudis a makeover, ”said Deepak Soni, Dantewada collector.
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He added that the administration has decided to spend 7 lakh rupees on each Devgudi for fences, drinking water, sheds, toilets and other facilities. “We have identified about an acre of land around each Devgudi. We have sanctioned money for 143 village panchayats in the district and work has started, ”Soni said, adding that the goal is to develop local tourism as well.
Speaking of the threat of the Maoists in construction activity, Soni said: “To date, no one has informed me that the Maoists oppose Devgudis, except for lost incidents like a couple of letters in which the Maoists allegedly threatened to some people. Even in the village of Chitpaal, which is in a badly affected Maoist area, the Devgudi has been renewed, ”Soni said.
Other high-ranking officials in the district say the Maoists do not know whether or not to oppose the passing of the administration. Meanwhile, the administration is trying to connect with the village tribes located deep within the Maoist area through this gesture.
“If the Maoists oppose the government’s work, it will be seen as opposing the tribal culture that would make things difficult for them in the villages. Now they are in a Catch-22 situation …”, said another office located in the region. .
This official said that to obtain funds, the central and state government schemes have been merged to beautify the Devgudis for the promotion of local tourism.
“As Swachh Bharat is being implemented to build toilets and water facilities for community use around Devgudis. MNREGA is being used to build a labor-intensive infrastructure around it. Through Devgudis, the administration is implementing various community participation schemes. There are seven oaths that people have to take, which include the use of mosquito nets for the malaria eradication program, the Suposhan scheme to combat anemia and malnutrition, ”said the officer.
Dantewada (SP) Police Superintendent Abhishek Pallava said that the preservation of Devgudis will help the police and administration raise awareness of the state’s policies and programs and work to counter Maoist ideology in these villages.
“The Maoists are concerned that if the villagers interact with the administration in a constructive way, they could distance themselves from them,” Pallava said.
Meanwhile, the tribal representatives of Bastar claimed that the demand for the preservation of their devgudis concerned their faith and religion and the Maoists will not oppose it. “We have demanded from the government that our Devgudis need preservation and protection. If the Maoists oppose this or threaten us, they will have to face the local opposition, ”said President of Sarva Adivasi Samaj, Bastar region, Prakash Thakor.
However, human rights activists have raised questions about the administration’s move. “I don’t think it is a good idea for the district administration to use adivasi religious and cultural spaces, symbols or practices to promote their own policies. You can do this through the appropriate democratic institutions and platforms, such as a gram sabha gathering, ”said Bela Bhatia, a human rights activist working in the Bastar region.