In its efforts to win over the tribals in battle towards Maoists in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district of Bastar, the state government has begun beautifying and preserving Devgudis, or temple-like buildings of tribals’ deities. Devgudis play a significant position in the lives of tribals.
Officials stated the choice adopted the demand of Sarva Adivasi Samaj and different tribal representatives for fundamental facilities like water and bathroom on the Devgudis of all 143 panchayats of the district.
While the native administration took heed of the demand, Maoists reportedly threated residents of a few villages towards taking government assist. Despite that, Devgudis in round 15 village panchayats have been preserved, officers stated.
“We had discussions with the people and tribal representatives of 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 for want of drinking water, toilet and other basic amenities. Hence, we decided to help the tribals by giving Devgudis a makeover,” stated Dantewada collector Deepak Soni.
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He added that the administration has determined to spend Rs7 lakh on every Devgudi for fencing, ingesting water, sheds, bogs and different services. “We have identified around one acre of land around each Devgudi. We have sanctioned money for 143 village panchayats of the district and the work has started,” stated Soni, including that the intention is to develop native tourism additionally.
Talking about the specter of Maoists in the development exercise, Soni stated, “Till date, no one has informed me that Maoists are opposing Devgudis, except stray incidents like a couple of letters by which Maoists purportedly threatened some people. Even in Chitpaal village, which is in a severely affected Maoist area, the Devgudi has been renovated,” stated Soni.
Other officers posted in the district say that the Maoists are in a repair whether or not to oppose the step of administration or not. Meanwhile, the administration is attempting to join with the tribals of villages situated deep contained in the Maoist space by this gesture.
“If Maoists will oppose the government’s work, it will be seen as opposing the tribal culture which would make it difficult for them in the villages.They are in a Catch-22 situation now…,” stated one other workplace posted in the region.
This officer stated that for funds, Central and state government schemes have been merged to beautify the Devgudis for promotion of native tourism.
“Like Swachh Bharat is being implemented to build toilets and water facilities for community use around Devgudis. MNREGA is being used to build labour intensive infrastructure around it. Through Devgudis, the administration is implementing various schemes for community participation. There are seven oaths that people have to take, which includes usage of mosquito net for malaria eradication programme, Suposhan Scheme to combat anaemia and malnutrition,” the officer stated.
Dantewada superintendent of police (SP) Abhishek Pallava stated preservation of Devgudis will assist police and administration to make tribals aware of state’s insurance policies and programmes and can work to counter Maoist ideology in these villages.
“Maoists worry that if villagers engage with the administration in constructive ways, they might grow distant from them,” stated Pallava.
Meanwhile, tribal representatives of Bastar claimed that the demand for preservation of their Devgudis pertained to their religion and faith and Maoists is not going to oppose it. “We have demanded from the government that our Devgudis need preservation and protection. If Maoists oppose this or threaten us , they will have to face local opposition,” stated president of Sarva Adivasi Samaj, Bastar region, Prakash Thakor.
However, human rights activists have raised questions over the administration’s step. “I do not think it is a good idea for the district administration to use adivasi religious and cultural spaces, symbols or practices to further its own policies. It can do so through appropriate democratic institutions and platforms like a gram sabha meeting,” stated Bela Bhatia, a human rights activist working in Bastar region.