The creation of a separate Bhil Pradesh is one of the main objectives of the Bharatiya Tribal Party, which was formed in 2017 in Gujarat
Modern India is one of the world’s most diverse countries, with over 100 languages, 700 distinct tribes, every major religion, some of the world’s greatest cities, and remote regions with little to no population. People in the nation have occasionally proposed separate states due to the country’s diversity.
The drive for a separate state for tribal people in western India, termed ‘Bhil Pradesh,’ has lately resurrected in this connection.
Bhils were the largest tribal group in India
The Bhils, also known as Bheels, are a pre-Aryan race. The term ‘Bhil’ is derived from the Dravidian word villu or billu, which means ‘bow.’ Bhil is also mentioned in the Mahabharata and Ramayana, two ancient Indian epics.
The Bhil languages, a subset of the Western Zone of the Indo-Aryan languages, are spoken by around 10.4 million Bhils in western and central India as of 2011.
The southern Aravalli Range in Rajasthan and the western Satpura Range in Madhya Pradesh, northwestern Maharashtra, and southern Gujarat are home to these languages.
Most Bhils, on the other hand, now speak the local language, such as Marathi, Gujarati, or a Hindustani dialect.
Bhils were India’s biggest tribal community as of 2013. These are indigenous people from Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan (all in the western Deccan and central India), as well as Tripura (in far-eastern India, near the Bangladesh border).
These are further subdivided into a number of endogamous territorial divisions, each of which has its own clans and lineages.
Bhils have rich and unique culture
The tribal group has a distinct and rich culture. Pithora paintings are famous in Madhya Pradesh’s Bhilala sub-division, while Ghoomar, the personification of womanhood, is a popular Bhil tribal folk dance.
The majority of Bhills are Hindus. Along with Lord Shiva and Durga pujas, they appease forest deities and demonic spirits. Only a small minority of them are Christians. They bury their deceased after performing a series of rituals in accordance with their customary beliefs and practices.
The demand for ‘Bhil Pradesh’
Bhil Pradesh is envisioned by the Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP), a Gujarat-based political party, as a distinct state made up of 39 districts scattered over four states: 16 in Gujarat, 10 in Rajasthan, 7 in Madhya Pradesh, and 6 in Maharashtra.
After the Mangarh massacre in 1913, Bhil social reformer and spiritual leader Govind Guru initially led to the notion of a separate state for tribals, according to BTP Rajasthan President Dr Velaram Ghogra.
The massacre, which occurred six years before Jallianwalla Bagh and is frequently referred to as the “Adivasi Jallianwala,” saw British soldiers kill hundreds of Bhil tribals in the hills of Mangarh on the Rajasthan-Gujarat border on November 17, 1913.
The demand for Bhil Pradesh was consistently reiterated after independence. Somjibhai Damor, a multi-term Congress MP from Dahod; former Ratlam MP Dileep Singh Bhuria, also of the Congress; and Meghraj Tawar, a former CPI member of the Rajasthan Assembly, were among those who pushed and amplified the issue throughout the decades.
‘Tribals not seen beyond vote bank politics’
According to Dr Ghogra, the Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh regions of Dungarpur, Banswara, and Udaipur were formerly part of a single entity. However, after independence, political parties split tribal majority regions, preventing tribals from organising and uniting.
Several Union administrations, according to Mr Ghogra, have introduced different laws, incentives, programmes, and committee recommendations for tribals over the decades, but have been hesitant to execute them.
Parties haven’t seen tribals beyond vote bank politics, according to the BTP President, since independence.
BTP keen to fulfil its major ‘Bhil Pradesh’ objective
One of the primary objectives of the BTP, which was founded in Gujarat in 2017, is to establish a distinct Bhil Pradesh. It has been holding meetings and gatherings on a regular basis in order to organise tribals and raise awareness.
However, the party claims that tribal people have lost faith in both the Congress and the BJP since only statements were made and no action was taken in response to the promises made to them.
BTP has requested that the Congress party send a tribal member to the Upper House ahead of the Rajya Sabha elections in the hopes of receiving some assistance.
The party claims that, given their predicament over the last seven decades, there is no other option than to create their own independent Bhil Pradesh in order to fulfil their grievances, which have so far been neglected by successive Central governments.