Meet Abhay Xaxa, the activist who helped organize the Poop Protest against Land Bill.
With the BJP-led government at Centre relentlessly trying to legislate anti-people laws like Land Acquisition Bill, both civil society and political groups are up in arms. Recently, massive protests were organized across the country. However, the most courageous and political form of protest has been initiated by members of tribal community and activists from Latehar district of Jharkhand.
On 18th of March, a number of Adivasis from Latehar lined and crapped on the copies of the proposed bill. Using the bill as a toilet paper in public, the members of the community and activists demanded from the government an immediate withdrawal of the Bill. Or else Adivasis will continue with the shit protest across the country.
IndiaResists.com spoke to Abhay Xaxa, an activist-researcher who helped organizing and popularizing it.
Abhay is an Oraon Adivasi hailing from the tribal-dominated Jashpur District of northern Chhattisgarh. He started working on Adivasi issues as a youth leader during his college days in Jabalpur with a group called Adivasi Yuva Chetna Manch and has worked with some of the very committed grassroots movements such as Bharat Jan Andolan, Ekta Parishad, Nadi Ghati Morcha and Dalit Dasta Virodhi Andolan.
Currently, he is a research scholar at Jawahar Lal Nehru University (JNU), researching and working on Adivasi Marginalities and Tribal Sub Plan. He is also the National Convener of a nationwide campaign group, “National Campaign on Adivasi Rights”.
Following is a short conversation with Abhay Xaxa.
How did the idea of this form of protest strike you? Who decided it, when and why?
We are doing social monitoring of various tribal development programmes operating under the Tribal Sub Plan to highlight the serious gaps in planning and implementation of various schemes, especially in 5th Schedule areas. Currently there is lot of anxiety and anger among the Adivasi communities against the recently introduced Land Acquisition Bill which was discussed during one of our community meetings in Latehaar district. During the meeting, few young Adivasi leaders suggested that since Government pays no attention when we take out peaceful rallies (just the previous day, around 30,000 Adivasis rallied against the draconian bill in Jashpur district of Chhattisgarh), but nobody paid attention) and giving memoranda has become a futile exercise. So the youth in the meeting suggested we do the ‘poop protest’ in public place to communicate our anger against the land grab carried out in Adivasi area.
Some would say, this was an ‘uncivil way of protest’. What is your response to them?
If our poop protest is considered uncivil, then tell me what is civil in this country. Displacing millions of Adivasis for satisfying corporate greed is civil? Killing thousands of unarmed Adivasis in name of counter insurgency is civil? Trafficking lakhs of innocent Adivasi girls to cities and raping them is civil? Blatantly cheating the Adivasis from the constitutional promises is civil? Adivasis have long suffered from the incivility of the Indian state as well as profit mongering goon-politician nexus of this country. Contrary to what is usually is portrayed, Adivasis are the most civil and peace loving citizens of the country. These values are their strength, but have been continuously victimized by the blood thirsty policies of the government. What type of civility do you expect from a person who was uprooted from their land not once but twice in name of national interest and is now threatened the third time?
In my view, if freedom fighters would have bothered to behave ‘civil’ during Indian freedom struggle, we would have still been a British colony. Poop protest is the most peaceful and democratic protest against a black law which threatens the core of their life- Jal, Jangal aur Jameen, that is! Poop protest is not a new form of agitation, In fact throughout history, whenever oppressed masses have dropped their shit as arsenal, rulers have been shaken because it often marks the beginning of a social uprising.
But have you tried ‘civil’ manners of the protest first, right?
Yes, we have been trying peaceful demonstration for a long. Rallies, dharnas, hunger strike, submitting memoranda, meeting MP’s, delegations. Nothing has worked. In fact, on 12th of this month we were detained by police in Delhi while doing peaceful protest. (See a detailed report here). It seems the Indian state is totally bent towards eliminating the Adivasis from the face of the earth.
We hear you are working in a feature film. Can you tell us something about it?
The film Sonchand is the first Adivasi community film project based on crowd funding and community resources which is going to challenge the Eklayva mythology relating to Adivasis. You can know more about the film here.
What next? Are you planning to do something similar in other parts of the country?
We have got immense support for the poop protest from the Adivasi regions and many have invited to collectively do poop protest in their areas. But we are right now following the developments in the Parliament on the issue and will likewise decide on future course of action. With the poop protest in Latehar, we have begun a fight and we have promised ourselves not to leave it unfinished.