India: An ?orchard? for tribals and their cause

?Tribals? or ?Adivasi,? as the indigenous people of India are called, do not fall within the Hindu caste structure. They are most densely concentrated in the north and especially north-east of India. After many years of agitation for a homeland, a new federal state was carved out of Chhotanagpur (the cultural name of the hilly terrain in South Bihar) in November 2000 and named Jharkhand (hilly tract). Within it are found four Jesuit Provinces: Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Hazaribag and Dumka-Rajganj, while two populous districts of the adjacent Province of Madhya Pradesh are ethnic and linguistic extensions of Chhotanagpur. Hence the Social Action co-ordinators of the five Provinces conceived the idea of a joint Social Action Centre. At the decision of the five Provincials, the new centre will be called ?Bagaicha? (orchard), the name of a traditional tribal venue for exchanging news and views. Its purpose is to co-ordinate and animate Jesuit social action in Jharkhand and to join with others in close co-operation. The new centre, to be constructed in the capital city of Ranchi once suitable land is found, aspires to be non-sectarian (?secular? in Indian parlance), a venue of welcome for like-minded activists who may want to share concerns and information, consult each other, or stay overnight. The first director, Dharamsheel Kujur SJ, trained as a painter and sculptor, has been involved for ten years in what is known as the Issue Based Social Apostolate (IBSA, which also means nettle). Its main concern has been to defend the tribals and other people against displacement by controversial projects such as a permanent heavy artillery range, hydro-electric projects, mines and other massive developments. In support of this struggle against displacement, Fr Dharamsheel has been putting out alternative publications in Hindi to keep people informed and aware of threats to their land, language, culture, faith and livelihood. [HL10502]