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Connecting with the Tribes of Bastar on Dussehra

On the instruction of IGP Sundarraj Pattilingam, Bastar police personnel interact with the tribes in their local dialect. The Bastar police department also feasts with tribal leaders in a bid to break ice with them. Many young tribal girls and boys have been recruited into the police force recently.
Indian Masterminds Stories

India is known for its diversity with a myriad of cultures and languages to be found in the different regions of the country. Similarly, the country is home to many indigenous tribes as well. These tribes live close to nature and follow their own traditions. While their unique cultures need to be preserved, at the same time, care should be taken not to make them feel alienated from the rest of the country. 

This is exactly what is being done in Bastar district in Chhattisgarh. Here, times are changing, and tribal groups have started coming out of self-isolation. They have even started showing keen interest in government programs. They are coming forward to interact with the government officials and sharing their problems with them. And this has been possible only because of the community outreach programs in the district, that have been going on for a long time now. 

In conversation with Indian Masterminds, the IGP of Bastar range (Chhattisgarh) Mr. Sundarraj Pattilingam and Additional SP of Bastar, Ms. Ankita Sharma, shared their experiences of interacting closely with leaders of different tribes amidst fanfare and celebrations during the recent Dussehra festival. 

75 DAYS LONG DUSSEHRA

Dussehra in Bastar is special. Here, it lasts for 75 days. It is more a community festival than a religious one and starts in the first week of August and ends in the second week of October. 

The festival revolves around the local deity, Goddess Danteshwari, whose temple is situated in Dantewada. This is one of the 52 Shakti Peethas, and it is believed that the tooth of Sati fell here. 

IGP Sundarraj said, “Every community of the region plays an important role during this festival. Some prepare the rath while the Bastar Raja, who is also the head priest of the temple, do the rituals. In the last leg of Dussehra, Maa Danteshwari comes to Jagdalpur, which is believed to be her aunt’s place, for four days. The festival ends after she leaves for Dantewada.”  

This year, the festival ended on 19 October. During the festival, all the local communities gather together and so it is the best time to connect with all of them, according to Mr. Sundarraj. Hence, from the last few years, the police department has been arranging feasts for the communities and interacting with them to create a bonhomie. 

BREAKING LANGUAGE BARRIER

The community feasting organised by the Bastar police department this year was unique as the police personnel interacted with the tribal people in their own language. This made them more comfortable with the police department and, hence, now they have started trusting them. 

There are 76 Parghana in the Bastar region and each one has a head who is a Manjhi. Then there are Chalkis, and so on. A day is selected during the festival when the police department calls the tribes leaders to an auditorium named Mava Halsana, which means ‘let’s get together’. Local Gondi dialect has been used to name places so that the locals feel at home. In the auditorium this year, police officials interacted with tribal leaders and took their feedback on development, and security matters and economical and social issues. 

“We also felicitated them on the occasion. These interactions are going on from last many years, and every year, the bonhomie is getting stronger. This year we focused on communicating with them in their own language so that no language barrier remains among us,” IGP Sundarraj said. 

The police personnel actively participated in the festival. Additional SP of Bastar, Ms. Ankita Sharma said that Naxalism is the main issue here and the Naxalites usually manipulate the local people against them. Hence, this problem can only be tackled if the police department regularly keeps in touch with the locals and communicate with them. “Festivals are one of the best ways to connect and win their trust. This year, our staff not only did their security duty but also danced and sang with them. Now, the people feel that we are one of them and are for them!” she said.

RECRUITING LOCAL YOUTH 

The proud team of Bastar Police. IGP Mr. Pattilingam (Sitting in the Middle). Additional SP Ms. Ankita Sharma (Standing)

Earlier, there were very few local people in the police force. The major reason was the recruitment criteria. However, in the last few years, the criteria have been relaxed so that more and more local boys and girls become part of the police force. Talking about it, Mr. Sundarraj said, “The required height and education qualification have been relaxed. Many schools were destroyed here due to the violence. This is the reason why most of them can’t complete their studies. Now, any person with height of 153 cm and 5th standard pass can join the forces. This relaxation has worked and in the past 4-5 years, lot of young tribal youth have joined the forces”. 

The officer added that when the locals see people from their community in uniform, they feel more secure. Then they trust the police department more and it becomes easier to communicate with them 


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