India's tribal women see little hope in Lok Sabha elections
Updated : May 13, 2019 11:56 AM IST
For years they've been told about the power they can wield with their votes, and how elections can bring so much change to this sprawling, often-chaotic nation. But few of these women, marooned at the fringes of Indian society, believe such talk anymore. They've been hardened by decades of forgotten promises, and by the countless politicians who showed up before elections with flowery words only to disappear as soon as the votes were cast. As India heads toward the end of its seven-phase national election, with voting that began April 11 and ends May 19, it's hard for them to summon much optimism. These voters already face immense hurdles in a nation where women are often relegated to second-class roles. But they are also tribals — India's term for the vast range of indigenous people of South Asia. They are Gaddis, herders who have spent centuries taking sheep and goats through the mountains of north India in search of good pastures, and Mishings, who live in elevated bamboo homes on Majuli, a huge island in the Brahmaputra River. They are the Dongria Kondh, an 8,000-strong tribe who considers the mineral-rich Niyamgiri hills sacred, and Mizos, who trace their ethnic roots back to what is now Myanmar and China. The biggest worry for many tribals is losing their land, which has grown increasingly valuable in recent years as India's economy has boomed. Many Warlis, for instance, are facing the threat of relocation by the government to housing projects. More fear being forced to move.