Jal-Jangal-Jameen: Adivasis in India Fight to Protect Their Existence and Forests




In this text, Jacinta Kerketta highlights the political struggles of Adivasi communities in India, who have been fighting against state repression and extractivism for decades. With their rivers, forests, and land being stolen from them, Adivasis find their very existence at the risk of erasure and have relied on the wisdom of their ancestors, the strength of their mountains, and their commitment to life to organize a powerful resistance.

Kerketta Funambulist 4
Adivasi women protest to protect the Hasdeo forest. / Courtesy of Hasdeo Aranya Bachao Sangharsh Samiti.

“भागते हुए छोड़कर अपना घर
पुआल मिट्टी और खपरे 
पूछते हैं अक्सर 
ओ शहर!
क्या तुम कभी उजड़ते हो
किसी विकास के नाम पर?”

(“अंगोर”, २०१६)  

“Leaving their homes behind,
bales of straw, their soil,
and the old roof of pantiles,
they ask over and over again:
O city!
Do you ever get uprooted
in the name of some development?”

(Angor, 2016)

In India, there are over 120 million Adivasis. Adivasi refers to those who have been dwelling since the beginning of time, those who are the first inhabitants of this land. Our lives cannot be imagined without forests. Forests are synonymous with diversity, therefore Adivasis who respect these forests also cultivate an appreciation for diversity. When a forest is uprooted, the entire Adivasi lifeworld is uprooted. Around us, many people talk about preserving forests, but no part of their existence is connected to these natural ecosystems. They want to protect the forests, but do not think about those whose life is dependent on them, who share a deep relationship with them. Nor do they want any changes in their lifestyle. To talk about preserving forests and to have your existence connected with them are two dissimilar matters. Adivasis have shaped every part of their life in accordance with the forests; we worship nature and our gods and goddesses dwell in the forest—just like us. Our rituals and festivals are also intertwined with the forests, where a relationship as intimate and safe as a family is nurtured together. It is this perspective of Adivasis which distinguishes us from those separated from nature, which informs our distinct outlook towards the natural world.