Activist or activism has always been dynamic in society for the better cause. Ananya Paul Dodmani is one such woman who has been fighting in the tribal areas for a decade. Ananya is the recipient of two awards – one is Karmaveer Chakra, one of the highest civilian honours conferred by iCongo and United Nations, and the other is Kalki Gaurav Samman both in 2019. She received it for her extraordinary bravery and courage while working in the Northeastern Borders.
She has been practising social activism since her college days. Draped in a cotton saree, a big Bindi on face the Bengal-Assam-Karnataka breed turned to be a super host for me. The conservation was absolute comfortable at the first place itself. With some Crispy Baby Corn on a plate, we started the chit-chat. (Please note: the interview was taken in the month of February when COVID crisis was not prevalent in India).
Her life in the tribal areas:
Ananya says, “It is always difficult to work in the tribal areas as they already have lesser resources and facilities available. Sometimes, I have to carry on without food, get stuck in curfews, but the major issue is the sanitization.”
“I have to wait for the sunset to avail necessary sanitation facilities. That is unfortunate for the women in this place”, says the activist.
Tribal people are very hospitable but they have to rely on the limited resources they have. Ananya most of the time have to struggle to the basics like sleeping on the floor with the chilly breeze as accompaniment. She does fall sick many times but the people around her motivates the spirit to carry on. Other difficulties as the activist states, “Wild animals are another threat in this kind of work. I have to face challenges working in the Elephant Corridor of the Northeastern regions and the Kali Tiger Reserve in Karnataka. Apart from these, there is a restriction in most of the forest area hence it becomes a challenge.
Challenges as a Trauma Counsellor:
People are quite shy in these areas. The literacy rate though depends from area to area but “I have counselled many disaster-trauma people for the last 7 years. It is a mental test where I have to compose myself when I see the pain of others.”
Her vision of the tribal people down 10 years:
“If I had a lot of money I would have ensured their education and health facilities. Build up a maternity hospital as that is a genuine requirement in that area. I also could have focused on the sanitisation facilities. This is my request to the Government machinery that they develop these things in the tribal areas. As they are in sync with the forest where both are complementary to each other. Providing them with the necessary facilities are vital to their survival”, says the Tribal activist Ananya.
Tribal People and their Real challenges:
From an outsider’s perspective, it seems that the tribal people have the comforts of life with the Scheduled Tribe Certificate. The scenario is not always such as many times due to migration the tribal people do not get the certificate. And this means that without an ST certificate they will not be able to avail any Governmental schemes or facilities due for them.
In this context, Ananya speaks, “It is important to bring all such tribal people together so that they get some facilities that modern people are experiencing. But with this for me, it is also important that they preserve their ethnic culture. As their culture is very rich so a right blend is necessary.”
Role of the Tribal women during the COVID19 Crisis: (This portion is taken over the telephone)
Many tribal women are assigned with the works of eco-friendly sanitary pads. However, in the wake of the national crisis of COVID19 these women have started making home-made masks. They get the raw materials from us and distribute the masks to people at free of cost. However, one thing is very interesting to note that the tribal culture is to a large extent in favour of social distancing. They do not allow strangers to mingle much and always stay in a hygienic way though the facilities are a hindrance in their way.
Your Role in this COVID19 crisis:
“Well, this Coronavirus or COVID19 is just out of the syllabus for me and my husband, Abhishek. As we both work for the people at ground level we understand that standing by them is very important. From the last part of February just coming back from Kolkata we started distributing the relief materials to the needy people as Southern India was worst affected then. Slowly we started distributing to the migrant workers who are stick here in the lockdown and now we are also giving energy drinks to the ones who are working daily in this crisis. Apart from these, distributing ration, masks, sanitisers and essentials are an everyday job now. But this is an important lesson that we have learnt. And the fight continues till we are alive”, speaks the activist with confidence.