If you go to north side of India and if you belong to south or especially Mumbai where you speak “Bambaiya Hindi” like “Mereko, Tereko,Kayko, Aati kya, Jaati Kya, Magta Hai kya” etc., then you will immediately get the hint that what you used to think as Hindi is not the Hindi because here generally from upper caste you will be listening “Shuddha Hindi”, pure, refined with Sanskrit. The way we easily say scholarship, they say “Chhatravadi” and without fail for the first time you ask, what’s that? In short, in a few minutes you come to the conclusion that it’s not your cup of tea but I couldn’t back out because I was working on a serious sociology field trip with the aim of understanding dropout rates of Bhil tribes in the schools of Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh. Here, for the first time I heard the word “Palayan” used for migration. I know a bit of Hindi so I was little surprised. According to me “Palayan” means to escape. So why do they use this word for migration? Well for this you need to understand what it means when they talk about migration with the relation of Bhil Tribes. We visited Meghanagar, a small town in Jhabua district. From the secondary sources and then from face to face interviews and inquiries we came to know that scarcity of water is a big (and regular)problem in the district and there are no schemes of government to retain the water in the area. Due to this, farming cannot feed those tribes for the whole year and they have to migrate towards cities for more than six months to survive. They come back during festivals or may be at the time of farming.
I was still curious about why they use the word “Palayan” for migration. I got the answer while interviewing one of the key person in some NGO. He said “When in the old time, people loose the battle, they run away from the field and that is called “Palayan”, similarly, these tribes loose the battle with the life and they run away to survive.” I was shocked. First of all, when there is no education, no opportunities, unfavourable environment, unfavourable nature, crushing poverty, superstitions, you cannot compare this struggle of survival with some battle and bravery. The tribes do not lose the battle, it’s us, who are in a better position lose the battle of humanity. When government cannot provide jobs, water, better education, facilities, security, does anyone really have any right to call migration like “Escapism”? This migration has nothing to do with bravery, they are not going to get any medal if they win, and they do not fight with human enemy. They struggle for their survival and their struggle is against nature, corrupt system and thick skinned leaders. They migrate leaving their lands, families. This is one of the main reasons for the dropouts of bhil children in the school. When they migrate, they don’t escape, perhaps they are about to fight the worst battle for their survival in the alien town. It was sad to find people used the word “Palayan” so easily and carelessly. They don’t even feel that its humiliating for the people who have to leave their place to feed their families.
As a general observation I feel it’s our national character to remain less or no sensitive about others especially when it is about deprived, exploited or subjugated sections of the society. During my interviews I heard this word “Palayan” for so many times as if its just another general word. In fact some people also said “ Wo aate hai, fir bhag jaate hai” (They come and then run away again). I doubt whether any bhil person have noticed the problematic usage of this word because they are busy fighting against their fate. More than ninety percent of the population is under the trap of money lenders. People are not in a position to understand humiliation. They are so much into the battle with their lives. Dropout rates are high hence very few reach to higher education and certain practices like bride price throw them into indebtedness. Life is harsh and cruel. People cannot afford to send their kids to school because if they find teacher is not sincere, they feel the child is wasting valuable time. He can graze their cattle rather than spending few hours in the schools doing nothing. Against this backdrop, people call their misery of migration as “Palayan”. I have seen some bhils taking higher education. I hope someday they will understand the streak of humiliation behind this word and try to change the term.