Online Santal Resource Page: the Santals identity, clans, living places, culture,rituals, customs, using of herbal medicine, education, traditions ...etc and present status.

The Santal Resource Page: these are all online published sources

Santal Gãota reaḱ onolko ńam lạgit́ SRP khon thoṛ̣a gõṛ̃o ńamoḱa mente ińaḱ pạtiạu ar kạṭić kurumuṭu...

Monday, December 19, 2011


Dr.Dhuni Soren

“Boarijore” 33 long meadow Road Knowsley

Liverpool L34 OHN, UK.


JHARKHAND, the 28th state of the Indian Union was curved out of southern Bihar in November 2000 to fulfil the long awaited hopes and aspirations of the people of the area. The people of Jharkhand celebrated it joyously and felt liberated from the Internal Colonialism of New Delhi and Bihar Governments. They have been exploiting and usurping the rich natural resources of the area since Independence for the so called greater good of the nation at the expense of the local inhabitants. This had kept the poor and not so poor, tribal and non tribal people of the area deprived and neglected in spite of long history of campaign for their home land.

The initial conditions were highly adverse for the new state in spite of its richness and they included the following;

  • Very high incidence of Poverty.
  • Low average Income and
  • Very little social Development.
  1. Nominal per capita Income in 2003/04 was only 55% of all-India average
  2. High degree of income inequality and the rural-urban gap within the state resulting in high incidence of poverty in the rural areas which was highest amongst all Indian states.
  3. Initial health and education indicators in Jharkhand were also markedly unfavourable in comparison to both all-India average and the major Indian states.
  • The proportion of full immunisation of children was merely 9% compared with all-India average of 42%.
  • Hospital deliveries were 14%, the presence of skill birth attendants 17%.
  • Women who received at least Ante Natal care contact care was 42%.

All these were much lower than all-India average.

  • Literacy rate of the state was 54% according to 2001 census, the second lowest in the country against National 65%
  • Male literacy 68%
  • Female literacy 39%,
  • They were worse in rural and tribal areas.

Some changes have taken place in recent years and there are some signs of turn around in several respects in Jharkhand.

    1. Poverty declined by 2% but was uneven between urban and rural areas with the reduction faster in the rural areas but sustainability is a cause for concern due to dependence on the unpredictable nature of rainfall for agriculture.
    2. Modest but volatile per capital growth rate of 2.4% in agriculture but industrial and service sectors growth rate were lower than all India rates.
    3. Mining sector which contributes nearly 15% of GSDP (six times more than all-India level grew at only 3% compared to 4.6% at all-India level
      • The poverty reducing effects of growth have been helped by improvement in distribution in rural areas.
      • Improvement in access to primary education in the 6-14 years age groups for both gender categories and in scheduled castes and scheduled tribe population.
      • Age specific enrolment rate for 6-11 age groups improved from 56% in 1993/94 to 58% in 1999/2000 as per NSS data and further to 95% in 2005 as per Sarva Shikshya Abhiyan (SSA).
      • Equally impressive progress in health indicators has been made especially in childhood vaccination and prevention of major diseases and according to UNICEF immunisation has gone up to 50% compared 9% in 98/99.
      • Significant progress in reducing prevalence of Leprosy to 2.69 per 10,000 in 2005 from 10.9 per 10,000 in 2001.
      • Similarly impressive reduction in communicable disease like Tuberculosis with success rate in the treatment of 90% compared to 85% nationally.

The decline in poverty and improvement in social indicators can be attributed to increased allocations and better implementation as well as involvement of NGOs and awareness of the government of the challenges facing them.

Despite this progress, the Jharkhand remains a state with one of the highest poverty rates and far behind the league table of progress and development of the other states of India. The Jharkhand government needs to identify and prioritise the essential requirements for the development and amelioration of the poverty. They are state led infrastructures of roads, bridges, railways, electrification, irrigation, education, health care, clean drinking water, sanitation and better job opportunities for livelihood. The good governance free from corruption and nepotism will help better implementation of inclusive and sustainable growth and development projects. This will narrow the institutional gap and improve access to infrastructure services and social inclusiveness for effective citizenship.


Reference: World Bank Report No. 36437-IN 2007




Dr Dhuni Soren, “Boarijore”33 Longmeadow Road, Knowsley, Liverpool L34 0HN. UK


Adivas (tribal people) are known for their simplicity, sincerity, honesty, trust worthiness, straight forwardness, easy going and enjoyment of simple life with traditional songs, dances and home brewed Haria (Beer).

Adivasi people rightly pride in these virtues and are happy and contented with whatever little they have. The non- tribal look at these as their weaknesses and take advantage of their simplicity to exploit them in every possible way.

To appreciate these we have to go back briefly to nearly 250 years of the history of Adivasi and Jharkhand region. Here I would like to concentrate in the plight of Adivasi of the newly created state of Jhrakhand. Although the same principles apply to all Adivasi living in other parts of India and beyond.

1765; Santal Pargana was brought under British Rule by military might.

1771-1819; British attack on Palamau and Chero revolt.

1780-85; Tilka Manjhi led tribal revolt injuring British Army Chief and he was hanged to death in Bhagalpur.

1797 and 1800-02 Munda revolts under Vishnu Manaki and Bhukan singh respectively.

1824; Damin-E-Koh established

1832-33; Kherwar revolt under the leadership of Bhagirath,Dubai Gosal and Patel Singh.

1855-1860; Santal Hul under the leadership of Sido and Kanhu brothers

1895- 1900; ULGULAN under Birsa Munda.

1908; Introduction of Chotanagpur Tenancy Act.

1912; Bihar separated from greater Bengal.and some parts of Chotanagpur merged with Bengal.

1947; India became Independent and the British Raj came to an end.

1949; Santal Pargana land Tenancy Act introduced to prevent the sale of land to non-tribal.

Dr, Dhuni Soren

Apart from these and other revolts by the tribal people, many social and political groups sprang up under various tribal leaders to campaign to preserve and promote tribal customs, traditions and heritage and for their rights. Some of these leaders are Pal Dayal, Thebale Oraon, Joel Lakra, Jaipal Sing Munda, N.E. Horo, Bodra, S.K. Bage, Debi Soren and Shibu Soren.

1929 was a land mark year when for the first time a memorandum was submitted to the Simon Commission for separate state of Jharkhand.

25th November 2000; At long last a new separate state of Jharkhand was curved out of Bihar. In spite of this and nearly 250 years of struggle and revolts, there has been very little progress and prosperity of tribal people in Jharkhand. The central and state governments have spent lot of money and time in the name of the development of Adivasi people. But unfortunately they have not reached the people it was supposed to help due to mismanagement and poor implementation by the government agencies and the indifference of the people who work in them as most of them are non- tribal from outside the area.

As regards the tribal people themselves, the majority of them have very little or no education at all and are not aware of their rights and are unable to speak up for themselves. The long exploitation and subjugation has made them weak, helpless and apprehensive. They have lost self- respect and have no confidence in themselves. A culture of dependency has crept in to their culture and expects that governments would do most of the things for them.

A time has come for the tribal people to think long and hard to come out of the traditional comfort zone and change their attitude and mind set to survive and compete with the mainstream community in the modern world. This can be done without forgetting the virtues, customs, traditions and cultural heritage.

Apart from the progress in the fields of EDUCATION, LIFE STYLE, HEALTH CARE, SANITATION and LIVELIHOOD, they need to be encouraged and inspired in the following mental and psychological spheres:

1. Activism; Adivasi people have more or less been static for last couple of centuries except occasional bursts of revolts under heavy pressure of exploitation and subjugation. They need to get out of this mode and be on move working hard with bursting zeal to keep pace with the rest of the mainstream communities.

2. Dynamism; They need to develop energetic, forceful and go-ahead attitude in all aspects of their life.

3. Innovation; Develop new, changing and innovative work pattern to cope with the rapidly changing world.

4. Inventiveness; They need to explore and try new ways and means of livelihood rather than sticking to the primitive ways of agriculture and cultivation.

5. Competitiveness; In this age of globalisation and technology where the fittest survives, they need to develop the sense of competitiveness to excel and win to survive.

6. Forward looking; Traditionally tribal people have been backward looking and priding in their past glories and heritage. This has to change and a new culture of forward looking and foresight ought to be embraced without forgetting their traditional virtues.

7. Compassion; Traditional kindness, fellow feeling and helping each other in the community do not need to be forgotten to achieve progress and prosperity which will in fact enhance the human values.

8. Motivation; They should not only hunger for food but also for ambition, desire and drive to move forward to better themselves and their children and future generations.

9. Dedication: They need to encourage and practise commitment and devotion for the progress and prosperity of their family, friends and community at large..

10. Entrepreneurship; To develop a sense of adventure with caution to try new ways and means of income generation to keep up with the rapidly changing modern trends and methods.

11. Hopes; So far the tribal people have had very little hope but disappointment, isolation and desperation. They need to get out of the deep hole created over the years and start thinking big with high hopes.

12. Aspirations: It’s about time, Adivasi people awake from the deep slumber and start thinking and dreaming big and aspire and aim for high living and prosperity.

Once they achieve these attributes of life and daily living, their way of thinking, outlook and life style will change. They will be empowered and will have a voice of their own and can stand on their own feet and speak up for themselves. That will be the day when they will be listened to by the mainstream community and the governments. The Adivasi people will then walk tall with their heads held high with pride and dignity without losing their customs, traditions, culture, heritage and identity.

The tribal intelligentsia and their educated people have an important role to play in this connection by inspiring and setting examples. They need to spare some of their valuable time to help their community to achieve these where their social and political leaders have dismally failed over the years.




Dr. Dhuni Soren, “Boarijore”33 Longmeadow Road, Knowsley, Liverpool, England.

Patron, International Santhal Council, India


Adivasi people are the original inhabitants of India and constitute 8% of the present day population of more than a billion people. Most of them live along the long corridor of western, central and eastern states of India. The majority of them at present live in Jharkhand, Bihar, Orrisa, Chattisgarh, West Bengal and Assam. They are still most deprived, marginalised and poor in India. Over the last few hundred years different administrations have tried to help develop them but nothing seems to have worked.

The British Raj at least provided them with homeland in Chotanagpur and Santal Pargana area of old Bihar with certain safe guard to their land, water and forest. They also recognised and respected their culture, languages, traditional customs and practices and preserved them. They left India in 1947 and the Independent India took over the responsibility of developing them and the areas through 5 years plans of developments. They tried variously starting with top down approach with the hope that if the nation and big businesses generate incomes, it will trickle down to the poor and marginalised and all will benefit. It did not work. Then the government tried bottom up policy but it did not work either for Adivasi people. And at last in the present Eleventh Five Year plans, they have added new twist to the development of Adivasi people. They called it CULTURE CENTRIC development of Adivasi people and they hope it might work. Since Independent of India 63 years ago, nothing has worked for majority of ordinary Adivasi. The worse has happened since creation of Jharkhand 9 years ago. Only political leaders including tribal have benefited. In its very short history, jharkhand had 6 governments headed by 4 Adivasi leaders and now the case is being made that Adivasi people are not fit to run governments as already shown by these leaders.

So what’s the solution for this? I have some suggestions to make for further discussion, debate and actions. But before that I would like to make some observations about development of Adivasi people.

They are;

  1. Adivasi people were never consulted about their developments during last 63 years.
  2. They were not involved in their own development and were just given out whether they needed or not.
  3. The Adivasi people have their own way of life style, culture and traditions handed down to them over the centuries by their ancestors.
  4. They are peace loving people with independent mind and are proud of the way they live in community.
  5. They have their own ideas of development and too proud to ask for anything from others, let alone governments.
  6. They also have mistrust of non tribal and have certain age old beliefs and prejudices.

So if this CULTURE CENTRIC development plans have to work. The people and in particular governments and their agencies have to understand all the above things about Adivasi people. They need to talk to them about the benefits of development and the modern day amenities of life with them sensitively and with respect and dignity. By doing this they can gain their confidence and consent.

On the other hand the Adivasi people have to change their mind set and be proactive towards development. They need to come out of their inward looking world and try to seize the amenities, opportunities and benefits of the modern day life and pass them on to their children and grand children.

Some of the modern day educated Adivasi young men and women and retired people can play an important role in this connection. Here are some of the ideas that can be considered to achieve such goals.

  1. Identify certain villages for actions, may be our own villages.
  2. Identify say half a dozen young or not so young people in the village who can be trained, empowered and supported.
  3. Such people are going to work as a nucleus in the village and will be vital for the success of any development work for the villagers with their consent.

The following practical approaches may be useful and provide benefit to the villagers within a short period. These are probably already available at block level .But have not reached them due to lack of information and ignorance and corruption in government agencies. This nuclear team can demand and secure them with the support of the united villagers.

  1. Infrastructures like good connecting roads and irrigation facilities for agriculture work.
  2. Availability of clean drinking water which can reduce the health problem by one 3rd.
  3. Good and well run village schools to be monitored by the villagers that the teachers and students attend regularly.
  4. Ensure energy supply through electricity which is produced locally but is at present taken away to other parts of India for greater good of the nation leaving behind the villages in darkness. The electricity supply can help create small scale industries and job opportunities and also remove darkness from the villages and the people who live there.
  5. Secure regular health care, maternity and childhood immunisation services
  6. Means of regular livelihood like the one they are good at and familiar with.
  7. Advocacy, give them voice to speak up for their rights, privileges, benefits and fair justice of their human rights.

These can be made available to villagers without too much capital investment through government schemes. But of course need a lot of time and dedication of the nuclear team to convince and empower the men and women of the villages and motivate them to do some thing for themselves.

Once they see the benefit, they can be encouraged to develop other means of livelihood generation and entrepreneurship by working together. These could include formation of village co-operatives to improve their financial income to become independent and self sufficient and not become dependent on the local money lenders. Through these co-operatives, they should develop the things they know best and have been doing for generations. For now few can be mentioned here but could be many more in good time as they gain confidence and enjoy the benefits of their efforts.

  1. Agriculture and forest produces including rice, lentils, vegetables and Mahua, fruits and patras (plates of leaves)
  2. Goats, pigs and chicken related products
  3. Animal husbandry products like milk, curd (dahi) and Ghee (Butter).
  4. Handiya making and marketing in moderation.
  5. And many more others can be explored in due course.

The resources for all these are available at the block level for Adibasi people and only things need doing are to secure them for the innocent and simple Adivasi folks who have been exploited and cheated all these times by every body. If we can help facilitate such developments at the village levels with the help of the nuclear team, there will be a holistic development of all people living in that village.

Next stage is going to be easier as people will learn from the example and will take their own initiatives and demand from the government and other agencies who are at present only pretending to help without any real benefit to the poor, neglected and marginalised Adivasi people

The investment from the well wishers of Adivasi people and NGOs is minimal in this. They only need to identify a nuclear team in the village and prepare, train and empower them and provide a living wages for the initial period. They will eventually earn their own living along with the rest of the villagers.





Dr.Dhuni Soren
33 Longmeadow Road, Liverpool L34 OHN

India became Independent in 1947 after years of struggle and sacrifices by all Indians including Adibasi people. We welcomed the occasion with pomp and pageantry with high hopes and aspirations as a free nation. Late Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of Independent India gave a famous clarion call on the eve of the Independence. “At the stroke of midnight when the whole world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom…………………………………………”
63 years have passed by and the country has moved on to the modern age of technology and globalization. Most people have made some progress with the time and are enjoying the fruits of the struggle of their parents and grand parents.
But, alas the majority of Adibasi are still not awake to life and freedom. They are far behind the rest of the people of India in spite of special provisions for them in the Constitution of the country.
This is a matter of great concern for the planners, governments and well wishers of Adibasi people. But it ought to be of greater concern for the Adibasi people themselves, their community and political leaders.


  • First and foremost Adibasi people have not moved with the time and taken advantage of all that are genuinely and rightfully theirs.
  • Most of them are still confined to their traditional, cultural and social habits and practices.
  • By nature, they are simple, straight forward, honest and non- mixing with the mainstream non tribal people.
  • They are conservative in their thoughts and beliefs and reluctant to change their traditional life styles of basic needs.
  • Lack of realization of their economic plight and general wellbeing in spite of the fact that most of them have land.
  • Still using age old primitive ways of cultivation and livelihood.
  • Lack of empowerment and awareness of the changes taking place around them in other communities and beyond in the fast moving world.
  • They are voiceless and there is no one to speak for them in spite of so many political leaders coming out of their community.
  • Lack of elementary education and appreciation of the benefit of the basic amenities of the modern life e.g. clean drinking water, sanitation, good housing, education, health care and healthy sustenance.
  • Lack of self confidence, reassurance, motivation, ambition, and foresight due to long subjugation.
  • Lack of appreciation of the importance of the infrastructures, power supply and transportation to enable mobility of work force.
  • Easily met simple needs of life have prevented development, innovation and entrepreneurship in Adibasi.
  • Erosion of traditional tribal systems and values by introduction of alien systems by the authorities without the informed consent of the Adibasi.
  • Misuse of traditional alcohol HARIA in the name of the rituals of the tribal culture and traditions.
  • Late appreciation of the planners, governments and other agencies to the specific needs and remedies for the development of Adibasi.


  • The Adibasi people need to open their eyes and ears and see and hear what’s taking place around them and try to board the passing trains of modern world with fellow neighbors and young men and women of the country.
  • Relax some of the constraints of the customs and traditions of the tribal systems without loosing the core values of the Adibasi.
  • Inter act and learn from the mainstream communities some of the skills and trade of livelihood.
  • Not to segregate young Adibasi students in the schools and colleges by keeping them in separate hostels of their own but to have certain seats earmarked for them in general hostels to enable them to inter act with students from other communities and learn some of the skills of survival in the modern competetative world.
  • Adibasi people need to change some of their life styles and moderate the use of traditional HARIA which has proved to be harmful to their health, wealth and well being of their families and hindrance to the progress of the community.
  • They should take advantage of the universal rights of education and send all their children to schools to help bring about awareness and understanding. This will enable them to stand up and fight for their rights.
  • Once educated, they can become innovative and ambitious to better their lives.
  • Once empowered, they can demand for the access to better education, clean drinking water, sanitation, health care, housing and all other amenities of modern life and prevent exploitation from others.
  • Governments need to provide better infrastructures of roads and communication to enable better mobility of workforce to the nearest market places and towns.
  • Local job opportunities need to be expanded by providing small and medium scale industries, electricity supply, irrigation facilities and vocational training to the Adibasi young men and women.
  • Government need to acquire some lands for other industries by negotiation with the tribal people and with their informed consent on the basis of long term lease and offer them comprehensive and better compensation and rehabilitation with stake holder rights in the industries. The land should be redeveloped and returned to the owners or their dependents, once the land is no longer required for the industries
  • Governments need to improve capital investment and subsidies to the Adibasi people for their traditional means of livelihood like agriculture, animal husbandry, pig, goat and chicken keeping and to provide technical know-how and management skill and expertise.
  • Self help groups in particular women’s to be encouraged and supported as they are the people who care most for the welfare of their children, families and communities at large.
  • They should be helped to form small scale co-operatives at the village level and advised on packaging and marketing of their products.
  • The govt. need to provide support for the traditional knowledge and expertise of other livelihood of Adibasi people.


Perhaps, it’s time that the Adibasi people awake to life and take fair share of the rewards of the freedom of the country. It’s not going to be easy and they have to make concerted efforts and initiatives in all aspects of their lives to develop and progress in the 21st century and beyond. The problems are vast and their needs are varied. They need to be prioritized according to their essential needs of livelihood, clean drinking water, sanitation, health care, good housing, education and empowerment. Apart from these they need to change their mindset of helplessness and develop a positive attitude to life and ambitions and aspirations for future generation. They also need to change their life styles and moderate the use of Haria which has proved detrimental to their physical and mental wellbeing and hindrance to the development and progress of their community over the centuries.

But above all they should preserve and promote their languages and good things about their customs, traditions and culture. They should be proud of their identity and heritage and walk with the rest of the people of India with their heads held high.





Dr. Dhuni Soren, “Boarijore”33 Longmeadow Road, Knowsley

Liverpool, England


The last few centuries have seen great change and turmoil in the world. This has affected all humanity living in our planet. This has been more so since sixteenth century when societies living in different continents began to come in contact with each other on a regular basis.

During this period explorers, traders and conquerors linked up with the people living in different land mass and continents and their civilisations. These are

Americas, Africa and Australasia and was inhabited by 70 percent of the humanity.

The process of contact and integration was speeded up during last two centuries by the rapid technological advancement which made transportation and communication easier and faster.

The steam boat, railway engine, motor car, aeroplane, telegraph, telephone, radio, television, satellite, IT technology and even powerful rockets capable of sending men and women and various instruments and appliances to moon and other far flung planets of the solar system are at the command of the humanity.

The process of contact and integration is getting faster by the day interlinking the humanity and all the countries small and large making our planet a small place and the GLOBALISATION is a complete.

In this age of globalisation, we are all interdependent with each other whether we like it or not. We are all affected by what happens in other countries in trade, culture and politics

The rich and poor, weak and mighty, small and large, developed and underdeveloped, literate and illiterate, backward and forward, indigenous and non indigenous, we all are in it together.

There have been some very important land mark changes during the period while the globalisation has been taking place.

The slavery which was abhorrent, inhuman and degrading to the human being was abolished.

Two evil world wars were fought affecting the whole world and millions of people were killed

The cold war also came to an end and only one super power was left.

But poverty, illiteracy, ill health, exploitation and human suffering goes on even in this day and age.

The different countries have different needs and requirements for their people and have accordingly adapted different ways and means of meeting them. But at present there are only two main systems used by most of them.



A social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned. The state is separated from economics and religion. A free market economy where every one is on his own and can do whatever he/she likes to earn livelihood and enjoy. The survival of the fittest

is the way of life, perhaps at the expense of the weaker section of the society? There is a perception that in this system the wealth may not have been acquired through sincere hard work and initiative but from inheritance, exploitation, corrupt practices, monopoly, good fortune, gambling and political influence and so on.


It is defined as a centrally planned economy in which government controls all means of production. This is so to help fair and equal distribution of wealth among the people of the nation. There is some evidence that the socialist philosophy has produced greater economic equality in some countries and international aid has alleviated poverty in other less well off countries. But there is evidence that the system is less efficient and brings in equality in poverty rather than in wealth. There tends to be over regulation, heavy taxes and welfare right discourages initiative, innovation and hard work and makes people dependant on the state.


But there are some people who think and believe that there is another way including religious, traditional tribal systems and even dictatorship.

The globalisation has not only made different countries interdependent but even different communities living in the same country, state, region and village. With the passage of time the interdependency of different communities are going to be stronger and far reaching. The stronger section of the communities are going to grow stronger and faster and the weaker section including indigenous people are going to be left farther behind unless they take initiative themselves in their hands.

The initiatives are to cover the fundamental and basic rights of human beings to compete and eventually overtake the so called stronger section of the community and then try to safeguard, preserve and promote traditional values and virtues of indigenous people.

These are the basic needs of survival e.g. Food, clean drinking water, health and sanitation, education, language and culture


Traditionally indigenous people have depended for their food on land, forest, water and environment. But unfortunately they are being displaced from their natural habitat and this has gone on for centuries. This process has hastened during the last century and more so in Indian subcontinent after the independence in the name of the greater good and development of the country.

The some of the causes of displacement of the indigenous people are as follows;

  1. Natural erosion of land and deforestation and taking over of land and forest by the government and states.
  2. Acquisition of land by the government for road and office buildings, factories and heavy industries and power plants and mines.
  3. Displacement by construction of dams and thermal power stations without adequate compensation and proper resettlement in their familiar traditional communal environment.
  4. Division of the land over the generations to their off springs resulting in small holding for each family which is not enough to provide food for the family and the situation is going to get worse with the time and eventually the people will not even have a small plot of land to build a small hamlet.
  5. There are virtually no irrigation facilities in the tribal areas and are fully depend on the nature for the rain and most people can only cultivate crop once in a year and yields are poor and not enough to sustain and support the family.
  6. There is very little alternative employment opportunity in the tribal areas and the poor infrastructure and transport system prevents them from travelling to the nearest towns and cities to look for employment on regular and daily basis.
  7. This results in the migration of local people to the metropolitan cities and towns and neighbouring states for their livelihood. But this has adverse effect on their community and have become minority in their own land and the people who have migrated are also in minority in their new surroundings and losing their language and culture.


Although world has changed and still changing rapidly, there has been very little change in the tribal areas with regards to supply of clean drinking water and sanitation.

  1. The most villagers are still drinking water from the open wells with no arrangement for disinfectant and cleaning them. This is the common source of most of the gastro-intestinal diseases in the villages.
  2. The public health and sanitation is virtually non existent in the villages and they still void themselves in the open fields which is another source of infection and disease.
  3. The bored hole water supply in few lucky places are either broken down or were not working from the start and abandoned.
  4. The few which are working has no drainage system and are open sewerage harbouring and breeding mosquitoes, the source of malaria


The tribal people in the villages are still dependant for their health on God and medicine men and herbal remedies. There are still myths and prejudices prevalent in tribal villages. This is so, in spite of government’s effort to provide basic health care for them.

There are various reasons for this;

  1. Lack of awareness of their rights and privileges available to them.
  2. Failure of government agencies to inform and to educate local people.
  3. Inadequate resources and trained work force who are mostly from outside the areas and do not speak the local language.
  4. They have no understanding of the feelings and emotions of the local tribal people and are insensitive to their spiritual, cultural and linguistic needs.
  5. The child health and maternity care are inadequate in spite of government efforts resulting in high infant and maternal mortality.
  6. There is no provision for chronic disease and illness management and treatment.
  7. After suffering from birth to death, there is no provision for terminal care so that people can at least die peacefully.
  8. The majority of tribal people live in poverty and can not afford the modern treatment and rely on the traditional herbal medicines, mystical and witch craft rituals. This leads to early, premature and unnecessary deaths.


The education is an eye, ear and mind of any human being just like food and water are essential for the body and the survival of a life. The literacy in the tribal areas is still dismally poor even to day in this 21st century and is between10-30% in the adibasi populated areas. This is the main reason for the poverty and backwardness of the indigenous people and a great stumbling block to the present century.

The government policy of education has not benefited the poor and deprived people living in the tribal areas in spite of opening schools in almost every village.

The following are the some of the reasons for this;

  1. The profound poverty prevents the parents from sending their children even to the local schools. They are instead sent to look after cows and goats grazing on the fields as soon as they are school going age while parents are working hard for their livelihood.
  2. The lack of nursery school facility and maternal education during ante natal stage of pregnancy.
  3. The medium of primary and secondary education other than in their mother tongue.
  4. The teachers who are mostly from outside the areas are ignorant of the local language and are unfamiliar with the circumstances of the local community.
  5. The poor parents need educating about the importance of education for the advancement and development of their children and society.
  6. The tribal political and social leaders at various levels need to think hard and deep and to motivate and lead their people out of the primitive ways of life and poverty rather than just developing themselves.


The language and culture are the most important heritage of the indigenous people all over the world. But are threatened with extinction and in fact some of them have already been lost. However in India one of the largest tribal groups SANTAL have kept their language and culture intact to a great extent. Their language SANTALI is still widely spoken by the santal people living in the villages and towns. The traditional songs, dances and religious worships, rituals and cultures are practiced actively.

There has been a giant leaf forward in the status of the santali language recently and has been included in the scheduled 8 of the constitution of India not too long ago after years of hard campaigning by the santal people. The language has for the first time its own script OL CHIKI which can be studied up to the university level and can be used in the union public service commission examinations. The script was invented and developed by a farsighted and devoted santal philosopher and novelist late Pandit Raghunath Murmu of Orissa. The santal people are grateful to him for this very precious gift and is fondly remembered by them

However, this has not yet universally been accepted by all santal and some of them are still using other scripts Orria, Bengali, Devnagri and Roman. This will impede the development of the language and sooner they agree on one, so much the better.

So far we have talked about the basic needs of the indigenous people. Now I would like you to consider some of the practical ways and means of resolving and meeting these needs.


The poverty constitutes a denial of human rights and is characterised by the deprivation of resources, capabilities, choices, security and power necessary for the enjoyment of an adequate standard of living and other civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights ( UN ‘s own guidance document on Human Rights and Extreme Poverty A/67/369).

The principles include identification of the poor, empowerment, the international human rights framework, participation, equality and non-discrimination, the progressive realization of rights and accountability.

The small practical measures can be taken at the village levels.

  1. Identifying and motivating a small group of people in every village and preparing them with awareness of their rights and privileges and how to secure them and prevent exploitation from others.
  2. They should encourage and convince the rest of the villagers that they can help themselves in so many ways if they are united and work together.
  3. The first priority is the means of the sustenance FOOD. This can be started by organising villagers in smaller groups and work like co-ops on traditional areas of cultivation of rice and vegetables and various farming including poultry and pig farming and other handicraft and marketing them. This can be built up as they grow in confidence and self reliance. They should try to take advantage of all the financial and technical assistances available from the local government agencies and financial institutions.
  4. Irrigation can be organised by harnessing the water from the local rivers, brooks and wells and the yield can be increased by the use of fertilizers and modern way of farming.
  5. Small scale industries need to be encouraged and supported.
  6. They also need help with marketing of their produce.


The drinking water is as essential as food for survival of the human being. But dirty water can be killer of human life as most of the common diseases are water borne. The clean drinking can be provided in every village with minimum investment and effort.

  1. One or two bore holed sources of clean water are sufficient for the most villages.
  2. The local people can be trained to maintain and look after these.
  3. The waste water can be channelled and used by the village co-ops for the purpose of irrigating allotments and growing vegetables and flowers etc.
  4. The water from wells can be used for other purposes like washing, cleaning and irrigation.
  5. They can be encouraged to boil drinking water to prevent simple and common illness.


The health is a wealth of a person and need to be looked after and cared for the wellbeing and happiness. Apart from healthy eating and living, people need health and disease prevention education.

  1. Good anti, peri and post natal care of the mothers are the foundation of a healthy society.
  2. This reduces and prevents maternal death and infant mortality.
  3. Child health care and immunisation is the basis of healthy future generation.
  4. Health and disease prevention education of the poor people.
  5. Life style education and smoking and alcohol related disease prevention.
  6. The alcohol use is the part of the lifestyle of indigenous people which is seriously damaging their health and wealth and is holding them back from development and progress. A serious and concerted effort is needed to bring about changes in their social, cultural and life style.
  7. Treatment for acute and chronic diseases need to be available at the easy reach of the local people and the authorities should make available sufficient resources and skilled manpower.

The sanitation is an important aspect of healthy living and prevention of diseases and can cheaply be provided.

  1. There have been innovative ideas and methods to provide cheap toilet facilities at the reach of common and poor people and they need to be aware of the benefit of these.
  2. The waste water should be put to good use and avoid pooling of such water to prevent harbouring of disease spreading and causing insects.
  3. The public health education needs to be given to the poor and needy people living in the villages.


The education is a life long process starting from childhood, adolescent and old age and never ending.

  1. Childhood education starts at home with and from mother even before nursery age and nursery facilities should be universally available to all.
  2. Primary and secondary education should be universally available to all.
  3. The medium of education at primary level need to be in their mother tongue and secondary education could be bilingual.
  4. Adult education should be available to the people who missed out during childhood.
  5. Old age education for the people who have worked very hard all their lives and raised families and want to enjoy the remaining life by reading and watching audio visual materials.

This can help keep them engaged physically and mentally and give them spiritual satisfaction and happiness.


The language and culture can only be preserved by their use and practice by the people and community. As education spreads amongst the indigenous people, they tend to move to the metropolitan towns and cities to look for better prospect and life. This takes them away from their people and natural environment.

  1. Their mobility brings them to new places and environment and has no one to speak their language outside their family.
  2. The children who are born in these places go to the local schools where their mother tongue is an alien language.
  3. The parents tend to speak the local or regional language with their children to help them cope better in the schools with the wrong notion that their children will get confused by leaning two languages at the same time. But there is no evidence of this.
  4. By doing this even the parents start speaking language other than their own.
  5. With increasing mobility and globalisation young indigenous people are more likely to have mixed marriages and preserving of their language and culture is going to be more and more difficult.
  6. The development and progress of indigenous people are likely to affect their language and culture adversely unless they are careful.


The globalisation and the spread of education and changing environment are likely to change the perception, aspiration and daily needs of the Indigenous people and there is a real danger of loss of their language, culture and identity.

The indigenous people have to be pragmatic and realistic and accept that the changing world around them is bound to affect them and their society in so many ways. They should accept the good changes taking places around them like education and try to avoid bad things and prepare themselves to compete with the people of other communities and try to preserve the core values of their heritage and identity.

References:The Earth Is But One Country by John Huddleston. Indigenous Perspectives, Volume V11, Number 1, A journal of Tebtebba Foundation.







Dates: 21-23 March 2005

On the occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the SANTAL HUL in 1855


Dr.Dhuni Soren, BOARIJORE, 33 Longmeadow Road, Knowsley, LIVERPOOL L34 OHN. ENGLAND.

Tel/fax –0151-546-4892. E-mail dhuni.soren@btopenworld


There were no written histories and documents about SANTALS until recent centuries. They have been preserved and passed on through the generations by spoken word in the form of songs and legends. I would like to quote two of them here.





Which translates something like this, we were born in a beautiful place (Hihiri Pipiri) and were sought after by the Almighty in Khoj-Kaman and grew up in Harata and organized our social order in Sasan Beda.





Meaning, the Champa,Badoli and Koenda forts were decorative and ornamental. But alas, we left our dear forts.

They fondly remember these places of their golden age where they lived in peace, harmony and happiness and passed on these memories to their children and grand children forever through spoken word.

Then the Aryan invaders came and Santals were displaced and a long trail of migration and exploitation began and has gone on ever since

They were persecuted and pursued and eventually reached CHOTANAGPUR PLATEAU, RAJ MAHAL HILLS and surrounding areas. They lived there for generations in spite of harassment and exploitation by non-tribal zamindars (landlords), moneylenders and colonial powers.

Then there was a revolt against all these and British rule in 1855 called the SANTAL HUL.This was led by two brothers SIDO MURMU and KANHU MURMU of Bhognadih in the district of old Santal Pargana in Jharkhand. We are gathered here today to celebrate the 150th anniversary of that Hul and sacrifices of the two brothers and many other Santals.

As a result of this HUL a new administrative unit was formed by the British Raj and named after Santals and was called SANTAL PARGANA. This has since been infiltrated and diluted by non-tribal and has been divided into six smaller districts by new rulers losing the name and sanctity of the Santal Pargana and diving the santal community.

A new state of JHARKHAND was carved out of BIHAR in 2000 after years of campaigning by the tribal people to prevent exploitation. DUMKA, the district headquarter of the old SANTAL PARGANA was named as sub capital of the new state. The original district has been further subdivided in to many smaller districts.

But the migration of Santals continued over the centuries either by force or voluntarily due to poverty and lack of job opportunities.

Many Santals were forcibly transported to various parts of north eastern India and far beyond to Bangladesh, Mauritius and Fuji and perhaps many more colonial outposts, working as bonded laborers in tea gardens, sugarcane plantations and other physically demanding works.

The Santals are still migrating to West Bengal, Assam and Meghalaya from their old disam (Santal Pargana) looking for work and are found in Bihar, Orissa, Chattisgarh and neighboring areas, Nepal and Bangladesh

The Santals who came under East Pakistan after partition of India in 1947 and subsequently under Bangladesh are worse off and have been displaced more than twice and some of them are homeless and without country and are still stateless. They moved back to neighboring state of Assam in search of security and better prospects but soon found themselves in the newly created state of Meghalaya. This state is inhabited mainly by the other tribes and Santals were discriminated in all aspects of their lives including education, employment and civil rights and privileges. Some of these Santals are still regarded stateless even by the government of India.

The Santals in Assam are no better off and have not been granted the status of scheduled tribe like their counterpart living in Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal and Orissa. There they are deprived of their rights and privileges in education, employment and all walks of life in spite of living there for generations. There has been recent victimization of Santals by other tribal people through killing and forcing them to go back to mother land (Jharkhand) as refugees.

The migration of santals has continued and will continue in future in the shrinking world and age of globalization. This will be more of educated and professional Santals in search of greener pastures in India and abroad.


There has been a slow but gradual increase in the number of highly educated santals recently in certain parts of santal inhabited areas and naturally they have gone to work successfully in different parts of India and beyond and are doing very well.

Some of them have gone far beyond the borders of the Indian subcontinent to Europe, North America and other countries by their own rights and are successful in their fields of work. Even uneducated and less educated Santal men and women are going to the cities and other states looking for work and better prospects.


The ancestors and fore fathers of Santal who were transported as bonded laborers to various parts of India were wiser and united. They preserved and maintained their language and culture against all odds.

But the new generation of educated santals who are working in big metropolitan towns and cities may find it difficult to preserve their language and culture. This may be due to practical problem of not having enough people around of the same kind and lack of interest, motivation and inferiority complex.

The increasing mobility and globalization and changing social outlooks is likely to lead to mixed marriages which will make it harder to preserve the language and culture in the original form.

There has been very little benefit to the santal community as a whole from the migration of their people as most of the first generation have been busy in self-development and helping their close family members. But they still have love, affection and concern for their own people in contrast to many other communities. This is their strength and will benefit the whole society at the end.

The poor plight of Santals has been exploited by the so-called forward class of people with Marxist, Leninist and leftist leaning who sympathized with their condition. The simple and innocent Santals naturally felt that they were on their side and joined them in insurgency in the early stage of naxalites movements in West Bengal and the northeastern part of India. Some Santals of Assam have recently joined in insurgency to fight against oppression and victimization. The newly created state of Jharkhand is not free from such tendencies either and some tribal people have joined them.

The vast gap between poor and rich and underdevelopment of the tribal areas has fuelled the insurgency and has revived and encouraged the ethnicity, indigeneity and sub-nationalism.

Capitalism with the ideals of free for all favors survival of the fittest and leaves behind the weaker section of the society in a disadvantaged situation and encourages insurgency, as they have no alternative.


I am a Santal myself, one of the largest tribe in India and was born and brought up in a village called BOARIJORE in the district of Godda during the last leg of British Raj. It was a beautiful place by the mountains and hills surrounded by rivers and brooks. But there were no roads, electricity, clean drinking water or health care. We were lucky to have had a primary school in the village. We had Santal and non Santal teachers and were taught in our mother tongue and Hindi. I left India some 40 years ago but I still have fond memories of my native village and the people there and have kept in close contact with them through regular visits.

The traditional Manjhi and Pargana systems were thriving when I was a young boy and in fact my late father was a Manjhi and Pargana of the area. We were happy, contented, united and law abiding in spite of poverty.

However, Santals continued to be exploited by the non-tribal landlords and moneylenders. The yield from their hard work on the lands and paddy fields were not enough to sustain them through out the year and were at the mercy of these people. They lent them rice and money at an exorbitant interest rate and santals were in debt all the time. Their lands were mortgaged unlawfully to the moneylenders and Santals were working as tenants in their own lands.

The British left in 1947 and India became independent and we all celebrated with high hope and expectation by shouting slogans and waving Indian national flags and dancing on dusty village roads.

The independent India introduced Panchayat system at the village level and the traditional Manjhi and Pargana system began to lose power and influence. The Panchayat system ushered in party politics in the village level and the traditional unity amongst the Santal community started to disintegrate.

The developmental plans and works of the local and central governments of the 5-year plans were introduced through Block Development office level, which covered a large area and population. The programmes were good and covered health, education, agriculture, irrigation and building roads, bridges and digging wells for drinking water and small-scale industries.

But the problem was that the most people working in these blocks were non-tribals from outside. They had no understanding of the culture and aspiration and needs of tribal people and did not speak their language and most of the time did not live there.

More than half a century on, after the independence, there are secondary schools for boys and girls in my old village. There is a village bank, police station, referral hospital and sprawling block office complex and a road connecting to the district headquarter and neighboring bazaars. There is also a railway track for goods trains only to take away the coals from the area to another state to run the electricity power plants. But there is no train for the villagers and there is no electricity and clean drinking water for the tribal people even now. All these have unfortunately not helped much the local santals as the staff working in the block office, hospital and schools have no real interest in their hearts for the welfare and development of the tribal people. I have certainly seen some development in the non-tribal inhabitants of my village who have built multistoried houses and flourishing businesses. But santals are still poor and living in the broken and leaking thatched houses and struggling for day-to-day existence.

But I do not despair and have high hope from all our people high and low, rich and poor in India and abroad who have experience and expertise in the various walks of life and still have love and affection for their people and urge them to spare some thought and time for the community who have been left behind in our villages.


References:An article by Mr. Anirban Roy, journalist, Hindustan Times, KOLKATTA. A book by Dr.Timothias Hembrom, KOLKATTA. An unlikely tale of a santal villager in England by Dr. D. Soren




Sunday, December 18, 2011

Indigenous People’s Access to Land in Northern-belt of Bangladesh: A Study of the Santal Community

Smritikana Das
Master of Philosophy in Indigenous Studies
Faculty of Humanities, Social Sciences and Education
University of Tromsø
Spring 2011

Supervised by:
Professor Dr. Bjørg Evjen
Centre for Sami Studies
University of Tromso, Norway




Raja Devasish Roy



The Santals of Bangladesh : An Ethnic Minority in Transition

Paper Presented at the Sixth Workshop of the European Network of
Bangladesh Studies (ENBS) held at Oslo
During 14- 16 May, 2000

Kazi Tobarak Hossain
Department of Sociology
Rajshahi University





Dr.Dhuni Soren

Presented at 5th International Santal Conference-2010. Birendra Sabhagrih, Biratnagar, Nepal.

On 23-24th April 2010

Even in the twentieth century, the Santal people of the Indian sub-continent are poor, deprived, marginalised and exploited. They are simple, honest, trusting and hardworking but majority of them are illiterate and are easy victims of injustice and human rights violation.

Some facts and figures about them would be useful to appreciate the enormity of their problems and the extent of negligence of the authorities of the countries of the sub-continent.

1. The population of Adivasi in India is 8% of the total population of more than billion people (1027015247).

2. Out of them Santal is the most populous and are estimated to be 10 million which is 1% of the total Adivasi population.

3. Apart from these there are 65000 Santal in Bangla Desh out of total population of 150448340 and 55000 in Nepal out of the total population of 27.1 million according to their National Census but are believed to be much more.

4. There is a smaller number in Bhutan and other smaller countries of the South East Asia.

5. So, the Santal people forms a sizeable part of the world Adivasi population.

Some achievements of Santal people are worth mentioning here in spite of several odds including poverty, suppression, subjugation and exploitation.

1. Preservation of their spoken language (mother Tongue) SANTALI and is still spoken by the majority of Santal people.

2. Most developed written language and literature amongst the tribal people in spite of late start.

3. Have developed own script OLCHIKI by Late Pandit Raghunath Murmu Thakur in late 1940s.But Roman, Devnagri, Bengali and Oriya scripts still used in some parts of India and neighbouring countries.

4. Privilege and distinction of being included in the scheduled 8 of the Constitution of India and joining rightful place amongst 22 other major languages of the country.

5. Preservation and practicing of customs, traditions, system of age old village governance and rich heritage.

Non Achievements of Santal people over the generations have been rather traumatic and disappointing and have kept them far behind the rest of the communities. This is so in spite of long history of struggle against injustice, exploitation and subjugation of foreign rule.

· Santal people fought against injustice and exploitation by the British Colonialists, land lords and money lenders under the leadership of famous brothers Sido, Kanhu, Chand and Bhairab during SANTAL HUL in 1855-56 and more than 10000 people sacrificed their lives. They won home land of their own called SANTAL PARGANA with certain safe guards and protection of their lands, customs, traditions and system of their village governance.

· They joined the rest of the country in the fight against British Raj and won the Independence of India 63 years ago.

· They campaigned for separate state of Jharkhand for many years to protect themselves from exploitation from the so called upper and ruling class of Bihar and internal colonialists. The new state of Jharkhand was created 10 years ago which turned out to be a great disappointment in spite of its mineral and industrial richness due to lack of foresight, vision, incompetence and corruption of political leaders.

All these years of struggles have been futile and the Adivasi people, in particular Santal have not really benefited over the years.

1. They are still beset with hunger and poverty and majority of them live below B P L.

2. They have poor health and shorter longevity due to lack of access to health care and prevention of diseases and clean drinking water.

3. High infant and maternal mortality due to lack of dedication and sincerity of health care and other workers and poor implementation of the government policies.

4. Low literacy and education amongst Adivasi.

5. Lack of aspiration and diversification of income generation methods and livelihood.

6. Simple life styles with easily met needs.

7. As a society, Adivasi people like to live in isolation amongst themselves and depriving themselves of the benefit of learning from other communities.

8. Even the government’s policies are segregating in nature like separate hostels in schools and colleges for Adivasi pupils depriving them of the opportunities to learn from association from the pupils of different background and abilities.

9. Lack of empowerment and development due to non-communication of the field workers who are generally from outside the areas and do not understand and speak local tribal languages.

10. Beset with some social ills and practices, ignorance and prejudices e.g. use or miss use of traditional alcohol in all rituals including worship, treatment during illness, wedding and funerals. And calling some women as witch or DAIN and even killing them.

11. Lack of pride in their language and identity.

Sadly, these non- achievements have taken place despite the efforts of governments and civil societies.

Diminishing population of Santals, an irony?

According to the past census of various countries, the population of Adivasi is supposed to be declining and declining rapidly in a time when there is an explosion of the world population. This is so either by design or default in the state of Jharkhand in India. According to 2001 census the population of Adivasi in Jharkhand has declined to 7087068 (26.3%) of the total of 2, 9405829. Out of 30 tribes, Santal is the most populous and are 2,410509 in number. Some of the possible causes of this decline are supposed to be the following;

1. The traditional migration of tribal work force after the harvest season to look for works outside the state.

2. Educated tribal including Santal moving to towns and metropolitan cities for better job opportunities and life style.

3. Lack of classified religious coding of tribal people for census resulting in defective data collection. In 1951 census, vague and unclassifiable entries, such as Sarna, adi dharam, ho. Munda, Tanti, kabirpanthi etc. have been shown under “other Religions-tribal” or non-tribal but has since been omitted..

4. Conversion in to different faiths and beliefs.

5. Inter caste and inter racial matrimony due to globalisation and mobility of work force.

Threats to Santal Society are two folds;

A. From within and

B. From without

From within A. The greatest threat is from Santal themselves and in particular from educated people who have moved to towns and metropolitan cities and beyond.

1. They do not pass on the language, customs and traditions to their making various pretences.

2. Lack of readily available books of customs, traditions and religious practices for new generation of Santal growing up in new and alien environments.

3. Lack of self-respect and pride in their own identity.

From without B.

1. Inaccurate data collection during Census by design or default.

2. Lack of commonly acceptable name of the Religion by the Adivasi people and documentation of their beliefs.

3. Easily being poached by other faiths due to poverty, illiteracy and ignorance.

Possible solutions may lie closer to them;

1. Once again they need to stand together and united but with open eyes and ears.

2. This will come and come only with the education and empowerment of their people.

3. Once educated, they can see and recognise their rights and privileges and speak up for themselves.

4. Once empowered they will be listened to and development and progress will follow and they will have self-respect, confidence, dignity and pride in their language, customs, traditions, culture and heritage and can walk with their heads held high and shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the communities. And

5. Can also remedy some of the social ills of the society like alcohol abuse and prejudices.

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