You SHOULD…Read: The Adivasi Will Not Dance By Debanuj DasGupta

You must read The Adivasi Will Not Dance, a collection of ten short stories by Hansda Sowendra Shekhar, winner of the Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar, 2015 (The National India Academy of Letters Award, 2015). Shekhar collected stories of Santhal tribes (scheduled tribes of India are pre-nation state indigenous communities) while working as a medical officer in a remote part of the Jharkhand state, a newly formed state in India with large Santhal population. Each story reveals the territorial interstices of Santhali life in India. The third story November is the Month of Migrations is a brutal, raw, and harsh description of how Talami (a young Santhal girl) had to exchange sexual favors with a police officer in return of two cold breads and Rs 50.00 (90 cents). Santhali community members called the story pornographic and burnt effigies of Sowendra Shekhar. In response to the protests, the Jharkhand government has banned the book. As I sat in the early September warm breeze in my Storrs-Masfield backyard and leafed through the bright turquoise blue covers, Sowendra’s writing transposed me into the forests of West-Bengal and Jharkhand (where I grew up & often traveled on winter vacations to the Santhal areas). The stories narrate struggles of Mangla Murmu the troupe-master of a performing group who would not dance for the President of India and is brutally beaten down on the ground, while another one narrates the story of Bikram-Kumang who is asked to hide his Santhali roots by his Hindu upper-caste landlord. The book will take you on a journey of indigenous communities in India, and reveals how generations of Indian tribes live with the ravages of colonization.