We know this.. Because we are Adivasis – The women and youth of Dadra & Nagar Haveli

We know this.. Because we are Adivasis

                   – The women and youth of Dadra Nagar & Haveli

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Dadra and Nagar Haveli is a Union territory that was established on 11th August, 1954. Majority of its population comprises different tribal groups.

If we look at the word Adivasi and break it down-   ‘Adi’ means people who came at the very beginning – even before the Aryans and the Dravidians. ‘Vasi’ means people who inhabited the land. We have been living in the forests and the hills from time immemorial. Some of the predominant tribes in this area are – Warli, Konkna, Koli, Dhodiya, Kathodi and Naika. 

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we, the Adivasis of Dadra and Nagar Haveli engage in Tarpa, Tur and Dhol to create a folk dance. We have our own culture and traditions that differ/ vary from tribe to tribe. Ours is a land of phrases, stories. All these greatly influence our society. Songs and dance is an inseparable part of our lives. We have songs for harvest, weddings as well as funerals.

Government runs the country but we own the country. This has been said since we have not only respected but worshipped water, forests and land. We have regarded this as a gift from god.

Screen Shot 2020-04-23 at 14.19.33We,  who once coexisted with all these natural resources have been marginalized by the British and their influences, the upper caste (Brahmins) and those who value money the most instead of nature.

The marginalization has been so much that now we are viewed as people who are “backward”. However I want to tell everyone that the Adivasi society is that of self-respect and is fiercely fighting for its rights.

Meetings – how it all started

I came to Dadra & Nagar Haveli in 2011. I stayed in Velugaon which is one of the farthest villages in this area where we work. Once I started to live there, I keenly observed the lives of people here, by meeting them, talking at length with them; it was like I was experiencing it from very near by. I kept thinking I need to do some work around what I am seeing, something has to be done. In a way it took the shape of a dream for me.

In 2017-2018, these dreams started to turn into a reality through our association with Animedh Trust and Ummeed Child Development Centre. 

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Women from the villages told us that problems were starting out early in life with challenges in quality education, not being able to cope with the same, dropping out of school, taking up odd jobs in companies (since there are so many companies in Dadra). When easy money comes from these company jobs, there is a greater possibility of engaging with alcohol and other substances, this has also caused a sharp increase in the road accidents in our area. Domestic violence levels are high in our communities. This has complicated the lives of both young men and women.



When we started to work with Ummeed, we went back to the villages and started to engage with the people again. 3-day workshops every month were initiated on the issue of mental health. As the women started to engage with these training, they also started to go into the villages and started dialogues with the people on key issues that are related to them. I must say that we have got a very positive and encouraging response from children, teachers in school as well as women from the communities.

Another aspect of this training has been to use innovative methods for training which I feel have helped people to express themselves better.

When I see this initiative, it fills my heart with joy. I feel we will sure make a difference in the lives of our tribal brothers and sisters who constitute 60% of the Dadra population.


We know that discourses are traditions that have been going on since ancient times E.g. patriarchal society, mother-blame, rituals and customs. These discourses are affecting our society, our families, our thoughts, our work, our relationships and our health.

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Most of the time it comes into our stories, traditions, cultures in such a way that we cannot see it. If we are not aware of these discourses, we will not come to know about these things. Therefore, we do not know in which situation we will be placed in . 

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So we are raising awareness about casteism, socio-economic, gender, religious and social class and other such discourses!

We know that we are not the problem, these discourses are the problem! 

Living Together  – To coexist in love and care

We know when we work with each other and support each other the work at hand gets lighter. The work that we take up in communities also becomes more possible. People whom we talk to also feel that what is being discussed is possible to achieve. 

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All of us having different skill sets adds to our strength. Since it’s a collective strength, it’s very strong and special. It never breaks and makes it possible to achieve any task or challenge at hand. If we stick together this way, we know what we dream for our communities and villages, is very possible to achieve.


For us Adivasis, land is our mother and just like one takes care of their mother, we take care of our land. It is our family and the basis of our very living. We are because the land is. Thanks to the land that we get nutritious food.

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The industries and pollution adversely affect the land, by giving lesser yield and becoming barren. However, when we care for the land well, we can transform it from it being barren to it becoming green. Our life too is just like this land. Due to the many prevalent discourses, our lives go through many challenges and setbacks. These discourses negatively impact our relationships and the Adivasi culture.

Just like the land has many attributes to it, we know that we all have varied skill sets, qualities, abilities, hopes and intentions.

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We also know that if we come together and stand with love and care for each other, many of these problems can be solved.

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By working on our skills and abilities, we can create a life and society that we would like to live in. Where good health, happiness and excitement coexist.

The ‘Worry’


We know that all our difficulties have origins in discourses, not in our bodies or within us or our identities. Holding onto these ideas, we spoke about Worry in villages and schools with children and women.
First we got together children of the school in Velugaun in a circle for play/games. After the play, children were grouped together and were shown worry related pictures in books and asked questions about the worry that was depicted. Children gave varied answers to those questions such as Ghost, monster, firecracker, etc.

We asked children if they also know of or have experienced these worries and discussed it. On paper, we asked them to draw the pictures or drawings according to them. They began to create their own books and drew different drawings on Worry. As we continued asking questions on the same, they added colours, form, time, eyes, nose, legs, ears and how many of them, and gave names to the Worry .

What is the result of this Worry? How does it affect our bodies, minds, studies?. They depicted through their drawings. Does Worry grow? Does it walk? Does it have teeth? Does it have a mouth? Through these examples, we discussed with them whether it should stay as it or would they like it to be reduced. If Worry keeps growing, how can we make it go away? Through play. Talking to each other. They showed all this in their books.  

When asked, how did you feel after making these books? Children had a different kind of joy and happiness on their faces. They were showing their books to each other.  Amongst the children, a happy life was made visible.

Child Development

We know that child development and mother’s mental health are closely linked to each other. For example – if a mother’s emotional health is good, she will be able to give attention towards her child’s development while timely managing the other chores at hand. She will play with the infant, spend time with them. This will fortify the mother-child bond which will try to ensure child’s development.

However, if a mother’s mental health is not good, she might struggle to pay attention to the child’s development which will lead to guilt and self-blame. She will be convinced of being a “not good enough mother”. This blame on mothers gets created due to various discourses that surround us. For example – when a baby is born in our community, after 3-4 days of their birth, they are given “Daab”. This is a painful practice.

If the mother chooses to not allow her child to be given Daab and if the child develops any stomach ache, she is blamed for not having given the child Daab. There are many such discourses alienating mothers in patriarchal society. These discourses of “Mother blame” that repeatedly tell her that she is not a good mother, directly and adversely affect her mental health. This will make her attending to the child even more difficult.

For this very purpose, we go from village to village with the intention to support young mothers on their journey and to connect child development and maternal mental health.

“United we stand and divided we fall.

Let’s get together to create the society we all wish to see and be a part of.”

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Ending this beautiful journey of the women and youth of Dadra & Nagar Haveli by one of their songs;

आदिवासी (Original song)

अमे आदिवासी..  

... . ... 

अमे जंगल मां रहेनारा.. 

अमे डोंगर मां वसनारा.. 


अमे कुदरत ना खोले रमनारा (2)

अमे आनंद उल्हास मां जीवनारा (2)

…. अमे आदिवासी..  ... . ... 

अमे जंगल मां रहेनारा.. अमे डोंगर मां वसनारा.. 


ताप तड़काम काम करनारा..   (2)

अमे आनंद उल्हासथी काम करनारा..   (2)

अमे धरती माता ने पूजनारा..  (2)

अमे दरिया ना पानी मां कुदनारा..   (2)

अमे झरना नु पानी पिनारा..  (2) 

…. अमे आदिवासी..  ... . ... 

अमे जंगल मां रहेनारा.. अमे डोंगर मां वसनारा.. 


कुदरत अमारू जीवन छे.. (2) 

अमे कुदरत नी वच्चे रहेनारा..   (2)

अमे आनंद ख़ुशी थी रहेनारा..  (2)

…. अमे आदिवासी..  ... . ... 

अमे जंगल मां रहेनारा.. अमे डोंगर मां वसनारा.. (2)

Following is the English translation of the song;

Adivasi (indigenous people)

Ooo.. we are Adivasi (indigenous people)

Ooo Ooo Oooo Oooo 

We live in jungles 

We stay in the hills


We play in the lap of the nature (2)

We live with joy and mirth (2)

Ooo.. we are Adivasi.. Ooo Ooo Oooo Oooo

We live in jungles.. we stay in the hills


We work in the heat of the sunrays (2)

We work with joy and elation (2)

We worship the mother land (2)

We dive into sea water (2)

We drink spring water (2)

Ooo.. we are Adivasi.. Ooo Ooo Oooo Oooo

We live in jungles.. we stay in the hills


Nature is our life (2)

We live in/amongst nature (2)

We live with happiness (2)


Ooo.. we are Adivasi.. Ooo Ooo Oooo Oooo

We live in jungles.. we stay in the hills (2)


This blog post is a key note address written by the women and youth of Premankur and Animedh charitable trust at Dadra & Nagar Haveli and was presented at Weaving our voices, 2nd international narrative practices conference held in Mumbai on 1-2Feb 2020.

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