Guj Assembly: BJP, Cong spar over terms used for tribals

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Gandhinagar, Mar 20 (PTI) The opposition Congress on Saturday asked the BJP government in the Assembly to stop using the words 'vanvasi' and 'vanbandhu' while referring to tribals, claiming that these terms were unconstitutional and derogatory.

The Congress asked the state government to refer to the tribal community as just 'adivasi' and issue a circular in this regard.

State Tribal Welfare minister Ganpat Vasava said these words had been used since ages and even the previous Congress governments in the state and the Centre had mentioned the words 'vanbandhu' and 'vanvasi' in tribal welfare schemes.

'These words are used only in some tribal welfare schemes such as Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojna. Our government has not issued any circular to replace the word adivasi with 'vanvasi' and 'vanbandhu',' Vasava said, while responding to a question in the Assembly.

The BJP has not coined these words. On the contrary, they were in use since 1976 when the Congress was in power in Gujarat, he said.

In 2006, the Congress government at the Centre had also used the word forest-dwelling scheduled tribe, which means 'vanvasi' in Gujarati, the minister said.

Congress MLA Chandrika Bariya claimed that the use of these words has hurt the sentiments of tribals, while another tribal MLA Anil Joshiara asked the government to ban these words and use only adivasi to refer to tribals.

'The word 'vanvasi' is unconstitutional. It literary means 'jungli' (uncivilised) people living in forest. Adivasi is the only appropriate title for tribals. Adivasi means people living on this land since ages. Please issue a circular to ban those words,' Joshiara demanded.

Leader of Opposition Paresh Dhanani even claimed that the word 'vanvasi' is ambiguous.

'Outsiders will start claiming to be vanvasi after shifting to forest areas. They will eventually term themselves as tribals and snatch the rights of real adivasis,' Dhanani said.

Responding to this, the minister said, 'No one can become a tribal just because he starts living in a forest. We have a strict act to keep a check on it. The fact remains that the Congress never cared for tribals in the past,' the minister said. PTI PJT PD ARU ARU