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Photographer's Note

There I was on the evening after Christmas in the middle of a vast stretch of tilled land on the Bengal delta where mustard will be sown tomorrow, and tomato in the next field. It was nearly sunset and these landless adivasi laborers would soon trudge nearly five kilometers to their makeshift cottages.

Recent DNA evidence indicates that ancestors of the adivasis, there are over 300 tribes spread over the Indian subcontinent, first migrated into this land about 50,000 years ago from Africa, and they might have been from the same lineage that migrated to Australia and the Americas during a subsequent ice age, when land bridges connected these continents. They seem to be genetically very similar to the rest of Asian population, but quite distinct from the upper caste Indians. The latter appear more similar to Europeans in DNA sequence similarity than to the rest of Asians. One theorizes that waves of migrants have entered the subcontinent from central asia or the middle east, each succeeding wave with more aggressive technology, and have slowly established their control over much of this ancient land, thus pushing the first migrants into the fringes of the society, taking their land, taking their women occasionally (there is DNA evidence of female contribution from lower castes into the upper caste genome but not the reverse, neither of any male contribution from the lower to the upper). We see its resonance in ancient Indian epics, like in the Ramayana, where the forest dwelling people live separately from the village folks. The adivasis had their own earthly gods and goddesses, forms of kali and manasa, for example, unlike the abstract concept of god that the newcomers had brought, which the newcomers slowly fell under the spell of, and also their own secret herbal remedies were valuable to the newer immigrants, so the newcomers 'stole' their knowledge and usurped their land. Pushed out into the forests and barren vistas, the adivasis live in utter helplessness. Persecuted by the forest service officials for encroaching, their trees harvested by loggers, their land destroyed by mining companies, drowned out by dams and reservoirs, their rebellion extinguished by violent massacers and relentless persecution through the ages, they increasingly come to the villages and cities in search of temporary work as farm laborers or construction workers. Hardly unioninized, they are open to further exploitation.

They do not have cell phone.

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Additional Photos by Animesh Ray (AnimeshRay) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 687 W: 47 N: 846] (9087)
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