In MP village, Rahul seeks BJP apology for calling tribals ‘vanvasi’

A day after Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan flagged off the ‘Janjatiya Gaurav Abhiyan’ from Badoda Aheer village of Khandwa, the birthplace of  tribal icon and freedom fighter Tantya Bhil, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi arrived at the village as part of his Bharat Jodo Yatra and took on the BJP for referring to people from tribal communities as “vanvasis”, or forest-dwellers.

Addressing a public rally in the village, Rahul said, “A few days ago, I heard a speech of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in which he used a new word ‘vanvasi’, for ‘Adivasi’. It means Adivasis are not the first owners of the country; that they only live in forests.”

The thought behind using the “disrespectful” word may be that once forests disappear under the BJP-led government, tribals will have no place to live, he said.

Rahul also said, “The British hanged Tantya Bhil to curb our freedom movements. And the RSS, which was against the freedom movement, helped the British to kill people (leaders from tribal communities) such as Tantya Bhil and Birsa Munda.”

Rahul assured the residents that Adivasis will get all their rights when the Congress returns to power. At the village, Rahul offered tributes to Tantya Bhil and then interacted with the family of Sonibai, a fourth-generation descendant of Tantya Bhil.

While the villagers said they were excited to meet Rahul, they have little hope of their main problems getting resolved: houses under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna, water connection, and proper roads. Many residents of Badoda Aheer, a village with a population of 845, say these visits of top political leaders mean little.

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