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Shillong News Desk | Shillong, May 26, 2018: 

And everyone thought that claims made by the Tripura chief minister Biplab Deb on India, being the place of origin of the internet, millions of years ago, was an epic statement of all times! But hear this — another BJP MLA from Rajasthan has said that the Hindu god Hanuman was the world’s first tribal leader.

“World’s first tribal leader was Hanuman ji. First saint among the adivasis was Hanuman ji. When Lord Ram was on his way from Chitrakoot to the southern part of the country for the exile, Hanuman made his army of tribals and got training from Lord Ram,” Hindustan Times quoted Gyan Dev Ahuja, MLA of Ramgarh, while he was speaking at a party office on Friday.

This statement has shocked the tribals of Northeast India. While some tribal leaders have termed this ‘controversial’ statement as shocking yet not surprising, others were of the view that such comparisons are skewed and downright insulting.

Shillong News spoke to different tribal leaders from the Northeast to get their reaction on this issue and here is what they have to say:

Tripura’s royal scion, Pradyot Deb Barman has maintained that such language towards the tribals is patronizing. In his tweet, the head of the Royal Family of Tripura asked the BJP MLA to find better analogies to compare the tribal/indigenous people of our country.

Meanwhile, the chairman of North East Students’ Organisation and Meghalaya’s tribal leader, Samuel Jyrwa’s expression on the issue changed from surprise to one of amusement even as he remarked laughingly “All this is very confusing. I thought Hanuman was a god, when did he became a tribal leader? If only the MLA can elaborate more on this.”

Stating that such statements are silly and can no longer surprise him, Jyrwa said “It is shocking but not surprising. We have heard it all and we kind of expect more, now more than ever since the country is preparing for the general elections next year.”

On the other hand, the president of the Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) Lambokstarwell Marngar refused to comment on the matter stating that “I don’t want to criticize on this because the MLA who made this statement has no connection with the tribals but I feel before he makes such statements, he really needs to do his homework and get his facts correct.”

Similarly, former KSU president and ex-Meghalaya minister, Paul Lyngdoh has stated “Not worth commenting upon. Pure Drivel!”

A former journalist and writer from Nagaland, Sebastian Zumvu has this to say — One should not go by myths or Holy Book of a single religion to come to a conclusion and make a sweeping statement just to score brownie political points, or attract a section of the people not very enamoured with policies and actions of a communal political party.

If we are to study history, we can safely say there were “tribal leaders” all over the world in different civilizations in different parts of the globe! The native Americans had several tribes and peoples, the Mayans and the Incas of South America, had numerous leaders; the Celts, the Nordic people, the Gaelic, Aryans etc of Europe had several tribes and leaders; the Egyptians of yore who amaze even modern day world with their Pyramids; the tribes of Israel recorded in the Holy Bible; the various Chinese dynasties… they had their own leaders from different tribes and clans.

Sebastian ended his comment with a question — How can one be so definite that so-and-so is/was the world’s first tribal leader, without raising eyebrows?

Similarly, Academician from Nagaland, Dr Prof Rosemary Dzüvichü remarked “Oh please! Hanuman, worshiped by Hindus, who have turned tribals into outcasts as per their caste system … How does this BJP MLA intend to prove his point?”

Meanwhile, a Nagaland-based author and former editor/ journalist and thinker, Charles Chasie jokingly observed “Why does he (Gyan Dev Ahuja) want to limit Hanuman to just the tribals? Hanuman is the chief of human cousins.”

While recalling similar statements being made by Tripura CM in the past, Charles said “So many people say so many things but it will make no difference what-so-ever. However, I don’t think the BJP MLA’s statement is insulting, it is rather hilarious. It just goes on to show their ignorance and how small they have become in the eyes of the people.”

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