ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Damsels Not in Distress

Adivasi Protagonists in Alice Ekka’s Writings

Alice Ekka’s protagonists are strong Adivasi women who have agency, choices, and dreams.

The upper-caste-dominated publishing industry and the privileged writers have written about the indigenous communities of India in multitudinous forms of media. Ranging from upper-caste social media influencers mocking Adivasi culture and thereby manifesting their own lack of merit to savour complex and privileged pens gazing at Adivasi women, there has been an intentional erasure of female Adivasi voices. In this context, the Hindi book, Alice Ekka ki Kahaniyaan (Stories by Alice Ekka 2015), edited by Vandana Tete, comes across as a revelation when, in fact, it should have been celebrated all along.

Born in 1917 in Ranchi, Ekka began writing in Hindi in the 1950s and was a regular writer in the weekly Adivasi founded in 1947 by the Bihar government’s Department of Information and Public Relations. Her first available work is her translation of Khalil Gibran’s work in the August 1959 edition of Adivasi, though Tete estimates that it is quite possible that she might have written in earlier editions. Unfortunately, a significant part of Ekka’s work has been lost—some misplaced by her family over time and some by the state. After the formation of Jharkhand following the separation from Bihar, the then public relations department officers from Bihar sold the old copies at scrap value, destroying not only salient works in Ekka’s oeuvre but also of all those writers from Jharkhand whose works had been published in the magazine. Being the first female Adivasi graduate from present-day Jharkhand and the first female Adivasi writer to be published in Hindi, Ekka’s oeuvre explicates complex contemporary realities and an innate, inherited connection with the environment through simple language. In her introduction to the book, Tete reflects that Adivasi women do realise that “a nation and its development” have deceived them, and yet they are striving towards “nation-building” with a focused vision.

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Updated On : 12th Jun, 2022
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