Between the Native Land and the City: Negotiations and Experiences of the Santal Migrants in Kolkata

Author:   Dr. Ruchira Das
Publisher:   Global Research Forum on Diaspora and Transnationalism
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India is the abode of hundreds of tribal communities constituting 8.2 percent of the total population of the country. The ‘adivasis’, as they are called, generally maintained a very contented, isolated and self-sufficient life with their fascinating rich cultural heritage. However, caught between the varying perceptions of development in the current neo liberal era, the tribals of India are at a crossroads of asserting their rights over native lands, quest for dignified life and the promises of greener pastures outside their native lands i.e in the cities and urban centres where they seem to be reaching in considerable numbers. A conservative estimate suggests that the tribal populations are the major constituents of the groups that are migrating within the country for various reasons, most strikingly, of course, due to development-induced displacement. Tribal communities are thus involuntarily driven out of their home lands as a result of the neoliberal, corporate driven and state sponsored, development models/ frameworks and policies. It is in this It is in this context that the paper specifically attempts to study the Santal tribe who have migrated from different parts of West Bengal and the neighbouring states of Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa and have settled in Santragachi , an urban locality that falls within the ambit of the Greater Kolkata region. The paper captures the reasons, contexts and conditions that initiated the Santal migrants to leave their native habitations and move to the city. It further discusses the role of social networks and the way they influenced the psychology of migration and migrants. The paper then goes on to present the experiences recounted by the Santal migrants about their living conditions, the challenges they confronted and the struggles they had to overcome while settling in the city. It also studies the impacts of migration and the dilemmas of the the migrants as they negotiated their rural/ native identity and the newly acquired urban/city identity. 

Keywords: Migration, Santals, Identity

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