Posted by Sameer Bhagat
In the month just gone by, one of the satellite TV movie channels was once again showing the Hollywood movie, Avatar, as the blockbuster movie of the month. Its regular runs and the re-runs reminded me of some of the claims made by the people from the Adivasi community of Jharkhand and the adjoining states. In fact, I first heard about it when this epic movie was released way back in 2009. At that time the Adivasi natives had asserted that the Writer-Director James Cameroon’s modern day cinematic spectacle was in fact narrating the slice of stories from their lives.
Let us take a closer look at the 8 reasons why Avatar movie tells the stories of the Adivasi community?
1. Not so long ago, Adivasi lived in clean environment in the midst of the most amazing flora and fauna. But then their land was discovered by the profit-driven businesses backed by the government. In Avatar movie, the sole purpose of RDA, an international consortium of major corporations, is to find and exploit the natural resources of other planets. This consortium discovers a planet Pandora boasting of an amazing flora and fauna. Pandora is a home of the primitive humanoid species, called Na’vi. But for the marauding humans, this planet is a home of the richest mineral wealth only. They completely forget about the lives of the indigenous Na’vi people and the incredible flora and fauna of Pandora.
Adivasi people have always lived in the perfect harmony with the natural world.
2. During British Colonial era, East India Company was the first big business entity to visit the homes of Adivasi. Since then, hordes of companies have straddled across their homes to maximise their profits.
In the movie, the consortium is trying to bridge the cultural gap with the aboriginal Na’vi people in the Avatar movie. The object of the game is not to go there and mine the precious minerals. They want to build up an industrial infrastructure. They want to tame it and to civilise it. So they believed that the idea of the colonisation, in its classic sense won’t work. Pandora has indigenous population. So they were perceived to be ‘primitives’, but the the kind that have brains and hands so maybe they can be taught to do things that the consortium needs. They assume that if they give the natives cool technology to ‘improve’ their lives, in return Na’vi might be so ‘grateful’, that they will not only work in factories, but even build them a consortium.
3. The Adivasi community of Jharkhand and its neighbouring states live on the land blessed with the abundant natural resources. So over the years these native lands have attracted all kinds of greedy Individuals and the insatiable Corporate. It is like a mad gold rush, wherein these raiders dig up the overloaded mineral wealth to line their own pockets, and they do not even spare natives’ sacred groves.
In Avatar, Pandora is blessed with a naturally occurring substance called ‘unobtanium’ – it is a million times more precious than the Gold. Unobtainium is a rare-earth mineral, which is a room-temperature superconductor. Another interesting property of unobtanium is that they levitate in a powerful magnetic field. In Pandora, the effect causes huge out cropping of unobtanium to rip loose from the surface and float in the magnetic currents. Pandora natives call them the ‘Thundering Rocks’ and the entire area is sacred to them. This mineral is unique to Pandora. After the consortium has come to mine these mountains and become rich they rename sacred hills as the ‘Hallelujah Mountains’.
4. Adivasi people have always lived in the perfect harmony with the natural world. For instance, people from Oraon tribe trace their Totem (called Gotra) to the diverse range of flora and fauna. It means that each family unit in Oraon traces their roots to their unique Gotra. Oraon believes that these auspicious living beings helped their ancestors – therefore Oraons are indebted and must protect them.
Na’vi has protested against the humans clearing the trees at one of their sacred sites in the movie. They mourn the spirit of a tree when it dies. Visiting humans do not appreciate it, as they do not want to understand a primitive culture which lives close to the soil, close to the daily cycle of birth and death. When the humans give handed a gun so that they could hunt better, the Na’vi return it. As the Na’vi consider it unfair and obscene to hunt with a gun – these fire weapon dishonours the spirit of the animals and the purpose to their existence. Na’vi believes that everything has a purpose, and sometimes the animals’ purpose is to feed the Na’vi and sometimes the Na’vi purpose is to feed the animals.
5. History of Adivasi (Indigenous) communities is replete with all types of tricks of trade that are (and were) being used to subdue them in their own homeland. For example, the Adivasi people of Jharkhand have named their exploiters as the Dikku. Theses Dikku viciously attack (they did it in past too) the Adivasi’s way of life, their culture, religion, traditions, languages, music, etc. They criticise everything that is associated with Adivasi community to make them feel inferior and lesser.
over the years these native lands have attracted all kinds of greedy Individuals and the insatiable Corporate.
The consortium’s Avatar program tries to get the Na’vi natives to trust the humans (Sky People). Just so humans can use them? So they can harness them? So they can exploit them? So they can make them slaves, and teach them to participate in the ravaging of their own home planet? The humans even use the services of scientists, soldiers, anthropologists, administrators, and many more to suppress them.
6. Many people belonging to the Adivasi community, more so the younger generations have been educated, re-educated and brainwashed by the Dikku, as a result many of them remain ignorant of the irreparable loss that has befallen on their community. Nevertheless, the older and knowledgeable generations of Adivasi lament the loss of the nature’s greatest gifts to mankind; as they watch in vain.
The irony is that the greatest treasure on Pandora is not the precious minerals. It is the bio-diversity in the forest. But the humans wish to bulldoze and destroy the forest. Their tractors and bulldozers rout the forest. When their swath of destruction reaches full circle, the forest of the centre is ignited. Na’vi natives watch in horror from a hillside as the flames burn like a funeral pyre below; as they do not understand what is happening. They trusted the humans but the humans betrayed them. With their corruption and deceits, the humans are going to turn Pandora into another Earth. Slowly but steadily, the humans are going to suck the life out of it, and kill it like a malignant cancer.
7. In our democratic country, the poor people from the Adivasi community have been displaced without consent from their homes. They were not given the proper compensation, rehabilitation, and resettlement packages by their exploiters as they wait for a real-life Avatar – one that will lead a fight-back against the Dikku, moreover they hope that this avatar will also alleviate their pain and sorrow.
Avatar (Jake) tells Na’vi natives that they are not just fighting for this part of the forest, or these few trees, but for the very future of their Pandora planet. He informs that the history of the humans (Sky People) is one of the bloods. For as long as, Jake can be remember, the humans take what is not theirs. They take the land and hunting ground of other people, and kill them, or put them in places they cannot live. They call this progress, and it has led them down the path to sickness and death. Their world, their forest, is a dying place. They have killed their mother Earth. And they will do the same here. They must be driven away. When the humans come again they will come with all their force, and Na’vi people must be ready. They must fight, to their last breath, or else they will abuse and kill their mother Pandora as they did their own mother Earth.
8. Adivasi people believe that because of few selfish fellow humans, our planet Earth is heading towards the self-destruction. Maybe it’s time for all of us to avoid the pit-falls inflicted by self-inflicted wounds.
Avatar movie depicts that over-population, over-development, nuclear-terrorism, environmental-warfare, waste-dumps, toxic, pollution, deforestation, global- warming, ozone-depletion, bio-diversity-loss through extinction, etc; all of these have combined to make the once green and beautiful planet Earth a terminal cesspool. All whales and at least half the fish’s species are extinct. On land, over half the species are gone forever, with most of them remaining endangered. The human race, using its technical ingenuity, has learned to keep itself alive, but it has lost almost all contact with the natural world.
Not only in India, but around the world, the tribal, the indigenous and the aboriginal population stressed that they could identify with the fictional fable about the ‘Na’vi’ natives. We know that many naysayers would discard these assertions as mere rambling of the Adivasi community. But the truth has funny way of staring back at us, when you least expect them.
As famous painter Pablo Picasso once said, everything you can imagine is real.
Sameer Bhagat is an author of the contemporary socio-political novel ‘Salvaging Adidweep’ which is set in the dreaded red-corridor and voices the Adivasi’s views. He is also the Founder of an online-magazine ‘Focus‘ in Jharkhand and one of his internet ventures is called TribalStuff, it promotes all things tribals. You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.