A Man of the People

Heera Markam’s fight for the political empowerment of Gonds

01 March 2021
illustration by kevin ilango
illustration by kevin ilango

On 28 October last year, Heera Singh Markam, a former member of legislative assembly from a constituency now in Chhattisgarh and a co-founder of the Gondwana Gantantra Party, passed away at a hospital in Bilaspur after a prolonged illness.

None of the short obituaries published in the national newspapers or the tickers on news channels did any justice to the legacy Heera left behind. They mentioned that he was a “prominent tribal leader,” that he “served as the national president of the GGP,” and that he is “survived by his wife and two sons,” among other inane details. Even in Chhattisgarh, Heera’s native state, no single obituary seemed to show any grasp of his legacy and work. Among the English-language national media, only Outlook India, The Week and Republic World covered his death, and all of them carried only a short piece put out by the news agency Press Trust of India. There were no opinion pieces by public intellectuals discussing his contribution to the Adivasi cause. Even Hindi media platforms, such as Navbharat Times and Dainik Bhaskar, only spared a few hundred words covering the news of his passing.

This is no surprise, since it mirrored a clear vacuum even in academic writing. There is no comprehensive work on the GGP’s contribution to Adivasi society, or even to Gond history. The media and the academy have long invisibilised the Gonds’ political assertion in the larger national discourse, and even in the discourse on Adivasis.

Akash Poyam is an assistant editor at The Caravan.

Keywords: Scheduled Tribes Adivasis Gonds Gondwana Ganatantra Party Gondwana movement Chhattisgarh Madhya Pradesh