Adivasi Poet Jacinta Kerketta Declines Aaj Tak Sahitya Jagriti Udyman Pratibha Samman

By Marian Grace

Jacinta Kerketta, an esteemed Adivasi poet and journalist, has chosen not to accept the Aaj Tak Sahitya Jagriti Udyman Pratibha Samman, a prestigious literary award presented by the India Today Group, recognizing her collection of Hindi-language poems titled "Ishwar aur Bazaar," as reported by Newslaundry.

Championing Indigenous Voices and Struggles

"Ishwar aur Bazaar," published in 2022 by Rajkamal Prakashan, delves into the critical challenges faced by India's Indigenous communities and their relentless grassroots battles against dominant powers. Kerketta, hailing from the Oraon Adivasi community, was born in 1983 in Khudaposh, a village nestled in Jharkhand's West Singhbhum district. In a nod to her prowess, Forbes acknowledged her in 2022 as one of the 22 self-made women in India.

The Refusal: Collective Celebration over Personal Recognition

Expressing her stance, Kerketta shared with Newslaundry that while a book concerning society holds significance, it's the people themselves who truly matter. "Our perspective differs; we seek collective acknowledgment of our endeavors... What purpose does a writer or poet serve by chasing personal accolades? It's due to these principles that I declined the honor," she emphasized.

Media Responsibilities and Adivasi Representation

Kerketta criticized the mainstream media for neglecting to illuminate the struggles of Adivasis. She pointed out, "It's not solely about one media outlet, but my decisions are greatly influenced by how the supposed mainstream media portrays the marginalized sections of our society."

Voicing Concerns for the Marginalized

Drawing attention to the hardships faced by the Kuki-Zomi tribals in Manipur, Kerketta conveyed that the news of the award failed to evoke joy. "At a time when the survival and dignity of Manipur's tribal communities are under threat," she remarked, referring to the devastating ethnic clashes between the Meiteis and the tribal Kukis since May 3. The violence has resulted in over 200 casualties, compelling nearly 60,000 individuals to flee their homes.

Insight into Sahitya Aaj Tak Awards

The Sahitya Aaj Tak awards, an annual celebration honoring achievements in Indian language literature, are slated to unfold over three days at the National Stadium in New Delhi, commencing today. The accolade, accompanied by a cash prize of Rs 50,000, holds a significant position in the literary realm.

Kerketta's principled refusal underscores her commitment to collective recognition and draws attention to the pressing issues faced by India's Indigenous communities, offering a poignant reminder of the importance of representing their narratives in mainstream discourse.