Adivasi rights activist and poet Dr Abhay Xaxa, who was a research scholar from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), passed away due to a heart attack. He was 37.
Nicholas Barla, who was with Abhay at the time of his passing, said, “Dr Abhay was in Jalpaigudi in West Bengal to conduct a workshop, and complained of shortness of breath, and was taken to the hospital. He was declared brought dead. His body is undergoing a post mortem, and will be taken to his native place in Chhattisgarh on Monday.”
Abhay was part of several movements, including Adivasi rights and campaigns for higher education for Adivasi youth. After doing a degree in Social Anthropology at the University of Sussex in the UK, he came back to India to pursue research. Abhay has written extensively to raise awareness about the issues he cared about, such as how much money the Centre was spending on Adivasi upliftment. His articles have been published in Firstpost and other publications. Condolence messages on Abhay Xaxa’s passing poured in from several of his fellow students and activists, mourning a loss that was too sudden.
Today we lost an incredible person. Abhay Flavian Xaxa, a brother, Adivasi rights activist and organic intellectual whose writings and activism paved a new lens to look at the question of Adivasi rights,land, territory, autonomy,cultural identity and resources. His poem " I am not your data, I am not your entertainment in Indian Habitat centre confronted the "mainstream" fetish of looking at Adivasis as field work, as exotic bodies, as mere datas, as tableaus in republic day parades, or as entertainers. His poem " Republic of Memory" has reflections of Marang Gomke Jaypal singh Munda where he asks the outsider hegemonic forces to come and learn democracy from the Adivasis and on that note Abhay Dada talks of Republic having Adivasi roots. He forged solidarity with other marginalized sections, recently stood alongside Thol Thiruma and Bala Saheb Prakash Ambedkar against CAA & NRC in New Delhi. His achievements of doing phenomenal research work from abroad in social anthropology from Sussex university and also grass root engagements with Adivasi youths makes him apart from many others . His academia and activism kept reflecting in each other through out while being connected with the roots where he came from. Personally he has been a friend and brother to so many of us around. Comfort and solace to his family members at this hour of grieving and may we carry on his writings, his activism and his poems ahead. Johar to Abhay Flavian Xaxa, one among the most critical and fierce Adivasi voice to have lived in the current times !!!
Abhay Xaxa’s most famous poem was: “I am not your data”, which opposed the government treating Adivasis as mere data.
I am not your data, nor am I your vote bank,
I am not your project, or any exotic museum object,
I am not the soul waiting to be harvested,
Nor am I the lab where your theories are tested,
I am not your cannon fodder, or the invisible worker,
or your entertainment at India habitat center,
I am not your field, your crowd, your history,
your help, your guilt, medallions of your victory,
I refuse, reject, resist your labels,
your judgments, documents, definitions,
your models, leaders and patrons,
because they deny me my existence, my vision, my space,
your words, maps, figures, indicators,
they all create illusions and put you on pedestal,
from where you look down upon me,
So I draw my own picture, and invent my own grammar,
I make my own tools to fight my own battle,
For me, my people, my world, and my Adivasi self!
This poem was first published in Round Table India.