Sacrificing People is a provocative anthropological study of the structures of power and authority which the British rule imposed on a tribal people of Central India, the Konds. The Konds practised human sacrifice and in the pretext of rooting out this ‘barbaric’ ritual, the British waged wars of conquest against them subjecting them to a century of exploitation.
Recalling the violence during the colonial period, this book puts into perspective the violence and ethnic cleansing in the district of Kandhamal (2007–8) when invading forces burnt dozens of Kond villages. It also brings to light how mining companies have invaded the Kond territory due to the rich Bauxite cappings dominating their largest mountains and displaced several million tribal people.
From colonial intrusion to developmental displacement, the author draws attention to how the colonial mindset and system of exploitation continue till date. Who is an innocent victim? When is the taking of life justified? Who claims the right to do so? Who is sacrificing whom? It is through these questions that this book analyses the roots of human violence which sacrifices the essence of being human.
List of Maps
List of Abbreviations
Foreword to this edition by Hugh Brody
Preface to the new edition
Foreword to the first edition by Veena Das
Preface to the first edition
1. A Case Study of Colonialism
Nirantali and the creation of earth—On the meaning of sacrifice—‘The enlightened treatment and strong hand’—The Kond tribe—Tribal culture—‘A conquest over their minds’—The colonial power structure—Anthropology full circle
2. Conquest: The Ghumsur Wars
‘Pacification’—The deadly pursuit of honour—Punish and reward
3. Suppressing Human Sacrifice: The Meriah Agency
‘The right of the Government....did not admit of a question’—Macpherson’s war—A war of words—Campbell’s regime
4. Human Sacrifice As a Kond And Hindu Ritual
The meriah rite—Female infanticide—The context of Kond religion—The brotherhood of clans—The role of the Hindu rajahs—The Dom’s child—Interpreting human sacrifice
5. The Colonial Sacrifice of ‘Enlightened Government’
Saving meriahs: a Robinson Crusoe complex—Human sacrifice versus Christian sacrifice: the conscious contrast—Human sacrifice versus public execution: the unconscious contrast—After the Agency—Indian intermediaries: old and new elites—The sacrifice of life, land and liberty
6. ‘Soldiers of Christ’
Complementing the administration—’Giving his life for the Konds’—Missionary dualism—School and hospital: diffusing Christian knowledge—Conversion: a religion of fear—Dividing the community
7. Merchants of Knowledge: Anthropologists in a Social Structure
A gulf of understanding—The conquerors as anthropologists—‘The Kandhas do not take any thought for the morrow’—A hierarchy of knowledge—The sacrifice for science—A human anthropology?
8. In the Name of Development
Cycles of exploitation—The colonial roles—Sacrificing the present for an unreal future—What is real development?
9. Questioning the Sacrifice: A Postscript
Different levels of human sacrifice—Colonial roots of the modern sacrifice—Conflict in Kandhamal—Mining and cultural genocide
Notes to the Text