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Valasa Bultoo Radio: Indigenous Radio Station Gives Voice to India's Displaced Tribal Communities in India

By Shubhranshu Choudhary, Editor, Valasa Bultoo Radio (Bluetooth Radio for Displaced Indigenous People)

Deep in the heart of India's troubled central region, where Indigenous Peoples, known as Tribal communities, face displacement and hardship due to Maoist conflict, a ray of hope emerges from the airwaves. Valasa Bultoo Radio, a mobile radio project, is giving a voice to these often-ignored groups. With support from Cultural Survival and CGnet Swara, this unique radio station acts as a vital lifeline, spreading information, fostering connection, and empowering these marginalized communities.

"Radio for the Displaced," called Valasa Bultoo in Gondi, is a mobile Bluetooth radio station made by and for people who have been forced to leave their homes—internally displaced Indigenous Peoples. Speaking mostly in Gondi, their native language, they break down walls of information and make sure everyone hears what they need: news, health advice, school programs, and stories of their own culture. This radio station helps these communities rebuild their lives, both right now and in the future.

Valasa Bultoo isn't just a radio station; it's a place where everyday people tell their stories. Whether sharing joys, worries, or hopes, their voices connect the community, celebrate their heritage, and give power, especially to women and young people, to break free and be heard.

Pavan Kumar, a Tribal student displaced by the conflict, found his calling through Valasa Bultoo. Now equipped with audio reporting and editing skills, he aspires to continue giving voice to his people's struggles and advocating for their well being. Kumar says, “I learned how to report and edit audio stories on CGnet. I had never used a laptop before. I want to continue this work for my people who live in a very difficult situation. I want to raise their voice and help them tell their problems to the world. I also continued my studies while working."


Nagamani, a Koya (Gond) Indigenous girl, echoes this sentiment. Her work with the radio helped halt a government land grab in her community, showcasing the power of collective action and informed advocacy. Nagamani says, “Now I edit stories at CGnet. I was very glad when I could help some people of my community when the government uprooted their crops and took away the land from them where they are farming after being displaced due to ongoing conflict in our area. We have been able to stop the government land grab, though the danger is not over. So I want to continue this work of telling the world about what is happening in my community in the deep forests of Dandakaranya where we live."

Valasa Bultoo is doing more than just helping people in need. It is giving them the tools to rebuild their lives. It teaches them about health, education, and how to deal with being displaced. It shows how technology can make a real difference, and how people's generosity can truly change lives.

Cultural Survival and CGnet Swara joined forces, giving hope to Indigenous communities in Central India who were forced to leave their homes. Valasa Bultoo Radio is their beacon of strength and their right to be heard. As Kumar’s and Nagamani's experiences show, this project isn't just giving them a voice. It's letting a whole generation tell their own story, one radio broadcast at a time.

In 2022, Valasa Bultoo Radio received a grant from the Indigenous Community Media Fund, which provides opportunities for international Indigenous radio stations to strengthen their infrastructure and broadcast systems and creates training opportunities for journalism, broadcasting, audio editing, technical skills, and more for radio journalists from Indigenous communities around the world. In 2023, the Indigenous Community Media Fund supported communities with 60 grants totaling $420,000 to Indigenous community media in 20 countries, supporting 87 Indigenous Peoples.