Birender Yadav is born on 01.01.1992. It as an opportune number, not for the use astrological speculations but the possibilities of a job in a government coal mine in Dhanbad, Jharkhand. Jharkhand or the Land of Forests, became a state afters years of of land and cultural rights struggle by an educated wing of tribal students who sought autonomy for their lands with the federation of the Union. The forests of Jharkhand are rich in a diversity of resources both in flora, fauna and natural minerals. But since the time of colonization, these forests have been colonized by successive regimes who have been local and invading. It is in fact a land of continuous colonization. The population who live in harmony with the forests are deemed 'tribals' or the more patronizing moniker 'Adivasis' - those inhabit in a past before civilization. Though they possess complex languages from the austro-asiatic family and a culture that is more sophisticated than the neighboring regions where society is divided on the strands of caste and color hierarchy. Birender Yadav's family arrived three generation ago from Ballia in the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh to Dhanbad to work in Coal mines. The migration was easy as then Dhanbad and the state of Jharkhand were part of Bihar which is a sister state of UP. Yadav's father worked as the Blacksmith at the Colliery and often needed diagrams to create instruments needed in the excavation of coal. He would encourage his son to draw him diagrams and design the lines of the casting for his instruments. As Birender turned 15, his father decided he should pursue a study in Fine Arts so that he could return to Dhanbad and begin a family business in forging instruments. He was sent to Banaras, better known as Varanasi, and here he studied for his 0 & A Levels and soon graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Banaras Hindu University. Birender Yadav one day while at school in Benaras or Varanasi came across of men called the Jahrkhandi men colloquially. These were men brought to a town in the outskirts of Varanasi called Mirzapur, here they toiled night and day in brick kilns. Birender had recognized them from the Khortha language they spoke, the patois used in Dhanbad between the indigenous people and the settlers. Yadav soon realised huge gangs of indigenous Santhals and Mundas are trafficked across India to work in construction and brick kilns. Yadav began to document their presence in the region which was coincidentally also the region from where his family had migrated Dhanbad. He was surprised by the twist in the tale how his family had migrated to escape poverty to Jharkhand and they had displaced its indigenous population into dislocated precariousness. He began to take their fingerprints as forms of a drawings. They were unable to write or sign in their names. Their identity lay in it being taken away from them through political and economic war. They stamped their thumbs onto faces as they did for government forms obscuring their portraits. Instead Yadav drew them in ink enlarging their thumbprints onto large scale. The result is a tragic comedy of visuals, a painful still humorous satire of loss and an artists efforts to narrate the ugliest picture of coal mining. Yadav earlier this year was on a residency at the 1 Shanthi Road Bangalore. When he reached the city found a certain comical agitation for a state flag that had been heard of in India except in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Parochialism, Regional and Linguistic Nationalism plagues many parts of India. It is most prevalent in states where it becomes a rallying point against federalism. The Indian National Congress a secular federationist party to prevent the deluge of populist fascism has begun to play the politics of language and flags in the state of Karnataka. Whilst there Birender saw a packet of matches that held the same colours of the flag of Karnataka - Yellow and Red. He rubbed off the red combustible dust on the matchbox and painted a flag using turmeric (also an antiseptic) for yellow and the rubbings from matchboxes for the deep red. In another work he divided the yellow and red flag by a simple zip. Then painting the farmer also depicted on the matchbox as a social message, he began to right the word 'kisan' or farmer in white onto the various hues of the flags of Indian political parties. Commenting on their failures to deliver on social justice and equity but their obsession to use sloganeering and design to gather crowds. He changes to delicate watercolour the graphic of a one rupee steel coin that reads 'Food for All'.
Text by: Sumesh Sharma