October 11, 2013

From aboriginals to tribalism: Why India needs to clean up its house before accusing others

Right at the start, let me take up the example of Canada, which is celebrating the 250th anniversary of The Royal Proclamation of 1763, issued by King George III – a landmark document which is considered by Canada’s aboriginal leaders as the bedrock of their rights. Shawn Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations (a body of leaders of First Nations in Canada, which aims to protect the rights of aboriginals in Canada) said on this occasion, “We need a robust agenda of change. Now is the era of action… We set out the priorities that will lift us up and carry the country forward.”

While reading this, I got thinking about the dismal picture of our very own aboriginals – or should I say tribals – as the term “aboriginals” is not used in the Indian context. The tribes living in India can be traced back to the primitive times, satisfying the similar condition of genesis, as has been the case in Australia, Canada and United States. Tribal communities in India make up 8 per cent of our population, and are mostly concentrated in central and eastern parts of India, in the states of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal. But such an expansive presence is of not much significance as tribes and tribal communities in India have been kept historically marginalised and deliberately disadvantaged. The marginalisation of Indian tribal communities has taken place not only in the economic and social spheres, but also in the cultural arena. Like European settlers, we also discriminated them on the basis of their culture, beliefs, customs and values. They were and are never accepted in the mainstream of our society. What to say of that, even the Indianness of their culture and heritage is questioned.

For centuries, the ‘superior’ connotation attached with the ‘upper’ echelons (whatever that means) of the Indian society bred discrimination, marginalisation and despicable persecution of the tribal groups – in some cases, historical and religious texts are forwarded as justification for such persecution. I am sure you must have read some or the other of our mythological scriptures depicting the tribal clan as some kind of a bad omen to the non-tribal. If that’s not discrimination, then what is? We keep harping about racism and subjugation of the disadvantaged by Western nations. Are we any different than these Western nations in our treatment to the adivasis? What is more disturbing is that despite an equitable Constitution giving equal rights and privilege to all citizens, the intolerance for adivasis in our society is abound. It is not that successive Indian governments didn’t take measures for redemption (led by the example that Mahatma Gandhi set while preaching equality of classes), but the genuineness in applicability of these measures is still far from being desired.

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2 comments:

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Priyanka das said...

It is really said that any government which runds the state has the same approach towards the adivasis, which has resulted in the repeated denials of their basic rights.

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