Tribes of India, unacknowledged part of the society

‘The first problem we have to face in the tribal areas is to inspire the tribal people with confidence and to make them feel at one with India, and to realise that they are part of India and have an honoured place in it.’, said Jawaharlal Nehru when he was formulating India’s Tribal Policy at the time of independence in 1947. 

But are they considered a part of India, when the people in cities have refused to acknowledge them not even as the backward section of the society, let’s know more, 

Earth Day: Eight amazing facts that prove tribal people are the best  conservationists - Survival International
photo credits- Survival International

It was particularly complex to integrate the tribes into the mainstream country because they lived in various parts of the country, had a different culture, geography and language. They are primarily settled in forests and mountains where they have no communication with people in towns or other tribes.  

They are primarily identified by their language. Tribes like Mundas, Hos, Santhals, etc. have their own language. For instance, tribes of West Bengal speak Lodha, tribes in the Nicobar Islands speak Nicobarese, tribes in Jharkhand speak Mundari, etc. The tribes constitute 8.2% of the population of India, as per the census. 

Forest rights: Proposal to change name of Indian Forest Service may  escalate inter-ministerial fight
photo credit- Scroll

Some of the prominent tribes of India mostly live in the Andaman and Nicobar islands namely, the Great Andamanese, Nicobarese, Jawara, etc. 

The Great Andamanese are situated in the eastern capital of the island and are negros. Since the location of their tribe was accessible to the outside world. This resulted in their culture been influenced by popular culture. But have managed to retain parts of their traditions and customs. 

Indigenous Andamanese Tribes Could Face Extinction After COVID-19 Cases  Reported Among Them
photo credits- India times

They are primarily artists and work with both indigenous and modern tools. They are masters in pottery, weaving baskets and make ornaments from bark and shells. The youngest generation if the tribe is also sent to schools while some of the adults have migrated to the cities for work. 

India coronavirus: Covid strikes remote Greater Andamanese tribe - BBC News
photo credits- BBC

At the same time, they have their own share of superstitions. It includes throwing palm leaves into the sea to keep the storms away or piercing their bodies with pieces of glass to drain bad blood. They still hunt for food and also practice farming. 

The Jarawa tribe of the Andaman are particular about who they interact with. With a population of 400 people, they are referred to as the hostile people on the earth. They do not entertain outsiders in their tribe and still live in the ancient, traditional lifestyle. Their main source of food is hunting animals and the forest. They do not have a human sense of self as they are not conscious of their nudity and wear only ornaments made from leaves and shells. 

Jarawa - Survival International
photo credits- Photo International

Not only in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands but the tribal people are found in most states of the country like Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chattisgarh and the north-eastern states.  

The Yanadi is a nomadic tribe of Andhra Pradesh who primarily lived in Nellore district. They are dark people and not-so-tall. They are majorly farmers and practice dairy farming too. They are basically semi-nomadic people and moved from place to place for work, shifting cultivation. However, in modern times, much of their land was taken by the rich landlords and now work as daily-wage labourers. 

Yanadi tribal community folk dance - YouTube
photo credits- Youtube

They still live in the traditional cone-shaped huts built from bamboo, mud and palm leaves. Women are the dominating force in their families and the decision-makers. They mostly are Hindus and devote themselves to worshipping the Hindu gods. As they believe that god’s satisfaction would lead to their good fortune. 

But when they have such a rich culture and traditional ways, why are they required to leave their native places and move to cities. This had affected their customs and traditions significantly. 

In today’s world, they are marginalised, shunned and looked down upon as uncivilised people. They are basically the backward part of society who had been exploited by the upper classes since before the independence such as the landlords, moneylenders, etc. they were taken as wild and uncivilised people and were treated as untouchables. They were exploited by the builders and contractors who would usurp their lands and resources for building hotel, resorts and other places of monetary value. They had to leave their homelands and look for work outside in cities and towns. 

Paniya people - Wikipedia
photo credits- Wikipedia

They had a creative hand for making masks, baskets, painting, stitching, etc. which would actually cost thousands of rupees but they not get sold at a decent price owing to the middlemen. Some of them would be forced to work as daily-wage labourers. In cities, there are further categorised into Scheduled Tribes. 

A few years ago, about 1,960 tribals of Maharashtra were taken into custody as they demanded ration cards and wanted the government to help them reclaim their lost lands. They protested in front of the DM’s office, however, they were later arrested by the police and were kept for seven days in the judicial custody. Even in the colonial period, due to exploitation, subjugation, lack of access to resources and land gave rise to a series of protests such as the Birsa Munda leading the rebellion to establish the Munda Raj. also the peasants movements of Bihar, West Bengal, Maharashtra and so on. 

Ancient Tribes and their Wonderful Traditions
photo credits- Hostelworld

People are yet to acknowledge the inherited art these tribes have and the knowledge they have about nature. It can be concluded that economically and socially degraded by the people in cities and towns. Some of these people convert their religion to Islam or Christianity to relieve themselves from the menial treatment, discrimination and uplift their status in the society.

The government has undertaken efforts to elevate the position of the tribal people in the society. Article 46 of the constitution states that the economic and educational interests of the weaker sections of the society particularly SCs and STs shall be protected. There will be no social injustice and exploitation against them. However, they still have to earn their way towards better stature in society. Including the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 is meant to safeguard their interests. It helps the tribes by allowing self-rule,  who are suffering and trying to fight against modern culture. 

Minister launches e-commerce site for tribal products, partners Amazon,  Paytm, Snapdeal
photo credits- Entrackr

There are about 110 tribes in India, most of them are below the poverty line. They are mostly uneducated and are not aware of their rights and the constitution. This has resulted in them in being marginalized are they are not able to fight against injustice due to the lack of legal knowledge. Where some tribes have a hybrid culture of both primitive ways and modern culture, some tribes continue to shun the outside world from their area. The government is expected to use a penetrative approach that makes the tribes aware of their rights as the citizen of India, as it would make their lives further difficult if they continue to be unaware of the outside world and are not ready to combat it.

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