Adivasi – the tribal people of India

Linked with Theodor Rathgeber – Germany.

See also wikipedia, and Promoting the Rights, Voices and Visions of Indigenous Peoples,

The Adivasi, the Tribal People of India is a popular believe that the four hundred or so adivasi communities of India, representing about 7% of the population, are some sort of primitive remnant of early Homo Sapiens. They persist in an archaic and primitive lifestyle. Many of them are hunters and gatherers or rudimentary agriculturists using slash and burn methods of cultivation. Many of them live in isolation in hills and forests and are isolated in their culture and religion, infact, they are not integrated into the surrounding Hindu or Muslim communities. In some areas they are the dominating group and therefore they do not live in isolation, in this cases they are settled agriculturists cultivating the land in a wide range of ways.

The term Adivasi means: Adi = beginning or earliest time, vasi = resident of. The idea is that the adivasis were the original inhabitant of India. This term entered in use after the independence of India only. They are also called “Tribals”. The adivasis have remained relatively free during the pre-colonial time from the control of outside status. This process was changed by an influx of traders, money lenders and landlords who established themselves under the protection of the colonial authority and took advantage of the new judicial system to deprive the adivasis of large tracts of their land. In this way, outsiders who had dealt previously with the adivasis on terms of relative equity become their exploiters and masters. There are doubts, however, that the adivasis are the original inhabitants of India. There have been many migrations in and out of this region in the past centuries and the present adivasis almost certainly displaced other groups at some earlier stage of history. (See all on this and the following websites of Adivasi).

The 67.7 million people belonging to “Scheduled Tribes” in India are generally considered to be ‘Adivasis’, literally meaning ‘indigenous people’ or ‘original inhabitants’, though the term ‘Scheduled Tribes’ (STs) is not coterminous with the term ‘Adivasis’. Scheduled Tribes is an administrative term used for purposes of ‘administering’ certain specific constitutional privileges, protection and benefits for specific sections of peoples considered historically disadvantaged and ‘backward’. However, this administrative term does not exactly match all the peoples called ‘Adivasis’. Out of the 5653 distinct communities in India, 635 are considered to be ‘tribes’ or ‘Adivasis’. In comparison, one finds that the estimated number of STs varies from 250 to 593. For practical purposes, the United Nations and multilateral agencies generally consider the STs as ‘indigenous peoples’. With the ST population making up 8.08% (as of 1991) of the total population of India, it is the nation with the highest concentration of ‘indigenous peoples’ in the world! The Constitution of India, which came into existence on 26 January 1950, prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth (Article 15) and it provides the right to equality (Article 14), to freedom of religion (Articles 25-28) and to culture and education (Articles 29-30). STs are supposedly addressed by as many as 209 Articles and 2 special schedules of the Constitution – Articles and special schedules which are protective and paternalistic. (Read all on the PUCL-Bulletin).

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