The word adivasi carries the specific meaning of being the original inhabitants of a given region and was specifically coined for that purpose in the 1930s. Adivasis contribute to roughly 8% of Indian population but are among the most marginalized and discriminated sections of Indian society even after 70 years of Independence. Recent Mob lynching of Adivasis person in Kerala, one of the most developed state with best human development indicators is testimony of the dark side of India’s modernity.
Issues being faced by them :
(i) Historical: The Caste based Division of Indian Society recognized Adivasis as Second grade citizens leading to further discrimination. Various Government Initiatives and Policies failed to eradicate the Deep Rooted Caste Hierarchy of Society.
(ii) Land Reforms: The Land reforms after Indian Independence which approved Ceiling of Surplus land from Landholders and Giving it to SC/ST has uprooted the anger of Upper castes towards Lower Caste. Kerala has a considerable track record in this.
(iii) The contact with mainstream society is absolutely damaging for the cultural self of the Adivasis. Their children are often traumatised because of persistent discrimination in schools.
(iv) Movements have forced the Indian state to finally make radical legislations which accept the cultural and forest rights of the Adivasis, and grant self-governance to them. But these have either been poorly implemented or completely diluted in practice.
(v) Most tribal villages and settlements have no access to schools and medical care. Very few are connected with all-weather roads. Their forests have been pillaged and plantations and industries have come up.
- There cannot be the liberation of the Adivasi until the fundamental material issue of land alienation is addressed.
- The discourse around Adivasis must shift more towards substantive measures like reparations and restitution.
- Lessons that India can learn from New Zealand’s Maori experience of reconciliation is for indigenous people and governments to have a genuine and robust discussion at the outset of any attempt to resolve grievances.
- These communities are full of traditional wisdom on farming, forest conservation, and multiple varieties of uncultivated food that can help them reduce the persistent threats of food security.
- There’s a big opportunity for civil society, social agencies and policy makers to come together and create opportunities and initiatives respecting this unique relationship between the tribes and forests.
- Initiatives supporting community led farming, sustainable forest conservation, can not only help us protect the biodiversity of the planet, but also provide sustainable means of forest-led occupations, reduction of absolute poverty and arrest food security and malnutrition in these communities.