In an industrialized India the destruction of the aboriginal's life is as inevitable as the submergence of the Egyptian temples caused by the dams of the Nile ...As things are going, there can be no grandeur in the primitive's end.
It will not be even simple extinction, which is not the worst of human destinies. It is to be feared that the aboriginal's last act will be squalid, instead of being tragic. What will be seen with most regret will be, not his disappearance, but his enslavement and degradation. -Nirad C. Chaudhuri: The Continent of Circe, 1965
Commenting on the struggle for survival of many primitive tribes in India and elsewhere as a consequence of adverse economic conditions, D.N. Majumdar (1938) pointed out eleven causes:
(1) The laws have hit them hard.
(2) The displacement of tribal officials/chiefs by those of the administration has disorganized tribal life in all aspects.
(3) Tribal land used for shifting cultivation has been taken away from them under new forest policy.
(4) Quarrying in the land owned by them is not allowed except with the payment of heavy licence fee.
(5) Shifting cultivation is prohibited in most areas. The people, thus, have been forced to take to the kind of agriculture unsuited to them or for which they do not have adequate technology or know-how.
(6) Marriage by capture has been treated as an offence under the Indian Penal Code. It was generally resorted to in order to avoid payment of heavy bride price, and the substitute has worked smoothly.
The recognition of this custom as an offence punishable by law has seriously undermined social solidarity and has lead to racial disharmony. Late marriage is customary among the tribal people and there are a large number of men and women in every tribe who cannot afford to marry under normal conditions.
(7) The fairs and weekly markets which have begun to attract these people are ruining them financially.
(8) Education which has been and is being imparted has been more harmful than useful.
(9) The judicial officers have not been able to give them satisfactory justice.
(10) Missionary effort has resulted in creating in their minds a loathing for their; own culture and a longing for things which they have no 'means' to obtain.
(11) Contact with non tribals has introduced diseases in tribal peoples for which they possess no efficient indigenous pharmacopoeia. Medical help rendered by the states is meagre.
One phenomenon inherent in the nature of the plural society of the Indian subcontinent is the coexistence of populations varying greatly in the level of material and cultural development in a narrow space. Conflict or harmonization is the only two possible outcomes in this case.
Till so far the influence of economically advanced and politically powerful groups on tribal societies, which exist in archaic and primitive life styles, has resulted in a series of problems. These problems are of multifarious nature and arise out of politico-cultural differences with the dominant groups.
A large portion of Indian population is technically and economically advanced since a long time. This population has lived in prosperous areas and may have even displaced the tribal societies in the past.
These culturally advanced people following organized religions like Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Islam, have always looked down upon the tribal societies as rank outsiders practising some kind of animistic religion and having a primitive culture and technology.
Due to this attitude, the tribal people have never been assimilated into the Indian society and have remained on the periphery. This resulted in isolation, underdevelopment and a sense of hostility towards the non- tribal people.
Over the years, these problems grew. With economic development, the problems of tribes increased as forests were cleared for timber, agriculture, mineral extraction or industrialization.
This alienated the tribesmen, leading to social problems in the tribes such as indebtedness, alcoholism, drug dependency, poverty and decrease in population sizes. The main problems faced by the tribes in India can be broadly described as resulting from the following reasons:
The aborigines do not generally belong to the racial groups of the economically developed portion of the population .This has led to segregation as they do not fit into any traditionally recognized strata or casts of the society.
They are referred to as Adivasis (adi meaning primitive and vast meaning inhabitant). This has led to centuries of exclusion from the society, making their assimilation difficult. It has also resulted in very less interaction between the two groups, further alienating the tribal people from the mainstream social changes.
The tribal languages have been different from the languages of the dominant group. This has led to further segregation. Some tribes have over the years picked up the languages of the non-tribal groups and interaction has increased but no non- tribal group has ever made efforts to learn tribal languages so as to interact better with these people.
Another set back the tribals suffered was when schools started teaching in the local non-tribal languages, despite Government of India's directive of teaching primary classcs in the mother tongue. The mother tongue here became the mother tongue of the dominant non-tribal group.
Most of the tribes practice religions termed as Animism or Shamanism. This trait can be seen in almost all the tribal societies of the world. Equating it with Hinduism, Islam or any other religion is not a correct practice. It is also incorrect to deride it as primitive or heathen.
The Indian government's policy is of tolerance towards the beliefs, customs and way of the life of the tribal people, but non-tribal people have shown less sensitivity to the tribal way of life. This brings the tribes and non-tribal population in direct conflict, leading to alienation rather than assimilation.
The most recent is the case of Hindu organizations deriding the Christian Missionaries for forced conversion of tribals to Christianity in Chattisgarh, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh. It led to the killing of a priest and his two children followed by riots. Such intolerance and discrimination leads to further segregation, which is totally against the provisions in the Constitution of India as well as the essence of humanity.
Tribal cultures have evolved over millennia in their particular habitats and environment. Most of them have evolved in isolation as the interaction between tribals and non-tribals have been minimal.
These customs and beliefs are different from the mainstream cultures. Due to a different set of value systems, a question of right or wrong comes in. It is not correct to impose a set of morals on a different cultural group with a different value system.
It is paradoxical that in many areas where tribals are exposed to the influence of caste Hinduism, the very features of society which Modern Indian strives to discard are being introduced among tribal population.
Thus, prejudices against occupations like leather work, diet, child marriage, widow remarriage, untouchability etc. arc becoming stronger in tribal societies while losing their foothold in urban areas. This is inevitable as long as compliance with puritanical religious morality remains an important criterion of social respectability.
One of the greatest prices of development is dislocation of people from their traditional area for setting up of heavy industry, multipurpose projects or other developmental works. In case of India, most of the minerals are found in the areas which are traditional tribal areas like Chota Nagpur, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Orissa etc.
So all development of iron and steel industry, coal and iron ore mines and multipurpose projects like Damodar Valley Corporation, Narmada Sagar etc. have come up in' tribal areas.
This has led to a large scale displacement of people without any suitable rehabilitation. In some cases they have been rehabilitated in other regions which are environmentally different and the problems of adjustment have caused untold misery to the tribals.
Deprived to their traditional ways and means, most of the tribals are facing abject poverty. Money lenders have added to the problems by charging exorbitant rates of interest and in the process claiming their immovable property and land in lieu of unpaid loans. Unemployment and illiteracy have compounded the matters further. Some of the tribes in India are living in the most impoverished conditions anywhere in the world. If we take the income of the whole country, tribals fall in the lowest income group.
All tribals' festivities include partaking of local brews made from coarse cereals, millets, flowers and herbs. Introduction of distilled liquor by the British Administration led to the downfall of the tribals.
To enhance the revenue, indigenous brewing was banned. In the post-independence period, the same policy continued. Availability of readymade and much stronger liquor made the tribal an alcoholic. Alcoholism is, therefore, one of the major problems of tribal societies.
Population of some of the large tribes like Bhils, Gonds and Santhals has been increasing at almost the same level as the national average. At the same time, a number of tribes are moving towards total extinction.
Most of the tribes are hunter gatherers and recognized by administration as primitive societies e.g. Chenchu, Kadar, Onge, farawa and Raaji. Government of India has launched special projects so that their socio-economic development occurs and they are able to survive.
In all, 80 such tribes which face extinction have been put in a special category. The main cause of this trend of depopulation is the radical change in the ecological conditions in the area of residence. Malnutrition and alien diseases have compounded the problem.
Special Provisions for Development and Assimilation of Tribes in the National Atainstream.
The Constitution of India provides reservation for the tribals in education, employment, legislature and judiciary .There are special Schedules, the 5th and 6th Schedule, in the Constitution which deals with the governance of tribal areas. All these provisions were made so as to assimilate the tribals in the mainstream of Indian society.
But acceptance or denial of the necessity for assimilation with non-tribal society is a question of values. Are the tribals to be left to follow their own inclination in emulating the cultural patterns of their neighbours or are they to be coaxed to give up their own cultural traditions and values? Perhaps the best answer is what Pandit Jawahar Lai Nehru said in his policy to be followed for dealing with tribals : "People should develop along the lines of their own genius and the imposition of alien values should be avoided".
"Fifth and Sixth Schedules of Constitution of India-A Responsibility on State for Peace and Good Governance of the Tribal Areas."
Provisions as to the Administration and Control of Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes.
Part a: general
1. Interpretation. In this Schedule, unless the context otherwise requires, the expression "State" does not include the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.
2. Executive power of a State in Scheduled Areas.
Subject to the provisions of this Schedule, the executive power of a State extends to the Scheduled Areas therein.
4. Report by the Governor to the President regarding the administration of Scheduled Areas.
The Governor of each State having Scheduled Areas therein shall annually, or whenever so required by the President, make a report to the President regarding the administration of the Scheduled Areas in that State and the executive power of the Union shall extend to the giving of directions to the State as to the administration of the said areas.
Part b: administration and control of scheduled areas and scheduled tribes
4. Tribes Advisory Council
(1) There shall be established in each State having Scheduled Areas therein and, if the President so directs, also in any State having Scheduled Tribes but not Scheduled Areas therein, a Tribes Advisory Council consisting of not more than twenty members of whom, as nearly as may be, three-fourths shall be the representatives of the Scheduled Tribes in the Legislative Assembly of the State.
Provided that if the number of representatives of the Scheduled Tribes in the Legislative Assembly of the State is less than the number of seats in the Tribes Advisory Council to be filled by such representatives, the remaining seats shall be filled by other members of those tribes.
(2) It shall be the duty of the Tribes Advisory Council to advice on such matters pertaining to the welfare and advancement of the Scheduled Tribes in the State as may be referred to them by the Governor.
(3) The Governor may make rules prescribing or regulating, as the case may be,-
(a) The number of members of the Council, the mode of their appointment and the appointment of the Chairman of the Council and of the officers and servants thereof,
(b) The conduct of its meetings and its procedure in general; and
(c) All other incidental matters.
5. Law applicable to Scheduled Areas
(1) Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, the Governor may by public notification direct that any particular Act of Parliament or of the Legislature of the State shall not apply to a Scheduled Area or any part thereof in the State or shall apply to a Scheduled Area or any part thereof in the State subject to such exceptions and modifications as he may specify in the notification and any direction given under this sub-paragraph may be given so as to have retrospective effect.
(2) The Governor may make regulations for the peace and good government of any area in a State which is for the time being a Scheduled Area.
In particular and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing power, such regulations may
(a) Prohibit or restrict the transfer of land by or among members of the Scheduled Tribes in such area;
(b) Regulate the allotment of land to the members of the Scheduled Tribes in such area;
(c) Regulate the carrying on of business as money-lender by persons who lend money to the members of the Scheduled Tribes in such area.
(3) In making any such regulation as is referred to in sub-paragraph (2) of this paragraph, the Governor may repeal or amend any Act of Parliament or the Legislature of the State or any existing law which is for the time being applicable to the area in question.
(4) All regulations made under this paragraph shall be submitted forthwith to the President and, until assented by him, shall have no effect.
(5) No regulation shall be made under this paragraph unless the Governor making the regulation has, in the case where there is a Tribes Advisory Council for the State, consulted such Council.
part c: scheduled areas
6. Scheduled Areas
(1) In this Constitution, the expression "Scheduled Areas" means such areas as the President may by order, declare to be Scheduled Areas.
(2) The President may at any time by order
(a) Direct that the whole or any specified part of a Scheduled Area shall cease to be a Scheduled Area or a part of such an area, increase the area of any Scheduled Area in a State after consultation with the Governor of that State;
(b) Alter, but only by way of rectification of boundaries, any Scheduled Area;
(c) On any alteration of the boundaries of a State or on the admission into the Union or the establishment of a new State, declare any territory not previously included in any State to be or to form part of, a Scheduled Area;
(d) rescind, in relation to any State or States, any order or orders made under this paragraph, and in consultance with the Governor of the State concerned, make fresh orders redefining the areas which are to be Scheduled Areas; and any such order may contain such incidental and consequential provisions as appear to the President to be necessary and proper, but save as aforesaid, the order made under sub-paragraph (1) of this paragraph shall not be varied by any subsequent order.
Part D: Amendment of the Schedule
7. Amendment of the Schedule
(1) Parliament may from time to time by law amend by way of addition, variation or repeal any of the provisions of this Schedule and, when the Schedule is so amended, any reference to this Schedule in this Constitution shall be construed as a reference to such Schedule as so amended.
(2) No such law as is mentioned in sub-paragraph (1) of this paragraph shall be deemed to be an amendment of this Constitution for the purposes of Article 368.
Provisions as to the Administration of Tribal Areas in the States of Assam, Meghalaya Tripura and Mizoram.