The Architect of the Adivasis’ Misery

By Gladson Dungdung

6 January, 2010

Jawaharlal Nehru the Architect ...!

The India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nerhu, who is also known as the architect of modern India, once said, “Dams are the temples of modern India.” According to him, the big dams would address the issues of hunger and poverty of India. Unfortunately, the big dams only created pains, sufferings and sorrows to the owners (mostly the Adivasis; the indigenous people of India) of the lands, which submerged into the temples of modern India. Similarly, the big industries like Heavy Engineering Corporation, Bokaro Steel Limited, steel companies, coal mining and other mining industries created only misery for the Adivasis. Consequently, the Adivasis became landless, daily wage labourers and servants of the bigwigs after losing their land, forest, water and other livelihood resources. 

Ironically, the architect of modern India did not create space for the Adivasis in their own modern country. He only inspired them to add more sufferings in their lives for the sake of national interest, saying, “If you are to suffer, you must suffer in the interest of the country.” Perhaps, the Adivasis never know what it means by the national interest because they are the people who have always suffered for the national interest but they never enjoyed the fruits of the national interest, they were also not given place in the India history and not even memorized in the holy land of martyrs in the national capital. Needless to say, the architect of modern India did not even bother to count the people who have suffered in the interest of the country, which counts nearly 50 million, who have sacrificed everything for the national interest. Among them 40 percent are Adivasis, 20 percent are Dalits and rest 40 percent are the people of other backward classes. Indeed, the elites never suffer for the national interest as they are born only to enjoy their lives and of course the country protects them in every possible manner. 

However, when the issues of the Adivasis are discussed, Nehru is always remembered for his ‘Panchsheel for tribal development’, which is also called the five pillars of the tribal development. But does his panchsheel work for the Adivasis? Of course, it doesn’t. In fact, Nehru himself went against of the principles of Panchsheel and so the Congress party and other Indian rulers. The history suggests that some policies were made only to close the Adivasis tongues. According to Vincent Ekka of the Indian Social Institute, whenever the Adivasis protest against unjust policies of the state, they are given some rights on paper to keep them silent like the barking dogs are treated. Obviously, Nehru’s Panchsheel is the best in principle but the worst in practice as it was made for keeping silent to the barking dogs. 

  1.  Non-imposition: The first pillar of Panchsheel says that the Adivasis should be allowed to progress according to their own pace and understanding of the situation. In principle, it seems to be very good but practically, the Indian government went against of it. The most important question is, how can you ask to the Adivasis to go with their pace and understanding if you snatch their livelihood resources in the name of the national interest and also do not provide them any support? The idea of Nehru was just like a day dreaming. The fact is the Adivasis’ indigenous method of development was never counted by people of the mainstream of the society and the corporate development model was imposed on them instead. The Indian rulers never walk on their talk for the Adivasis. In the last 6 decades, many policies were made, which displaced, dispossessed and deprived the Adivasis from their livelihood resources but rehabilitation was never a concern for the Indian government at all but of course, they were much concerned for the corporate houses. 
  2. Respect of tribal customs: The second pillar of Panchsheel also did not work because the Adivasi tradition, culture and customs were never accepted by the Aryan invaders. Only the folk songs and dances of the Adivasis were romanticized in some extent but the tradition, culture and ethos, which are based on community living, equality for all and need based economy were always neglected, depicted as the worst and destroyed in many ways. Similarly, the religion of Adivasis was not recognized by the Indian constitution though many other religions emerged much later in India got recognition in the constitution. As a result, thousands of the Adivasis accepted other religions, religious enmity was created among them and thousands of their sacred groves were destroyed in the name of ‘development’. Where is the principle of Panchsheel buried? 
  3. Development of tribal youth: The third pillar speaks about the leadership of the Adivasis. But the fact of the matter is the Adivasi leadership is not acceptable to the so-called people of the mainstream of the Indian society. The history proves that the Adivasis legend Baba Tilka Manjhi was the first man to fight against the Britishers in 1780 and hanged subsequently but he was not recognized by historians of the mainstream. Similarly, the other Adivasis leaders – Sidho-Kanhu, Birsa Munda, Fulo-Jhano, Nilambar-Pitambar and many others fought against the British government but they were not given space in the India history as they deserved to. Therefore, the Nehru’s third pillar doesn’t make any sense to the Adivasis. As far as the Adivasis are concerned, they have always groomed, inspired and promoted the youth leadership in their community. 
  4. Simplicity of Administration: The fourth Pillar of Panchsheel seems to be very well idea as the Adivasis’ strong traditional self governance system exists even today, which the Britishers did not able to destroy and finally they accepted it and made laws for its protection and promotion. Ironically, the rulers of modern India including Nehru did not accept the Adivasis’ TSG. Instead, he preferred the voluntary agencies for carrying out the development works in the Adivasi regions. The Adivasis’ traditional self governance was not accepted precisely because it was a biggest threat to the authorities of Indian rulers. Though the Indian constitution has some provisions for the Adivasis regions as 5th and 6th schedules but there was no attempt made for strengthening of the traditional self governance of the Adivasis. In fact, the Indian rulers wanted the Adivasis regions under their control therefore they imposed numbers of legislations – forest Acts, Laws in the name of the protection of wild life, Land related laws, mining Acts and civil as well as criminal laws. Finally, they captured the natural resources of these regions and exploited it as much as they could. 
  5. Emphasis on human growth: The fifth pillar of Panchsheel emphasizes on human growth in term of the living standards, which is really appreciable. But as far as the Adivasis are concerned, they are not accepted as human being in India even today. They are always portrayed as uncivilized, sub-human, demons, forest-dwellers and mindless people. The Aryans invaders never treat the Adivasis as equal human beings. The Adivasis are always racially discriminated, exploited and dispossessed. The question is if you take away the livelihood resources of Adivasis without providing them alternatives, discriminated them and treat like sub-human then how can you expect their human growth? The Adivasis regions lack education, health facilities, drinking water, sanitation and shelter even today due to the deliberate inhuman treatment of the Indian rulers with the Adivasis. 

Undoubtedly, Nehru is the architect of modern India, but it is also the fact that his modern temples of India, industrialization process and corporate model of development are the main reasons of the Adivasis’ pains, sufferings and sorrows. Indeed, he is the architect of the Adivasis’ misery. Today, millions of the Adivasis are struggling for their survival, which credit goes to Nehru and his Congress Party. Later on, the right wing and the left wing also added salt on the wounds. Therefore, now we (the Adivasis) must realize that no one can fight for us but we have to fight for ourselves. If we protect our natural resources today, we would be ensuring a better future for our children tomorrow. Before, we go for another movement against displacement, we must pray to our super natural God for not to forgive Nehru because he knew what he did for us. He created misery for us, he ensured that we must suffer and he turned our heaven into hell. His temples of modern India dispossessed us, his temples of modern India exploited us and his temples of modern India created graves for us.  

Gladson Dungdung is a Human Rights Activist and Writer from Jharkhand. He can be reached at

12 thoughts on “The Architect of the Adivasis’ Misery”

  1. Dear Mr. Dungdung,

    Your theme “Architect of Adivasis Misery” is interesting and sordid for traibals.

    I think Govt. is in right way for developing tribals in the region.

    Every year, many developmental schemes are sanctioned and money allotted for the purpose for poor tribals. Among these schemes, some are lying unattanded condition in the Block Offices. Due to lack of people’s awareness about schemes money is returned back to Govt. unspent.

    Tribals resist for providing scope for developmental work to be carried out. They are not even interested to provide land for road construction and pond digging in some cases. Why ?

    As I think, this is lack of awareness among tribals in the region. We should make people aware about developmental and upliftment schemes by Govt. for tribals, so that they can avail maximum benifit from various developmental schemes earmarked for them only.

    Thanking you,

    Mahendra Purty

  2. Dear Gladson,


    Very well articulated article. Congrats. Be careful. you are hitting at too many people.

  3. Nehru happened to be the leader. There could have been another man in his place. It is not correct to hold him personally guilty, because any other leader would have come from the same social and class background and would have done much the same.

  4. Nehru was only a stooge of global and national capital (the so called public sector in fact was made to work for the nascent capitalists who did not have the capital to embark on building basic infrastructure.

    The same was the case with the USA where in the nineteenth century considerable public investments were made to facilitate growth of capitalism). Thus, the real force behind Nehru’s actions should also be mentioned.

    Rahul Banerjee

  5. nehru sent in his army against the raja of bastar
    in abujmarh
    they say he escaped
    and re surfaced as the kanthi wala baba
    now all adivasis are facing sure genocide
    unfortunately our mainstream media is sold out to big money
    and trulyour so called educated elite are really not intetested in issues
    except glamorous ones like candle light marches for 26/11
    sad state of affairs
    what to do
    one goes on with like mindedpeople. by the way i was secretary of an adivasi ashramshala
    near pune
    i realised very early that what they really need is not so much education but protection from the predatory
    modern man
    and the state
    heard a good description
    organised crime syndicate that is the establishment in india

    best wishes

  6. Johar!! Gladson ji,
    Very well written.And i Agree with your points you have mentioned.It is now how time we Tribals realize about our rights and come forward and fight it out than just complaining about things which have been done in the past.
    I really appreciate the effort you are putting in to bring awareness among we educated so called Adivasis.

  7. Dear Gladsonji,
    I and my wife Sumita have just finished reading your article titled “The Architect of the Adivasis’ Misery”. We are overwhelmed. Very rarely one comes across a text like this, which is at once powerful and truthful. In tour article you have referred to FULO-JHANO and NILAMBAR-PITAMBAR. We know nothing about them. Would you kindly enlighten? How and where we may get to read about them? We read Hindi.

  8. Mr. Gladson I agree with your view that big dams and Industries have made the life more miserable for millions of Adivasis.Earlier the Adivasis were the owners of the land on which the HEC and Bokaro Steel Limited etc. have been established they have no land and working as temporary contractor laborers in these same companies…they have not even been given the non-technical jobs such as security guards or drivers in these companies…..most of the jobs have been allotted to the people outside of our Adivasi region which over the years changed the demography of our state which is one of the the reasons behind a hung assembly in our Jharkhand state….

  9. Thank you Mr. Dungdung for educating us about another tragic story of indigenous people oppressed by dominant people — Similar to the genocide of the Native American Indians by dominant invaders & occupiers.

  10. Hi,

    Khush toh bahut hoge…..I mean GLAD….

    Any way….same Panchsheel criteria can be applied to Missionaries and their acts of omission and commission in last 150 years or so…..

    1. Non-imposition

    Reminds me of Colonial Policies on Mining and Forests….&…the role of M…..

    2. Respect of tribal customs

    Reminds me of imposition of alien culture & customs

    3. Development of Tribal Youth

    Reminds me of destruction of Manki-Munda, Parha, other adivasis goveranance & leadership system

    4. Simplicity of Administration

    Agree….but in the same context…..destroyed Zamindari, Monarchy

    But do read history….it wrong on part of Indian Government to cut, copy, paste the colonial Policies….

    5. Emphasis of human growth

    Affirmative policies like Reservation has helped many ADIVASIS

    but reality is that Adivasis families who have manged to break the shackles of poverty and climbed the socio-economic ladder they still continue to cling on to reservation benefits……

    Result the Poor and Deprived amongst our Adivasis continue to remain in same pathetic condition thath you described…..

    I agree that Prejudices and patronizing attitude do exist…..

    But similar Racial Prejucices exist in USA still Mr. OBAMA is President…..

    Closer home Ms. MAYAWATI is CM of biggest state (bigger than many country)… let us stop whining ……stop making excuses…..

    Start by handling TRUTH…..


    A fellow Adivasi

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