By Gladson Dung dung
Adivasi literally means aboriginal, original settler or first settler of the land. In the Indian Constitution, they are classified as the Scheduled Tribes (ST) and guaranteed certain rights and privileges. According to the census 2001, the Adivasis are 8.6 percent of the total population in India. ‘About 85 percent of them live in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand and West Bengal. About 12 percent live in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Manipur and Tripura.’ The Adivasis live in or around the forests and their life cycle moves round the nature. They do not only depend on natural resources for their livelihood, but their culture, identity and autonomy are based on it. ‘90 percent of them still live in or in close proximity to the forests’ and only 10 percent of them have shifted to the cities.
Basically, the Adivasis are known for autonomy, peace, justice, collectives and honesty. However, in the 21st century, they are the most sufferers of violence, either inflicted by the state agencies or non-state actors like the Maoists. In both the cases the human rights of the Adivasis are violated. The most worrying factor is, numbers of Adivasi youth have taken up the guns after influenced by some ultra-left groups. Therefore, this paper examines that why a peace lover community has adopted the path of violence? Why do youth see the gun as panacea to their problems? Why did the Indian State fail to content the discontents? What went wrong with the Indian democracy after 65 years of its inception, which put the community in the path of violence? Why have the guns become the part of culture of the villagers in the mineral corridor?
In the ancient times, the Adivasis had the ownership rights on the natural resources and they judiciously used these resources for their survival. Consequently, the Adivasis were living with autonomy, peace and prosperity. The situation changed after the Aryan invasion and became worst during the British rule. On the one hand, the Aryans destroyed the Adivasi civilization, denied the indigenous identity and did not accept them as the fellow human beings, and the Britishers imposed violence on the Adivasis by grabbing their land, territory and resources and even named few of them as criminal tribes on the other.
Soon after the East India Company entered into the vicinity, the Britishers realized the enormous commercial potential of India’s natural resources and systematically went about acquiring control over the land, territory and resources by capturing power, introducing lagislations and using military. In response to the British Indian government, the Adivasis revolted against them. This is how the violence entered into the Adivasi community. Adivasis used their traditional weapons against the Britishers.
In 1779, the Adivasi legend Baba Tilika Manjhi dared to the Britishers by saying, “Our people have lived here since the dawn of creation. We have never been the lords of the earth. The earth is our mother. We are all her children. We are the trustees of this land. It is our responsibility to see that the land continues to sustain future generations that we have not even imagined. This is our heritage. Then how can you, British, an alien race, declare yourselves the lords and masters of the forests that sustain us and give us life? How can you deny us entrance to the only home we have ever known? We will die before we accept this rule.” (Dungdung, 2004).
Perhaps, Baba Tilka Majhi was the first Adivasi leader who led an organized fight against the the British in 1779. ‘The Britishers surrounded the Tilapore forest from where he was operating the fight but he and his men held the enemy at bay for several weeks. When he was finally caught in 1784, he was tied to the tail of a horse and dragged all the way to the collector’s residence at Bhgalpur. There, his lacerated body was hung in a Banyan tree.’ However, in 1793, the Britishers imposed the “Permanent Settlement Act” on the people to get much revenue from land, which affected the socio-economic and culture of the Adivasis, and their lands slipped into the hands of the Zamindars (landlords). Thus the community ownership on land was overshedowed by the Zamindari system.
‘The British introduced a centrally organized administration, a judiciary and a police system. The concept of private property was imposed on land as opposed to the traditional notion of collective usufructuary rights of the community. The community resources were considered as the ‘eminent domain’ and taken over. Thus forests and other individually unclaimed fallow lands were declared as the property of the state’ (Munda & Mullick, 2003). Gradually, the government enacted various forest policies, which induced the marginalization of the Adivasis. They were deprived from the natural resource merely for the government’s revenue yielding measures. Imposing revenue on land and duties on the forest produces crashed the “Adivasi economy”. The Britishers also brought the Land Acquisition Act in 1894, which helped them to strengthen their rule by destroying local people’s rights over natural resources. Later the Act was amended in 1984.
After Indian independence the status quo remains the same. The painful reality is that so far as the monopoly over natural resources is concerned; the Indian rulers were not different from the Britishers. ‘The vested interest, the methods of oppression and the basic ideology remain the same’ (Arjum & Manthan, 2002: 4). The Adivasis rights over the natural resources were snatched away through the various legislations. As a result, the Adivasis’ discontent, anger and resistance manifesteted day by day. The government of India accepts through the Forest Rights Act 2006 that the historical injustice was done on the Adivasi community but it did not bring appropriate mechanism to right the wrong instead the whole community was labeled as the ‘Naxalites’ and alleged of waging war against the Indian State. A very interesting point to note is a few Adivasis used the violence to protect their land, territory and resources whereas the Britishers and other Indians (non-Adivasis) adopted the violence for capturing the land, territory and resources of the Adivasis.
Forests were captured:
After taking control over the land, the Britishers eyied on the forests. In 1855, the British Indian government declared that the forests as the government property therefore the individual can not have right and claim over it. The Santal Hul of 1855 was an organized community response to the Britishers resource grab. However, the Britishers continued their job of snatching community resoruces by various ways and means. In 1865 the first Forest Act was enforced, an avalanche of regulations followed this act. Wherever a loophole was detected in the existing laws a new law would be passed. The Forest Act, 1927 enabled the government to take over any piece of land after declaring it as forestland.
After Indian independence, the situation of Adivasis became even the worse. ‘The painful reality is that so far as the monopoly over forest is concerned, the Indian rulers were not different from the British. The vested interest of oppression and the basic ideology remains the same.’ The government of India constantly empowered its control over the forests by enacting numerous policies in the name of protection, preservation and conservation of forests and wildlife. The people’s access to forests and de-reservation of the reserved forests was completely ceased by the ‘Forest Conservation Act 1980’ and access to forests was also denied to the community by the wildlife protection Act 1972. After hue and cry, the government of India introduced a new policy in 1988, which is called the ‘National Forest Policy 1988’, which advocates for the protection of Adivasis’ rights and concessions, but it was seldom practiced.
21st century witnessed the worst atrocities on Adivasis by the state. The government of India issued an order following the Supreme Court’s verdict in 2002 to evict the illegal encroachments on the forests and forestland. The Adivasis were depicted as encroachers of the forests in the government’s order. The order also describes the encroachment of forests by powerful lobbies. But ironically ‘none of the powerful lobbies, the letter alludes to, were touched; nothing was done about the front line staffs of the forest department who did not take timely action against the encroachments by powerful lobbies but the Adivasis were the first target and though exact numbers are not available but the numbers is in the region of 25,000 evictions’.
The forest policies deprived Adivasis from their livelihood resources and also depicted them as encroachers and enemy of the forests and wildlife. At the same time, the policies have dis-articulated the social, economic and political system of the community. On the one hand Adivasis have been deprived of right to live, health and education, and the government’s sponsored development and social security schemes are also denied to them on the other merely because they live in the (reserve) forests, which falls under the ineligible category according to the government’s rules.
However, the Indian State brought the Forest Rights Act in 2006 to right the historic wrong but implementation is dubious. On the one hand the implementation of the Act is extremely poor and Adivasis lands are also being handed over to the corporate houses for so-called development projects on the other. The forest department, which is the biggest landlord on earth doesn’t allow Adivasis to enjoy their rights and privileges on forests.
The Adivasis consider the land as heritage. The Adivasis legend Baba Tilika Manjhi, Sidhu-Kanhu, Birsa Munda and many others considred land as their mother and heritage. They fought against the British Indian government to protect their lands. However, the Adivasis were alienated from their heritage by those so-called civilized masses who consider the land merely as property. The state of Jharkhand is one of the best examples to understand the Adivasis’ land alienation.
The Adivasis land alienation had begun during the medieval period but it arose rapidly during the British regime. The British Indian government introduced “Jamindari system” by enforcing the ‘Permanent Settlement Act’ in 1793 which created upheaval in the Adivasi community. Consequently, the series of Adivasis upsurge took place in the state. The Santhals upsurge in Santhal Pargana, Kolh revolution in Kolhan and Birsa Ulgulan in Chotanagpur, which resulted in enforcement of three legislations – Chotanagpur Tenancy Act 1908, Wilkinson’s Rules 1837 and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act 1949. The prime objectives of these legislations were protection of Adivasis land, traditional self governance and culture. But these laws were seriously violated.
In 1969, the Bihar Scheduled Areas Regulation Act was enforced for prevention and legalization of illegal land transfer and of Adivasis. A special Area Regulation Court was established and the Deputy Commission was given special right regarding the sell and transfer of Adivasis land. According to the provision, an Adivasi can not sell or transfer land to another Adivasi without permission of the DC. When the special court started function, a huge number of cases were registered. According to the government’s report, 60,464 cases regarding 85,777.22 acres of illegal transfer of land were registered till 2001-2002. Out of these 34,608 cases of 46,797.36 acres of land were considered for hearing and rest 25,856 cases related to 38,979.86 acres of land were dismissed.
After the hearing merely 21,445 cases regarding 29,829.7 acres of lands were given possession to the original holders and rest remains with the non-Adivasis. Further more 2,608 cases of illegal land transfer were registered in 2003-2004, 2,657 cases in 2004-2005 and 3,230 cases in 2005-2006, which clearly indicates that the cases of illegal land alienation is increasing rapidly. According to the Annual Report 2004-2005 of the Ministry of Rural Development of the Government of India, Jharkhand topped the list of Adivasi land alienation in India with 86,291 cases involving 10,48,93 acres of land.
A prominent Adivasi leader and Vice-Chairperson of the National Commission for SC & ST Bandi Oraon has undertaken a study on the implementation of various legislative measures meant to protect illegal transfer of Adivasis lands to non-Adivasis in the State. The study was confined to 15.703 cases registered in the Ranchi Collectorate in respect of Adivasis living in and around Ranchi City. The study reveals that merely 41.46 percent cases were accepted for hearing 26.82 percent cases were rejected and 31.72 percent cases were kept in pending. But interestingly, out of the hearing cases, actual possessions were given in 96 percent cases.
The non-Adivasis used many tricks for acquiring Adivasis’ land. The best way of buying Adivasis land is get marry to an Adivasi girl and register the land in her name. This trick was widely used by the non-Adivasis. Secondly, many Adivasis surrendered their land to the money lenders after trapped by them through loan. Besides, threatening, coercion and illegal documents were prepared for acquiring land. Authorizing the Deputy Commissioner for land transfer also caused huge loss for the Adivasis as many non-Adivasi officers justified the land transfer to non-Adivasis. In many case, the court also defined the laws in the favour of non-Adivasis.
Another major fact is the CNT Act was amended in 1947 for the purpose of urbanization, industrialization and for development projects caused huge deprivation of Adivasis from the land. Finally, the land related laws were utterly misused, violated and mis-interpreted against the Adivasis by the policy makers, bureaucrats and other non-Adivasis.
Displacement in the name of Development :
The stories of tribal deprivation are unending sagas. Approximately 50 million people were displaced in different projects between 1951-95 in the name of development in India. The bitter fact is that around 40 percent of them belong to the Adivasi community. More than 15 million hectares of land was acquired all over India. ‘As per government records at least 75 percent of those displaced are still not cared for or rehabilitated’ (Fernandes & Paranjpye, 1997: 6).
Adivasis were discriminated for receiving compensation. For instance Nalco built two units in Orissa in mid 1980s. One of them in Koraput district, which has a tribal majority and the other in Angul, which pre-dominated by upper caste. 58 percent of all land acquired is in form of Common Property Resources (CPR). Displaced people of Koraput received a compensation of Rs. 2,700 per acre, while those of Angul received Rs. 25,000 per acre. Most tribals who hesitantly parted with their lands by giving it to NALCO, 20 years ago, reside in small huts with naked, shabby children scantily clothed women around the huts.
In the state of Jharkhand, 17,10,787 people were displaced while acquiring 24,15,698 acres of their lands for setting up the Power Plants, Irrigation Projects, Mining Companies, Steel Industries and other development projects in Jharkhand. In every project approximately 80 to 90 percent Adivasis and local people were displaced but merely 25 percent of them were halfway rehabilitated and no one has any idea about the rest 75 percent displaced people. The benefits of these development projects were highly enjoyed by the Landlords, Project Officers, Engineers, Contractors, Bureaucrats, Politicians and outsiders, and those who sacrificed everything for the sake of the “development” are struggling for their survival.The people were betrayed in the name of rehabilitation, compensation and jobs. The promises were not fulfilled and the jobs were given to the outsiders. However, the force land acquisitions are still going on across the country.
The Indian State amended the Land Acquisiton Act in 1984 and brought a legislation for the corporate houses called Special Economic Zone in 2005 but did not bother to make a law for the rehabilitation of the displaced masses. The Indian State brought Rehabilitation and Ressettlement Police in 2007, which is only applicable in those 30 percent land acquired by the government. The sad part is this policy is not enforceble in the courts of India therefore no one would be benefited of it. Similarly, when the Jharkhand state was created the first chief minister, Babula Marandi brought the Industrial Policy but at the same time, the same government was unable to make a rehabilitation policy.
It is obvious that ‘the Indian state has been far more concerned with promoting corporate interests in tribal areas than in enforcing their rights and entitlements’(Iyer, 2010). This is why the intention of the state was always questioned and the people are resisting against displacement everywhere. The people were displaced from one place to another in the name of development but they were not rehabilitated. Hence they feel that they were betrayed in the welfare state in the name of “development” and “national interest”. Therefore, now the Adivasis believe that they can protect their land only through the mass struggle.
Denial of Identity, Language and Culture:
Though the Adivasis have been dwelling in India 3500 years before the Aryans invasion and they are the Indigenous People of the country but the Indian State continuelly denied it. In 1993, a representative of India Mr. Jayant Prasad clearly stated in front of the UN working group on Indigenous Population in Genewa that there is no such Indigenous People exist in India. The Indian state did not recognize the Adivasis as the Indigenous People of the land. Instead they were labeled as the forest dwellers. The Britishers classified them as scheduled tribe, which was adopted in the Indian constitution too.
The word ‘Adivasi’ is used in the everyday’s life in India for those people who are constitutionally called as the ‘scheduled tribe’. However, the word ‘Adivasi’ can hardly be found in any official document across the country. According to a prominent educationist of Jharkhand Dr. Nirmal Minj, the adivasi word was not accepted by the Indian society therefore it is not used in any official document despite the Adivasis feel proud of being called ‘Adivasi’. Adivasis do not come under the verna system of Hindu society but they are asked to produce the caste certificate while going for the higher education, government services and welfare schemes.
The Indian constitution recognized so many regional languages and adopted those as the official languages of several states but the Adivasis languages were completely neglected despite there are numbers of major Adivasis languages having scripts and used in day to day life. However, a few Adivasi Languages like Santali, Bodo, etc were incorporated only in 2003 by the amendment of the constitution. Adivasis had played a big role in the freedom movement. Adivasis are the first people who fought against the Britishers but they were not given space in the Indian History.
The culture they practice is very unique, which derives from the natural resources. Their close relationship with the nature, unique culture and ethos are manifested on the wall paintings, life style, relationship, attitudes and behaviors. The folk songs, dance, music, paintings and male & female dancing together in social events are the most significant outlook of their culture. It clearly shows the collective living, unity, equality, autonomy and freedom of expression they practice. The Adivasi women enjoy much more equality compared to the women of so-called mainstream of the society.
Frankly speaking, Adivasis ‘have their own traditional methods, techniques and wisdoms of imparting social and cultural knowledge to their children and educating them about different spheres of life’ for instance, the techniques of dancing, hunting, and painting. The Adivasi children learn all the cultural activities, expressions and community livings from their parents, which help them to grow in such an autonomous atmosphere.
‘Such a culture has been basic to their survival, which is built around the natural resources. Through the centuries they have developed such a conservative culture that has helped them to view their life support system as a community resource inherited from their ancestors, to be used judiciously and preserved for posterity. In other words, their traditional culture is community based. It has equity and conservation of the resource i.e. sustainable development and use of the resource as its basic principles. They have varieties of festivals i.e. Makar Parab, Baha Parab, Sarhul, Karma, Jitiya, Sohrai and so on. But the fact of the matter is they were not accepted as human beings in India therefore the Indian State delebrately denied, neglected and destroyed their identity, language and culture.
Destruction of Socio-Economy and political system:
The Adivasi society is based on collectivism, equality, autonomy, non-profit ethos and indigenous democracy, which are closed to the nature. ‘They are endowed with rich and glorious historical, cultural and political heritages. The basic human values, which are the essence of a primary human society like simplicity, truthfulness, respect for elders, caring and sharing, co-operation, communitarian life-styles, subsistence economy, human spirituality, collectivism, etc are still visible in their society’.
However, after the Aryan invasion, the Adivasi society was attacked. They have been treated by non-Adivasis as outsiders, sub-humans, untouchables, uncivilized and beasts. Non-Adivasis used to call them ‘Junglees’, a term, which originally word means ‘forest dwellers’, but in reality it is a derogatory word meaning an uncivilized person.’ Though they are out of the ‘Varna System’ but treated as untouchables. These Adivasis are on the last rung in social hierarchy in India. The Adivasis are not accepted as human beings 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 political system of the Adivasi is based on autonomy, self-rule and self-determination, which is known as the Adivasi self-governance system. The consensus is the principle of this system, where there is no space for bad politics, monopoly and money. But the Indian State deliberately neglects it though the Britishers had recognized it. The Indian State forcefully imposed electoral politics on the community. The Panchayati Raj Extension in Schedule Areas Act 1996 also known, as PESA is the best example to understand how the Indian State destroyed the best practices of indigenous democracy by imposed election.
The Adivasi economy is based on agro-forest, which leads to peace, brotherhood and prosperity. The communities depend on agriculture and forest for their sustenance. They mostly practice agriculture, collect minor forest produces to meet their everyday needs and also rear livestock to sustain their economy. An Adivasi family collects food grains and minor forest prolduces only that much the family needs for a year and rest left out for the other families. However, the Adivasi economy was crashed by the market economy of the so-called civilized people. The market economy which is actually the war economy, creates competition among the communities, intensifies individual greed and war among the communities. The Adivasis social, economic and political systems were destroyed and other systems were imposed on them.
Deprived of faith:
The Adivasi religion has been existing in the Indian soil since much before the Aryan invasion. The Adivasis have their own way of conscience, faith and belief. Basically, they believe in the super natural God that is called ‘Marangburu, Bonga or Singbonga’. ‘According to the belief of the Santal community, this World is inhabited by numerous spiritual beings of different kind; and the Santals consider themselves as living and doing everything in close association with these supernatural beings.’ They perform rituals under the Sal trees at a place called ‘Jaher’ (sacred grove). Often the ‘Jaher’ can be found in the forests. They believe in Bonga’s appearance in Sal trees and have named their religion as ‘Sarna’.
The genesis of the ‘Sarna’ is very interesting. According to the mythology of the Santals’ community, the ‘Santhal Adivasis had gone to the forest for hunting and they started the discussion about their ‘Creator and Savior’ while they were taking rest under the tree. They questioned themselves that who is their God? Whether the Sun, the Wind or the Cloud? Finally, they came to the conclusion that they would leave an arrow in the sky and wherever the arrow would target that will be the God’s house. They left an arrow in the sky; it fell down under a Sal tree. Then, they started worshiping the Sal tree and named their religion as ‘Sarna’ because it is derived from a Sal tree. Thus, Sarna religion came into existence. The Adivasis have their priests and assistant priests in every village.
However, the Hindutava strategy of trying to depict Adivasis as Hindus in Adivasi dominated areas of Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh and other states are ongoing. The Sangh Parivar claims that Adivasis are Hundus because their leader Birsa Munda had accepted Hinduism after renouncing Christianity. He wore the sacred thread, applied sandal paste on his forehead, worshiped Tulsi, prohibited cow slaughter, read Hindu scriptures and emphasized on austerity, purity and piety’. But the fact of the matter is that Birsa Munda always preached that ‘Singbonga’ (Almighty) is the only God. He never spoke about Hindu Gods and Goddesses.
The Sangh Pracharak & former Chief Minister of Jharkhand Babulal Marandi claimed that Adivasis are Hindus and they worship Hindu Gods and Goddesses. He justified that ‘every one who had links with the Sindhu Ghati (Sindhu Valley) was a Hindu because the word “Hindu” derives it’s meaning from Sindhu’ (Prasad, 2003: 5). Backing support to the Babulal Marandi’s statements, another former Chief Minister of Jharkhand Arjun Munda stated that there are lots of similarities between Adivasi religion and Hinduism. Hindu Gods are worshipped in many Adivasi festivals. Back seat driver of Hindutava wheels Shankaracharya of Kanchi Swami Jayendra Saraswati also tried to establish that Adivasis were Hindu by his lecture on ‘tribal identity’, at Shri Ranisati Mandir Committee in Ranchi on 3rd June 2003 in the presence of then the Chief Minister of Jharkhand Arjun Munda. Next day he even installed an idol of Lord Hanuman at Gumla. The other heroes of Sangh Parivar like Praveen Togadia and Dilip Singh Judeo are constantly creating hatred among Adivasi communities in Chhatisgarh, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh in the name of protecting Hinduism and formation of a Hindu Rashtra.
There are numbers of references of distinction between Adivasis and Hindus, which prove that Adivasis are not Hindus. The two Indian epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata contain many references of wars between the Adivasis and the Hindus. ‘Eminent historians who have undertaken detailed research into the epic Ramayana (200 B.C to 500 B.C) have concluded that ‘Lanka’ the kingdom of the demonic king Ravana and ‘Krishkinda’ the homeland of the Vanaras (depicted as monkeys) were situated in the south of Chitrakuta hill and north of Narmada river in Central India. Accordingly, Ravana and his demons were an aboriginal tribe, most probably the Gond’ (Bijoy, 2002: 5). The Gonds even today consider Ravana, the villain of Ramayana, in high esteem as a chieftain. Meanwhile Rama, the hero of Ramayana, is also known for slaughtering the Rakshasas (demons) in the forest. The epic of Mahabharata also refers to the killing of Krishna by a Bhil Jaratha.
Adivasi archer Ekalavya was so skillful that the hero of the Pandavas, Arjuna, could not stand before him. But the Pandavas assaulted him, cut his thumb and destroyed his ability to fight and then fashioned a story in which Ekalavya accepted Drona as his Guru and surrendered his thumb as fees to him. It is a bitter fact that ‘right from the beginning the ‘Hindutava’ forces have considered and treated Adivasis as ‘junglees’, a derogatory word meaning ‘an uncivilized person’. Justice M.S.A. Siddiqui of the Delhi High Court passed a significant judgement stating that the Tribals listed in the Schedule Tribes are not covered by the Hindu Marriage Act. The judgement brings forth the truth that the Tribals are not Hindus. Similarly the Hindu Marriage Act 1955, the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 and the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956: none of these Acts are applicable to the Adivasis.
Adivasis have their own culture, customs, rituals, practices and religious beliefs They do not come under the purview of Caste system and Chatur Varna system of Hinduism. Most of the Tribals are beefeaters because beef is the cheapest means of nutrition available to them. Tribals do not engage Hindu Pandits or Brahmins to perform their rituals. It cannot be denied that some of the Adivasis have accepted Christianity and Hinduism under Article 25 of the Constitution precisely because their religion was not recognized the other religions were imposed on them.
In fact, a trick is being played is by the Government of India’s Census Department, which lists all Sarnas and other Adivasis either as Hindus or Christians and their independent religion ‘Sarna’ is not mentioned at all. the religion of Adivasis was not recognized by the Indian State though many other religions Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, Christianity, Muslim emerged much later in India got recognition in the official documents of the country. 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’.
The State Suppression:
In 1871 the British Indian government enforced the Criminal Tribal Act, which was repealed in 1947. The term Criminal Tribes Act (CTA) applies to various successive pieces of legislation enforced in India during British rule; the first enacted in 1871 as Criminal Tribes Act (Act XXVII of 1871) applied mostly in North India. The Act was extended to Bengal Presidency and other areas in 1876, and finally with the Criminal Tribes Act 1911, it was extended to Madras Presidency as well. The Act went through several amendments in the next decade and finally the Criminal Tribes Act (VI of 1924) incorporated all of them.
At the time of independence in 1947, there were thirteen million people in 127 communities who faced constant surveillance, search and arrest without warrant if any member of the group was found outside the prescribed area. Eventually the Act was repealed in August 1949 and former “criminal tribes” were denotified in 1952, when the Act was replaced with the Habitual Offenders Act 1952 of Government of India, and starting 1961 state governments started releasing lists of such tribes.
The ongoing ‘operation green hunt’ is the extension of the state suppression to the Adivasis. The word ‘Adivasi’ is made synonyms of ‘Maoist’ or ‘Naxalite’. There are numbers of cases of humiliation, rapes, fake encounters, torture and spoiling of food grains by the security forces but the state has been denying regularly. All the Adivasi movements are portrayed as the Maoist movements or supported by them. The state is shooting the decent voices. The state suppressions on the Adivasis have been in increase day by day.
The Adivasis are the Indigenous People of India, who have unique culture, identity and autonomy. However, the Indian State did not recognize their indigenous status, neglected them in terms of development and denied them rights and justice. The Adivasis do not only depend on natural resources for their livelihood but their identity, autonomy and culture are based on it. The Adivasis have been living in the forests for centuries and having customary rights on it. They maintain symbiotic relationship and treat forests like a child treats its mother. Their social, economic and political systems are based on the natural resources. Adivasis are not only consumers of the natural resources but they are also protectors and conservators. They have their century old comprehensive methods, rules and policies for preservation, protection and conservation of the forests.
The Adivasis’ territory, which is being called today as the red corridor and they are alleged of waging war against the Indian State. But the fact of the matter is the Adivasis did not adopt the violence but the Indian State has imposed violence on them. The State grabbed their livelihood resources through various policies, laws and guns. They were not only neglected in terms of development but also depicted as the people, who oppose to development. Their identity, culture, autonomy, religion and self-rules were destroyed. They were labeled as separatists, anti-national and enemy of the Indian State. They were socially discriminated, economically exploited and dispossessed from their resources. Consequently, the Adivasis have lost their hope in the Indian democratic system therefore few of them have even adopted the path of violence to counter the state violence.
However, the Indian State sees only two ways – development and military action as panacea to the violence. Ironically, the same government, who accepts of doing historical injustice to the Adivasis through the forest Rights Act 2006, doesn’t talk of justice, peace and prosperity. The issue of violence can not be countered only through development approach and military action precisely because the injustice, discrimination and denial are the foundation of the violence therefore the solution lies on it.
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Categories: Research Paper