Ground Report

The Betrayed Asurs of Jharkhand?

By Gladson Dungdung


‘Tutwapani’ is one of the centres of anti-displacement movement, which is situated in the plateau of Netarhat in Jharkhand. The Adivasis have halted the proposed ‘Netarhat Field Firing Range’ project of the Indian Army. ‘Jan Denge, Jamin Nahi Denge’ (we shall surrender our lives but not land). This is the slogan, which inspired thousands of Adivasis to push back the India Army. Paradoxically, hundreds of Bauxites loaded trucks cross this place every day. The Oraons, Mundas, Birjiyas, Nagesias and Asur Adivasis live in the region but the Bauxite hills belong to the Asurs. The Asurs’ world begins from Tutwapani. The Asurs reside on the plateau, which is full of Bauxite but they never get benefit of it except using the useless left out Bauxite stones as boundaries of their houses because they cannot sell the hills. The philosophy of their life doesn’t allow them to make money from the nature instead they used it for their survival.

Historically, the Asurs are known as the first settlers of the region. They had invented the iron before any scientist could do. The first Asur couple – Shukra and Shukri invented the iron, while they were cooking food for them in a traditional oven made of stones. After cooking food, they realised that the stones used for oven were melted into iron due to heat of the fire. They used a piece of iron as a hammer and made arrows and axes from the rest of it for the hunting. The Asurs worship a hammer as their God even today. Later, they adopted the iron melting work as the occupation and made weapons for hunting and equipment for agriculture. However, the occupation didn’t survive after  emergence of the Tata company in 1907. The company introduced agriculture equipment in much lower prices, led to destruction of the traditional occupation of Asurs. They were forced to adopt the agriculture for their survival. The supporters of the capitalism argue that the big industries produce more jobs but that’s not the only truth. The bitter truth is that the mega industries do not just grab the land, territory and resources of the Adivasis but they also swallow the traditional occupations. Indeed, they are making the Adivasis resource less and measurable.

On December 28, 2018, a group of 21 of us comprises of activists, writers and researchers went to the plateau, where Asur Adivasis live. It was an exercise to understand the Adivasis’ world view. When we reached Tutwapani, it was 7pm already. The area was calm and quiet, and looks like a deserted place. Since, the temperature falls to minus degree in the night during winter therefore, the Adivasis accomplish their work and go to bed too early. As soon as, we left the main road, the vehicles hit the mud road and the red dust start floating in the air, which looks terrible in the vehicle’s light. It was the dust of Bauxite, which was enough to indicate that the worst was waiting for us. The road and pits followed equally. One could see the Bauxite stones on the road, which was used to filled up the pits. The Bauxite loaded heavy trucks convert the mud road into terrible pits and the useless abandoned Bauxite stones are used to fill up those pits so that trucks can continue carry the Bauxites.

The trucks start carrying Bauxite from 4 O’clock in the morning and go up to 10 O’clock in the night every day. This is enough to tell you that how much the mining companies are in hurry to sell out the Bauxite hills. I’m sure, they’ll not rest till every single Bauxite stone is sold out. After sometime, we were in the middle of the forest. We could see the lights seem to be coming out from the four different holes of a wall and a few colorful tiny bulbs twinkling in the middle of it, which look beautiful. These are trucks carrying Bauxites from the forest and going towards the cities. The trucks moving in a queue creates beautiful scene in the night but it fails to bring smiles on the Asurs’ faces. They simply don’t care about it.


The Asur territory is spread over four districts – Gumla, Lohardaga, Latehar and Palamu of Jharkhand. The availability of Bauxite in the territory has created hell for Asurs. They are displaced and uprooted from their ancestor’s land and territory. Their livelihood resources are snatched away in the name of development. The Asurs are notified as one of the primitive tribes in Jharkhand. Therefore, the central and state government claim of spending millions of rupees for their welfare but the Asurs are improvised day by day. There are only 7,783 members left in the community. If the mighty State can’t even able to provide the basic facilities to such a small number of people after grabbing their mineral resources, then how can you expect the bigger things from it? The quality education, health services, employment, houses, sanitation, drinking water, etc. are still a distance dream for them. Their voices can’t be heard in the Indian democracy because now it has become merely a number game therefore, they have no role in it.

The village roads, connected with the main mud road look the same in the night because the trucks, tractors and earth movers have the same marks everywhere. An Asur couple was our guide but we lost our direction and reached to a small valley in the night. The mining companies are to be blamed for it not the couple. The couple had come to the village a year ago, since then, the geography of the region has been changed as lot due to the Bauxite mining. They live in Ghaghra, which is about 90 kilometers far from the village. Finally, we reached Chaurapat village. It was an Asur village but now Mundas are in the majority. Most of the Asurs have departed from the village long ago in search of the livelihood. However, Asur girls of adjoining villages are studying in the government residential school, where we stayed for couple of days. We were fully tired because of a long journey therefore every one of us consumed some khichri (mixed rice) and rested.


In the next morning, the Sun rays hitting from a broken window of residential school was enough to indicates that the day has already begun. The caretaker of residential school, Melan Asur had return to his residence after having bath in a stream down to the plateau in cold water at 6am. While lying on the bed, I opened my eyes and others too. It was an undeclared abandoned building, which might fall within a couple of years. I could see the clear marks of water leakages during the rainy season. Most of us got up and went to see the other rooms, toilets and campus. The small layer of ceiling of several rooms had fallen. 88 Adivasi girls from class one to eight used to stay in this pathetic building. They had gone their homes to enjoy the winter vacation. One can’t even imagine how the girls stay and do their study in this residential school.

Meanwhile, I went to get some water from a hand pump installed in the campus but it was out of order. Suddenly, I saw a new water tank, installed in front of school building but unfortunately there too was no water. Melan Asur told me that the water was never filled up in the tank but in fact it was installed to show the visitors especially the government officials during their visit. There are two toilets in school building, which are in pathetic condition so can’t be used and most of the toilets are half built but the contractors have already withdrawn the money showing the accomplished construction on papers. The girls are sent to the forest for toilet and streams for bathing. They bath in the streams, washes their cloths and drink from the same streams. Modi government’s highly hyped the clean India project has no meaning for them. The food is cooked with firewood, therefore, couple of class rooms are used to keep firewood. There are many solar lights installed in the school premises but not even one is operational. They have become show pieces without batteries. There are only three teachers to teach the students from class one to eight and one of them spends full time in the management of hostel.  Can you imagine what kind of future these girls will have?

mining in chaurapat

Now it was time to visit the forest and stream. As soon as we came out of school premises, the entire area looks red like there was a mass killing a few hours back. Of course, it was a mass killing of Bauxite hills, agriculture fields and trees, which has been going on for decades. There is a Bauxite mining office near the residential school. One could see couple of trucks and earth movers halted in front of the office. Surprisingly, there is no signboard of the mining office, which is enough to indicate that there is something drastically wrong. Usually, once the mining companies acquire the mining leases, they install the signboards immediately to declare the area as their territory. The nameless companies don’t do so. They work secretly. After a few minutes’ walk, we could see the entire vicinity from uphill. The forests and hills look well connected with each other similar like the Adivasis do while performing a folk dance. Soon, the heartbreaking scene appears in front of our eyes. The uprooted dried trees are scatted, the roots of a few trees are out of the earth, which look like a half murder, some trees are struggling for survival and agriculture fields of uphill are full of mining pits and red mud and the abandoned mining pits seen everywhere in the forest. It looks like someone has robbed the treasury of entire vicinity in the night.


The villagers unfold the story. There are two kinds of Bauxite mining in the vicinity – legal and illegal. According to the available data, the Birla’s Hindalco is the major legal mining lease holder of Bauxite in Jharkhand with 5 leases. The company produces 2.23 Mt Bauxite per annum. There are also several illegal operators, who keep small offices, few trucks for transportation and earth movers for excavation. These illegal operators, trap some local unemployed Adivasi youth. They deploy them as local contractors, whose prime role is to convince the Adivasi land holders to give their land for mining. A so-called local contractor Adivasi youth is given Rs.1500 per truck and a land owner gets Rs.200 against one truck of Bauxite excavated from his agriculture field, which is less than daily wage. These days even a daily wage labourer earn Rs.400 per day.

The illegal miners sell the Bauxites to the legal holders like Hindalco @ Rs.9500 per truck. After cutting the cost of loading, transportation, land owner, local contractor, levy to the Maoists and bribe to the government officers, the illegal miners earn Rs.5000 per truck. So, one can imagine how much money they make every day by selling the Bauxite hills in the name of development. These companies violate the forest conservation Act 1980, Forest Rights Act 2006 and PESA Act 1996. They neither get the forest and environment clearances nor consent of the Gram Sabha (village council). One would question that how is it possible to mine in such a huge area without permission? Is government not aware about it? Do they have any kind of nexus to protect their business interest? We get the answer of some of these questions immediately.


The villagers tell us that 11 Maoist Guerrillas had arrived in the village on December 25, 2018 just three days before our arrival. The owners of the mining companies had ordered to cook local chicken for them. They had chicken party in the mining office and went back. We were told that the Maoist Guerrillas were still in the forest next to the village. They already had information about our arrival and if they would smell any kind of threat, they can go against us to any extent. When there is such a strong nexus between the Maoists and illegal miners, who will dare to stand against them? The Maoists and illegal miners both are against of building a concrete road. They know that a concrete road will make their heaven unsafe. The police and government officers can access to the region at any time. The business of the mining companies is flourishing without a concrete road but it has created hell for the Adivasis. They cycle 20 to 25 kilometres in such a pathetic road. The Bauxite mining has become a major source of levy for the Maoists. These days, they convey meetings with the mining Mafias instead of the Adivasis. Now you can decide, for whom they are fighting a war. Of course, they are not fighting for the Asur Adivasis but protecting the business interest of the mining Mafias. Should we still deny the reality of sandwich theory and take for guaranteed that they are messiahs for the Adivasis?

The Adivasis can foresee about the upcoming livelihood crisis. Most of the Bauxites have already been excavated in the plain area as well as in the forest, and now the mining activities have been slowing moving towards the main agricultural land. When these prime agriculture land is grabbed for mining, the Adivasis will starve. How long Rs.200 earn from per truck Bauxite will ensure food for them? And once the excavation is done, the land would be no longer usable for the agriculture. The Adivasis depend on agriculture for their survival. The straws kept for cattle on the wooden platforms are enough to tell that there was very good harvest this year. Melan Asur says that mining will destroy the Adivasis. They will have no other option than migrating to the adjoining town and cities for their survival.


Finally, we reach near the streams. There are several small streams naturally created, where the water comes out of the Bauxite hills. These are the main sources of water for the Adivasis, animals and birds. The water flows toward a river. The water of the river is cold like an ice. The villagers go to the forest for defecation and we to follow their paths. The toilet facilities are not available in the village but the irony is that the Jharkhand government has already declared the entire block area as free from the open defecation. The villagers say that they can’t use toilet even if the government builds toilets for them because of the lack of water in the uphill. Who will carry the water from the downstream for toilets? The villagers carry water for cooking and drinking from the streams, which are both sides of the village. Our team members were instructed not to take photos of people while defecating in open places, which can create unrest for the Indian State and the Media can also spend its precious time to depict us as an anti-Modi gang. The women and children wash the dishes in streams and fetch water in the aluminum pots made of Bauxite. The water is contaminated with high mineral but they have no choice.


There is not even one hospital in the region. The villagers say that they go to Bishunpur, which is 50 kilometers far from the village. The transportation facility is also not available in the region; therefore, the villagers use the Bauxite trucks as transport. They pay the driver for it. In fact, this is a major source of extra income for the truck drivers and the assistants. Melan Asur says that he calls the parents and handover the girls if they fall sick. The government hospitals are at 40 to 50 kilometers from either side. The mining companies don’t spend money for health and education of Adivasis. They are only interested is making money from the Bauxites under the tag of development for them. Of course, the government subscribes their idea of development that why they don’t feel of being responsible for the infrastructure development of the region. I think if the Adivasis would have stopped the Bauxite trucks, these mining companies would have launched the CSR programmes to woo them. But no one dare to stop the Bauxite trucks because of the Maoists connection with it.

There are five government residential schools for the Adivasi children in the region. Among these, three schools are for the boys and two for the girls. The capacity of boy’s schools are three times more than the girls’ schools have. This is a unique example of gender inequality promoted by the government, who claims of protecting and educating the girl children with a slogan “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhawo” (protect and educate a girl child). The first Asur teacher, Chat Asur, who served as head teacher in Jobhipat residential school says that the residential schools lack teachers, toilet facilities and school buildings but everything is good on papers.

One can see the electric polls installed in the village and electric wire are also connected with a few of them. But electric wires are also broken down between couple of electric polls. The state government has declared of providing electricity to all the villages in Jharkhand. There were breaking news is the media, which states that the government has provided electricity to every village after 70 years. What an achievement? Besides, the government spent millions of Rupees in the advertisements just to inform the people that it has provided electricity in the entire state. I say that it is a kind of official bribe to the media houses. That’s the reason why the media houses are not interested to check the ground realities. But is it possible to bury the truth forever? I believe that nothing is hidden, which will not be revealed because the villagers keep telling everyone, whoever visit their village.


While roaming in the village, we could also see and understand what going on, in the Adivasi children’s minds, which has been well reflected on the black walls of every house. The Bauxite trucks, earth movers and mining pits have replaced the birds, animals, flowers, fruits, trees, forests and water bodies from children’s minds. They have drawn the pictures of Bauxite loaded trucks, earth movers and mining sites on the walls of their houses. Of course, this is frightening. Do these children intent to earn money from the Bauxite hills? What kind of education is being imparted? Do teachers discuss with children on the impact of Bauxite mining in the social science classes or do they talk about how to make profit by selling the Bauxite hills?


After understanding the Adivasi wisdom, witnessing the loot of Bauxite under the guise of development and seeing the ground reality of rural development, we started moving out of the Asurs’ world. The road looks red in the sunlight. The trucks were also moving on the road and dust could be seen floating in the air. The mining companies must pour water on the road everyday as per the law and develop the area of 10 kilometers but they do nothing except trading the Bauxites. The green leaves of Sal trees have turned into red. The dust enters in the lungs of every human being, birds and animals equally. The Adivasis, animal, birds, trees and all living beings are facing the breathing problem.

After sometime, we reached Tutwapani and the several questions arose into my mind that why is the mighty power of Adivasis, who pushed back the Indian Army is unable to stop the Bauxite loaded trucks? Why don’t the companies and government who have been selling out the Bauxite hills think about the Adivasis, animals, birds, trees and forest? Why do our political leaders attend the international conferences on global warming if they still busy in selling the hills, forests and water bodies in the name of development? Does the development means selling the hills? Is this kind of development not hurting the Asurs?


Is the Pathalgadi Movement in Tribal Areas Anti-constitutional?


A movement known as the Pathalgadi movement has been brewing for quite some time in the tribal areas in the heart of India. Yet, it had not caught the attention of the people at large and the national media, until the alleged kidnap and gang rape of five non-governmental organisation (NGO) workers by some youths in the Khunti district of Jharkhand. The movement, though not confined to them, is more notable in the states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Odisha. The state administration and regional media have dubbed the movement as anti-national and Maoist-driven. Cases of sedition have been filed against people sympathetic to, and those associated with the movement, as well as villagers supporting the movement. A large number of people have been arrested. Some are on bail while others are still languishing in jails. The Pathalgadis, on the other hand, claim it to be constitutional. The claim, in my view, is true and tenable, though they have been over-enthusiastic in their interpretation of some provisions. The problem with the special provisions provided for tribes in the Constitution and laws enacted for their safeguard is that the very people and institutions—politicians, administrators and the judiciary—that are to administer them, have generally little knowledge and understanding of the special provisions and laws themselves. These are special provisions and laws, and cannot be subservient to the laws, rules and regulations applicable to the general population.

Pathalgadi as Tribal Tradition

The term Pathalgadi has been drawn from a tribal custom of placing a stone at the tomb of a dead person, especially among tribes belonging to the Austro–Asiatic linguistic family such as the Mundas, Khasis, etc. Sasandiri was the original term the Mundas used to describe this practice. However, after the enactment of the Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) in 1996, former Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officer B D Sharma and former Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Bandi Oraon initiated the practice of placing stone slabs inscribed with provisions of the act. This was done with a view to raise awareness of the provisions among the villagers. It is worth noting here that the 73rd (Panchayati Raj) and 74th (Nagarpalika) constitutional amendment acts of 1992 were excluded from their extension to the Fifth and Sixth Scheduled Areas. Parliament was to extend provisions for Scheduled Areas by enacting separate laws, which it did through the PESA in 1996. The act extended the provisions of the Panchayat Act to the Scheduled Areas.

Social Moorings

What is happening today in the tribal areas in the heart of India, reminds one of the early phase of the British rule in these areas. The British brought tribes under the same rule and administration as others, once the territories they inhabited were incorporated into British India. There was an imposition of laws, rules, regulation and administration that were alien to the tribes. The new land and revenue settlements resulting in the introduction of private property in land along with written documents in support of it, was one such instance that played havoc in tribal areas. This was the beginning of the alienation of tribal land to non-tribes. The improvement of the means of communication to tribal areas only accelerated these processes as the regions were now not only opened to the movement of traders, merchants and moneylenders, but also to the land-hungry non-tribal peasants from the plains in its vicinity. This accelerated the alienation of the tribal land leading to general restlessness among tribes, culminating in a series of revolts and rebellions at a regular interval all through the late 18th and 19th centuries. Often, these revolts are treated as wars of independence of the tribes against the British. It is worth noting that these wars were as much against the people of the plains as against the British. Both were equal partners in the oppression and exploitation of the tribes. The recurrent revolts did pose a threat to the British rule and administration. As a measure to contain such recurrences in the future, the British therefore toyed with the idea of certain safeguards. These came in the form of non-regulation tracts where general laws and regulation were not applicable unless felt otherwise. Later, such areas came to be referred to as excluded and partially excluded areas, which provided some space for traditional systems of self-governance.

Much of the problems the tribals have been facing today have their roots in this colonial legacy, which became even more entrenched in post-independence India. What is being witnessed today in tribal areas is a repeat of what their forefathers had been through about 200 years ago. Alienation of land from the tribes to non-tribes has continued unabated despite the constitutional provision of bringing much of the areas that the tribes inhabit into the Scheduled Areas, either under the provision of the Fifth or Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. This problem has been compounded by the extent of displacement that the tribes in the region, especially the Fifth Scheduled Areas, have been witness to following the state development projects as a part of the nation-building process. With the opening up of the Indian economy to the wider world through the processes of liberalisation and globalisation since the early 1990s, there has been an unprecedented entry of the private companies, including multinational corporations (MNCs), for resource extraction and profit. The state governments have been very proactive in facilitating and aiding this process. As there are laws restricting alienation of land from tribes to non-tribes, states began acquiring lands and making it available at the disposal of private companies at a price higher than what it paid to tribes as compensation.

Such passing of tribal land by the state to private companies in the Fifth Scheduled Areas, as per the historic Samata judgment of the Supreme Court in 1997, is legally and constitutionally untenable. Hence, the state governments have been toying with the idea of tampering with the legal and constitutional safeguards meant for the tribes. This has been most evident in Jharkhand. There had been attempts to bring in amendments to the Chhotanagpur Land Tenancy Act, 1908 and the Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act, 1949. The former was enacted in the aftermath of the tumultuous Birsa Munda movement. The bill failed to receive the assent of the Governor due to massive protests by the tribals. As a strategy to break the unity of the tribes, the Jharkhand Freedom of Religion Bill was introduced and passed in 2017. A few months later, an ordinance was passed introducing the amendment to the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Settlement (Jharkhand Amendment) Bill, 2017. The ordinance has been awaiting assent of the Governor and President. All these moves are pointers to the persistent attempts by the government to counter the provisions of protection and safeguard enshrined in the Constitution and laws.

Legitimate Assertion

Given such repeated moves by the states for the acquisition of tribal lands, the tribes are pushed to defend themselves. Earlier, they had been resisting such projects through protest, rallies and other democratic means on a continuing basis. Of late, however, they have been trying to defend themselves from such assault by asserting their constitutional and legal rights emanating from the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution. In the Fifth Schedule, the governors, to begin with, are vested with special powers to safeguard and protect the interests of the tribal population. They are expected to examine laws enacted by Parliament and the state legislature to ascertain if they are in keeping with safeguarding of tribal interests, and accordingly have the power to restrain their application in Scheduled Areas or suggest their application along with suitable amendments. They are responsible for the maintenance of law and good governance in tribal areas. In all these they are expected to take the advice of the Tribes Advisory Council. They are also expected to submit annual reports to the President of India on the tribal situation of the state. Paradoxically, however, the governors have shied away from this constitutional responsibility. Due to this, much harm has already been done and is still being done, but the governors seem to be oblivious of their responsibility. Under the Sixth Schedule too, the Governor is a custodian of tribal interest though there is a provision of self-governance in the form of autonomous district councils. The autonomous council has legislative, executive and judicial power over certain subjects. What the Fifth Scheduled Areas of mainland India did not have is self-governance. Hence, there was a campaign and movement for self-governance which was led by Bharat Jan Andolan, an umbrella organisation of NGOs, activists, academics and grass-roots tribal community organisations. The slogan of the movement was “hamara gaon hamara raj” (our village, our rule). The movement culminated in the enactment of the PESA in 1996.

In short, the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution provides for administration and control of Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes (STs) and gives power to the Governor to make regulations for peace and good governance of the Scheduled Areas. Deriving force from these enabling provisions in the Constitution aimed at ensuring social, economic and political equity, several specific legislations have further been enacted by the central and state governments for the welfare of the STs, the PESA being one of them. Essentially, the Fifth Schedule is a historic guarantee to the STs over the land they live on.

However, the acronym PESA for Provisions of Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act is somewhat misleading. It is important to note that it is not an extension of panchayati raj as it is generally viewed, but an extension of the provisions of the panchayat to Scheduled Areas. The provisions provided in the PESA are substantially different in letter and spirit from the Panchayat Raj constitutional amendment act of 1992. The latter was exempted from its application in the Fifth and Sixth Scheduled Areas. The PESA provides for self-governance through traditional gram sabhas for people living in the Fifth Scheduled Areas. In fact, the PESA mandates that notwithstanding anything contained under Part IX of the Constitution, the legislatures of the states shall not make any law under that part which is inconsistent with any of the features of the PESA. The key features are:

(i) A state legislation on the panchayat that may be made shall be in consonance with the customary law, social and religious practices and traditional management practices of community resources. Every gram sabha shall be competent to safeguard and preserve the traditions and customs of the people, their cultural identity, community resources and customary mode of dispute resolution.

(ii) All relevant subject laws and rules, central and state are to harmonise with the aims and objectives of the PESA. Some of the key acts that need consideration in this context are those regarding land acquisition, mines and minerals, forests, forest conservation, excise, etc.

(iii) While endowing panchayats in the Scheduled Areas with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as institutions of self-governance, the state legislature is to ensure that the panchayats and the gram sabha are endowed with power and authority to enforce or regulate the ownership of minor forest produce, power to prevent alienation of land and to restore alienated land, the power to manage village markets, exercise control over moneylending, excise, etc.

Given such powers to tribes under the PESA, it is extremely problematic to treat the Pathalgadi movement as anti-national and book people associated with the movement under charges of sedition. In fact, the people are merely asserting the rights provided to them by law and the Constitution. If they have gone somewhat overboard with regard to the interpretation of some of the provisions, the state governments are almost totally ignorant of special rights provided to tribes in the Constitution and law enacted by the state. If governments fail to imple­ment the rights given to the people, it is only imperative that people engage in democratic assertion for the realisation of their rights. Indeed, history is witness to the fact that the implementation of laws has been effective only where there are grass-roots organisations to ensure the effective realisation of rights.


Virginius Xaxa is Professor of Eminence at Tezpur University Assam. He can be reached at

Note:  This article was first published in EPW.

Research Paper

Land is Life for Adivasis

by Gladson Dungdung


“Jan Denge, Jameen Nahi Denge” (We shall surrender our lives but not land). This has been the most popular slogan of the Adivasis’ Movements against Displacement (AMD) across India for last couple of decades, which clearly indicates about the meaning and importance of land for them. ‘Adivasi’ literally means the aboriginal or original inhabitant or first settler of the land.[i] Undoubtedly, the Adivasis are the indigenous peoples of India, which is legitimatized by the Supreme Court of India through its judgement (SLP (Cr) No.10367 of 2010 Kailas & others Vs State of Maharashtra), stating that the tribal people (Scheduled Tribes or Adivasis) are the descendants of the original inhabitants of India[ii]. However, the Indian government denies their Indigenous Identity and recognizes them merely as the scheduled tribes through the Indian Constitution and laws even today.

There are 744 Adivasi or indigenous ethnic groups in India but only 645 of them are identified as the Scheduled Tribes. As per the Census 2011, the Adivasis are 8 percent of the total population with 104 million people, treated as the most marginalized and vulnerable communities in India. An Adivasi legend Dr. Ramdayal Munda describes the true characters of the Adivasi community as ‘casteless, classless, based on equality, community based economic system, co-existence with the nature, consent based self-rule, dignity and autonomy[iii]. The Adivasis live in or around the nature. The government’s data suggests that 89.9 percent of them still live in the rural areas, and merely 10.1 percent[iv] of them have shifted to urban centers. The Adivasi economy, which is also known as the community or need based economy fully depends on forest and agriculture.

The natural resources are the most essential sources of livelihood for the Adivasis but the land is most important among them. However, they do not perceive the land merely as a livelihood resource but they consider it as their heritage, history, autonomy, identity, culture, existence and life. They believe that their sole existence relies on the land. Therefore, if the land is lost, their existence is gone, which could be seen in the cities like Jamshedpur, Bokaro and Ranchi. The so-called civilized people treat the land merely as property or commodity, and sell it in the market rate to make money as much as possible, but the land is life for the Adivasis. That’s the reason why they have been struggling to protect their land for the centuries.

In the ancient period, the Adivasis possessed undisputed ownership rights over the natural resources and they judiciously used these resources to fulfil their needs[v]. They enjoyed autonomy, peace and prosperity with the nature. The situation rapidly changed with the Aryan invasion and turned worse during the British rule in India. On the one hand, the Aryans destroyed the Adivasi civilization, denied them their indigenous identity and did not accept them as fellow human beings, and the Britishers, on the other hand, used violence against the innocent Adivasis for grabbing their land, territory and resources, declared them uncivilized and even listed 127 Adivasi ethnic communities as criminal tribes[vi].

The British introduced a centrally organized administration, a judiciary and a police system. They also introduced the concept of private property as opposed to the traditional notion of collective usufructuary rights of the community. Thus, the natural resources of the community were coined as ‘property’ and individual owners were created. The communal resources were considered as the ‘eminent’ domain and taken over. The forests and other individually unclaimed fallow lands were declared as the property of the State.[vii] Gradually, the government enacted various policies and laws, which induced the marginalization of the Adivasis. They were deprived from the natural resources merely for the government’s revenue yielding measures. The Adivasi way of life was destroyed by imposing revenue on land and duties on the forest produces. The Land Acquisition Act 1894 was the last nail on the coffin, which resulted a huge deprivation of the Adivasis from their land, territory and resources.

After India’s independence, the land alienation was on the rampant. There have been three types of major land alienation of Adivasis – legal, illegal and forcefully. The India State used the Land Acquisition Act 1894 for so-called legal land acquisition and ‘eminent domain’ for forceful acquisition of the Adivasis’ land under the tag of ‘public interest’, ‘national interest’ and ‘development’. The estimated data suggests that 28.2 million Adivasis have already been alienated, uprooted and displaced from their land, territory and resources in the name of public interest, national interest and economic growth & development since 1947 to 2004. Despite the prohibition of the Adivasis’ land alienation legally, the Annual report of the Ministry of Rural Development (Government of India) unfolds that 60,464 cases regarding 85,777.22 acres of illegal transfer of Adivasis’ lands were registered till 2001-2002[viii]. Furthermore, 2,608 cases of illegal land transfer were registered in 2003-2004, 2,657 cases in 2004-2005, 3,230 cases in 2005-2006, 3789 cases in 2006-2007 and 5382 cases in 2007-2008, which clearly indicates that the cases of illegal land alienation are increasing rapidly. The Adivasis’ alienation from their land, territory and resources, has resulted in their impoverishment, destruction and extinction. They have lost their identity, autonomy, language, culture and tradition.

However, today, the Adivasis have been facing even more threat of being alienated, uprooted and displaced from their land, territory and resources. The present nexus among the State, the Corporate Houses and the political parties, seems to be busy in amending the safeguarding laws made for Adivasis, suppressing the dissent voices and crushing down the democratic Adivasis Movements through police and military operations. For instance, the state government of Jharkhand amended the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation & Resettlement Act 2013, attempted to amend the CNT Act 1908 and SPT Act 1949 and constituted Land Bank, where 2.1 million acres of community land, which includes the commons, sacred grooves and forest land, enlisted. Besides, the government has also brought the Industrial and investment promotion policy 2016 to create an industrial corridor in the state. Therefore, there is a thrust need to understand, respect and acknowledge the Adivasi’s perspective about land. Pressurize the Central and state governments for the enforcement of the safeguarding laws, constitutional provisions and Supreme Court’s judgements regarding the Adivasis rights. And fight for the protection of the Adivasis’ land, territory and resources.


[i] Dungdung, Gladson. 2013. Whose Country is it Anyway? Kolkata : Adivaani.

[ii] The Supreme Court order on the SLP (Cr) No. 10367 of 2010 Kailas & others Vs State of Maharashtra

[iii] Dungdung. 2016. Adivasi aur Vanadhikar. New Delhi: Prithvi Prakashan.

[iv] Statistical profile of Scheduled Tribes in India 2013. Ministry of Tribal Affairs (Govt. of India).

[v] Dungdung. 2016. Adivasi aur Vanadhikar. New Delhi: Prithvi Prakashan.

[vi] Dungdung, Gladson. 2013. Whose Country is it Anyway? Kolkata : Adivaani.

[vii] Munda, R.D. & Mullick,S.B. 2003. The Jharkhand Movement. New Delhi: IWGIA & BIRSA

[viii] Annual Report 2002-03, Ministry of Rural Development (Govt. of India).


Writers and historians have done grave injustice to Adivasis : Gladson Dungdung

gladson october 2014

Adivasi Author Gladson Dungdung writes prolifically on Adivasis’ struggles for their identity and on their existence. He tells Vidya Bhushan Rawat about the challenges facing his community.

Your new book Endless Cry in the Red Corridor has hit the stands recently. What is the central message of this book?

I want to tell the world that the rulers of this country have looted the Adivasis. There is this area of around 92,000 square kilometers, extending from Andhra Pradesh to Nepal. They call it the Red Corridor. They say that there are Maoists in this corridor. But just pick up the map of India and you will find that there are Adivasis, forests and minerals in this corridor and they call it the Red Corridor! Why do they call it the Red Corridor? Because they want to exploit the natural resources of this area, they want to loot and sell the minerals and the water and the forests. In 2008, the Government of India commissioned the British company, Execution Noble & Company Ltd, to study the economic potential of the Red Corridor. It concluded that it has immense business opportunities. If it is exploited, the Indian economy can take a quantum jump, the company’s report said. [Then home secretary] G.K. Pillai promised that the Red Corridor would be vacated by 2013. This was duly given in writing. And to fulfil the promise, two lakh paramilitary troops were sent to this area. Look, how they killed the Adivasis after branding them as Naxals. In at least three states, I have seen how the Adivasis were branded as Naxals and brutally killed them. Later, it came to the fore that they were innocent. They have killed at least 1,000 innocent Adivasis in this manner. More than 500 tribal women were sexually exploited. They were subjected to all kinds of atrocities. In Odisha, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, they threw over 27,000 persons behind bars. The book unfolds the brutalities.

In the Saranda forests, about which I have written a book, Mission Saranda … the government says it cannot run schools in that area, it cannot establish Aanganwadis, it cannot build roads. But I have exposed that the mining companies are extracting minerals in that area. If the State cannot do anything there, how are the mining companies operating. They are paying money to the Maoists – some are paying Rs 50 lakhs, some are paying Rs 25 lakhs. They also provide arms to them. But, if an Adivasi even serves food to the Maoists on gunpoint, you put him in jail.

It is obvious that government wants to snatch the land and mineral resources from Adivasis. An English proverb goes, “Give a dog a bad name and hang him.” The government is doing exactly that vis-à-vis the Tribals. Brand them as Naxals and kill them. And no one protests. What is sad is that those who are talking about development for the Adivasis know nothing about them. There is no disputing the fact that development is needed. But how can they decide what is development? How can they decide how to bring it about? I’m sure you remember Chidambaram telling Parliament that Tribals are not a museum piece. Of course, not but how can he talk about the development for Tribals without knowing anything about them?

For argument’s sake, let us accept this definition of development. Now tell me, mining began in the Saranda forests in 1925. Every year, the government extracts iron ore worth Rs 3,000 crores from there. But there is no good road for the Adivasis in the forest, no good school, no good hospital. Why? Why 70 per cent women of the area are anemic? Why 80 per cent Adivasis children are malnourished? Jharkhand is a Adivasi-dominated state but even here Adivasis have been marginalized.

See, whether it is the BJP or the Congress, their agenda has been the same – annihilate the Adivasis. Since the time of Independence, the slogan was that the Adivasis and the Dalits have to be brought into the mainstream. And what is the mainstream? Leave behind all that is yours and come and join us. They want our identity to be destroyed. So, our battle is for our identity. The Supreme Court had said on 5 June 2011 that Adivasis are the indigenous inhabitants of this country. They fear this fact and that is why they want to finish everything. Besides the rest of the world, the Supreme Court has also admitted that the Adivasis are the original inhabitants of this country. What is stopping the government from accepting this fact?

There was a long debate on this issue in the Constituent Assembly during which Jaipal Singh Munda had unequivocally declared that they wanted the “Adivasi” word in the Constitution. “We would settle for nothing less than that,” he said. The word “Adivasi” was inserted in Article 13(5) of the Constitution. Babasaheb Ambedkar did not want the word to be included in the Constitution. Some say that Babasaheb feared Dalits going with the Adivasis if the latter were called the original inhabitants. Babasaheb also said that the word “Adivasi” had no meaning.

Do you have any reference to support your claim?

Of course, I have the proof. On can see the debates of the Constituent Assembly. He said during the debates that the words “Adivasi” and “Untouchable” have the same meaning. This means nothing. He himself faced great persecution. I feel that perhaps, he did not get the time to study the Adivasis community, to understand it. I am saying this because in one of his speeches he said that the government should work for the development of the “uncivilized” tribals. Why uncivilized? Why did he have such a negative perception about the Tribals?

It was not negative. Dr Ambedkar was deeply involved in the problems of his own community. Tribals were not victims of untouchability. So, first we should bring the debate in the Constituent Assembly to light. There were many others in the Constituent Assembly besides Ambedkar and Munda. So, we cannot make this charge against Ambedkar.

I’m not making any charge. I’m just trying to understand things. Ashwini Kumar Pankaj has written a book that says all this.

I also have talked to him about this. I told him that when Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes were being discussed in the Constituent Assembly, Ambedkar was standing by both.

See, I consider it wrong to categorize Adivasis as a caste. They are not a caste. Calling them “Anusuchit Janjati” is wrong. It should be “Anusuchit Jan”. Today, caste certificates are being issued to Adivasis. When you are not a part of the caste system, why do you need a caste certificate? They should be given certificates saying that they are Adivasis or belonging to the Adivasi community.

Another thing, whether it was Ambedkar or Nehru or Jaipal Singh Munda, all were educated in the West. They learnt about liberalism or democratic liberalism or Western liberalism from the West. On the one hand, we took lessons in democracy from the British; on the other hand, they had colonized us. This is mutually contradictory. Similarly, “aboriginal” and “uncivilized” are used to describe the same people. 

Describing Adivasis as aboriginals may have been negative but it put the others in a difficult situation. It meant that the Adivasis were the original inhabitants and others they came later. But from the very beginning, they have not considered Adivasis as humans. At best, they considered them a slightly developed animal. So, this is the reason Adivasis issues are not in the center stage today.

When we analyze the Ambedkarite movement, people say that it brought about a social revolution because Babasaheb called upon Dalits to shed antiquated traditions and march forward. Shouldn’t the Adivasis do the same?

No. There is no question of tradition here. Since the Adivasis are not a part of the caste system, we don’t need to shed anything. This misconception arises because of the lack of exposure to tribal philosophy. This is why the Adivasis were suppressed. When you want someone to give up something you simply paint a negative picture of it and that person will himself abandon it. This was what was done with the Adivasis. No society is as equal as Adivasis society. They have both social equality and gender equality. Among Adivasis when a prosperous farmer employs a poor man to work his fields, he works shoulder to shoulder with him. He eats food with him, he celebrates festivals and happy occasions with him, he invites him to his place and he visits his place. Just see what happens in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar and other states. There is nothing like this anywhere. In fact, there is discrimination based on the rich and the poor. Secondly, Adivasi girls choose their own life partner. And what happens in your civilized society? Lakhs of women are burnt alive, murdered for dowry. Girls are not allowed to be born; and if they are born, they are killed. This is your civilized society?

The way you blocked the CNT [Chotanagpur Tenancy] Act through your relentless struggle is an example for other states. What changes was the government bringing about in this Act?

The issue is not limited to CNT alone, it also includes SPT [Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act]. They were trying to amend sections 21, 49 and 71 of the CNT Act and section 13 of the SPT Act. The first amendment pertained to declaring agricultural land as non-agricultural. This was a very dangerous game and they were playing it very shrewdly. As soon as Modi and his team came to power, it amended the Land Acquisition Act. They did it thrice. Why did they do it? Because the Rehabilitation Rules 2013, framed under the Act, clearly stipulate that there will be no acquisition of land in the Scheduled Areas unless it is very essential. Secondly, even if land is acquired, it should not include agricultural land. And in case this has to be done, you have to provide agricultural land of an equal area to the farmer. So, what did they think of doing to circumvent this problem? They wanted to acquire the power for declaring agricultural land as non-agricultural. Now, if they moved court, they would argue that it was non-agricultural land and they had the power to acquire it. They have still not repealed section 49. We are still fighting for it. According to this section, they can acquire land for industries and mining. It says that the land that has industrial and mining infrastructure, can be regularized by paying one per cent tax within a period of three months. That is why businessmen unitedly support the BJP; that is why they provide funds to the party. And in a quid pro quo, the government protects them. They fear that if in the future, the tribals become judges or enter the government, they will get the mining and industrial infrastructure on tribal land razed. Their objective is to facilitate the businessmen. They want to grab whatever land remains.

In Jharkhand, the leadership of the movement is in the hands of Adivasis. In other states, non-Adivasis are leading the Adivasis. Your take?

Efforts are being made here, too. Others are trying to take over the leadership. But whenever they try, the Adivasis community throws up one leader or the other. That is because Jharkhand has a 300-year-old history of agitation and movements. Writers, litterateurs, poets and historians have all cheated the Adivasis. They say that 1857 was the first war of Independence. Then, what about 1855 when 15,000 Santhals were killed, Sido and Kanhu Murmu were hanged? Those who are wearing their patriotism on their sleeves – let them point out a single place where they had declared that the British rule was not acceptable to them. The Adivasis did that. Sido and Kanhu had the support of 60,000 Santhals and they had told the British in clear terms that they are their own rulers, that the rule of the British was not acceptable to them. When the British opened fired on them, they took the bullets on their chest. Talking of the even earlier times, in 1770, the British told Baba Tilka Manjhi and the Hill Adivasis that they would have to pay land revenue. The Adivasis’ reply was that land, water and forests were the gift of god and they would not pay any tax on them. When the demand for Pakistan was being raised, Babasaheb demanded Dalitsthan. Then, Jaipal Singh Munda also demanded Adivasisthan. But their Adivasisthan was not like Pakistan or Dalitsthan. They said that they wanted to live in India but they should be given autonomy in their areas. There should be no government interference in these areas.

Dr Ambedkar was saying the same thing. He was not demanding a separate Dalitsthan. But the main problem in India is its electoral system. Non-tribals are posted in tribal areas. Non-Muslims are getting elected from Muslim areas. How will they work when they don’t understand the pain of the people they are meant to serve? So this is a major lapse on the part of Parliament for which everyone is responsible …

Sometimes I feel there was no discussion at all between Babasaheb Ambedkar and Jaipal Singh Munda. I haven’t come across any mention that they met outside the Constituent Assembly or held discussions. Just imagine, had they met, had they forged a common strategy, the condition of the Adivasis and the Dalits might have been different.

After Independence, Dr Ambedkar worked in tandem with many others like Dr Ram Manohar Lohia. They held discussions on how to free Dalits and the other poor from poverty. Dr Ambedkar died in 1956. This was a big setback. But what about Captain Munda? He was ignored.

I feel that though he [Jaipal Singh Munda] was in the Congress, in his speeches, which are available in writing, he targeted the Savarnas. He said that the Savarnas did not want we Adivasis to progress. So, Jaipal Singh Munda understood this and after the formation of the Jharkhand party, he won 32 seats. This put the fear in the Congress that they could become a major threat for them in the future. So, the Congress started suppressing them. Secondly, Dr Ambedkar’s friends and others have written much about him. But no one wrote anything about Jaipal Singh Munda. Instead, some began deriding him. Later, the tribal leaders also did not talk about him – whether it is Shibu Soren or Babulal Marandi or anyone else. You see, at that time he had won nine gold medals. He was until then the only Tribal to captain an Indian sports team. When the movement for the creation of Jharkhand state began, the RSS and the BJP were the first to oppose it. They said that we wanted to Balkanize the country. And now, it is they who are enjoying it the most. The RSS-BJP do politics of religion. The day conflict over religion ends, the BJP will be finished.

Don’t you think that every major movement has to take the support of one or the other religion? Dr Ambedkar, for instance, chose Buddhism.

You see, the RSS was born in 1925 and the work for organizing the Adivasis had begun in 1915-16. Jaipal Singh Munda emerged as a political force in 1952. RSS achieved that political status only after 1980. But it is now ruling the country. When Jaipal Singh Munda and his group constituted the Adivasi Mahasabha, they became very powerful. They raised the same basic issues (language, culture, identity, water, forests and land) that are relevant even today. But a big folly on their part was converting Adivasi Mahasabha into Jharkhand Party. Due to this, the Adivasi Mahasabha lost its identity. What they should have done instead was that they should have taken the Mahasabha forward; Jaipal Singh Munda should have handed over its leadership to someone else and founded another organization for doing politics – just as the RSS had done, and which we are trying to do now.

Secondly, we are working on Adivasis literature. Literature has assassinated the Adivasis. Nothing was written about them. Or whatever little was written was full of inaccuracies. It was said that the Adivasis are barbarians, they are illiterates, they move around naked. This was a conspiracy to obliterate us. But now we are writing what is true and we are rebutting what is wrong.

There is this talk of the Dalits and the Adivasis coming on a common platform.

If we are talking about the long battle and the pan-India context, we have launched a Moolniwasi movement. I believe that this is necessary. There should be unity. We cannot fight separately for a long time because if we are divided, we will be sitting ducks for the enemy. But a lot of spadework needs to be done for this because the issues are different.

Looking ten years ahead, don’t you think that Adivasi life is the best, especially in view of the blind race for development we are witnessing today? What do you have to say? 

Over the past three-four years, I have been travelling to Europe frequently. There, people tell me that if we are to continue living, we will have to lead our lives as you do. Around 25 families of London have shifted to the forests of Wales. They are living in small houses. They don’t want internet or mobile. When I asked them why they are doing it, they said that what was being described as development was actually insanity. When this Earth won’t survive, how will we? Hence, if this world has to be saved, we will have to tread the path of Adivasis.

The growing population of outsiders in Jharkhand has become a big challenge for the Adivasis. Your take?

Under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, there should be restrictions on outsiders settling in tribal areas. But when we advocate it, people quote Articles 19 (1) (2) (3) (4) to argue that every Indian has the right to settle anywhere in the country, to work anywhere. But they do not talk of 19 (5) (6), which allow a state to impose restrictions on outsiders.

How does the media look at Adivasis? 

The media publishes news about Adivasis only when it thinks it will sell. The media sees them as a product. It is the most intellectual but at the same time the most racist institution in the country. You won’t find a tribal news editor or bureau chief in the tribal areas. All of them are outsiders. Some of them cannot even write Hindi well. But they are there. This is shameful for the media. They have barred the Adivasis, though you will find Adivasis occupying top positions in many other fields.

Why is there so much emphasis on privatization in India?

This is a shrewd move, because when you complain why reservations are not being given, they can say that the institution concerned is privately owned. How can we give reservations now? You talk of merit. Are Dalits and Adivasis lagging behind in merit? Then, tell me, there is so much corruption in India. Are the Dalits and the Adivasis looting the country? You ran the country for 70 years. Could you solve even one problem? Just tell me one scheme, one programme that was implemented 100 per cent. They build roads and they are in pieces within two years.

What are your future plans?

Protecting the tribal land, water, forests, languages and culture of the Adivasis – for this, the tribal community will have to turn intellectuals. I hold the view that the battle for saving the Adivasis should and will be an intellectual battle. The day an intellectual revolution comes about in the tribal community, it will become invincible. Today, they don’t know the law. They don’t understand how the government is grabbing their land. They do not understand the new laws. On the one hand, the BJP presents itself as a well-wisher of the Adivasis; on the other hand, it is killing Adivasis in Chhattisgarh, branding them as Naxals. Their women are being raped. And this is happening in a state where the BJP has been ruling for the past 15 years. The Adivasis will be able to understand all this only after an intellectual revolution. They will be able to analyze things.

Secondly, people say that conversions are taking place. Christians formed 2 per cent of India’s population in 1951. The 2011 census also says that they are 2 per cent. Where is the question of conversions then? The Christian missionaries run the highest number of educational institutions in the country and children of other religions also study in them. If these institutions were involved in conversions – as the BJP and the RSS say – then the Christian population would have increased. If not more, they would have been at least 10 per cent. All the movements being run by the RSS and the BJP are based on lies.

Shouldn’t Parliament apologize for the atrocities against the Dalits and the Adivasis?

One day, they will have to apologize. That is why we are conducting so much research. If you won’t apologize on your own, we will make you apologize. The day the Dalit-Tribal-OBC unity is established, the rulers will have to apologize for doing injustice to us. That is why cases are being filed to silence people like us. We are being stopped.

Should others also join this battle?

Yes. There is no problem with that. But I have a problem when the non-Adivasis want leadership. People like Medha Patkar and P.V. Rajagopal – there are others also. I salute them. But why do they want the leadership? In her writing, Arundhati Roy wonders what the Adivasis would have done without the Maoists. How can she write that? And that too about the Adivasis, who did not allow the British on their land, who forced them to retreat.

I will give you an example. Gandhi Foundation, London, had to honour the Adivasis of India. And whom did they choose – Bulu Imam and Dr Binayak Sen. I salute their work. But the honour was meant for Adivasis. I objected. I wrote to them asking why they couldn’t find two Adivasis from among the 100 million of them in India? What they told me was astonishing. They said that they were given in writing that there was not a single Tribal in India who could come to London and express his or her views in English. Then, I wrote another letter asking whether the two individuals proved more than a match for 10 crore Indians. I said that if they wanted to honour those two people, they should not have invoked the Adivasis of India. I wrote that this was an insult to the Adivasis and they should apologize. And they did apologize. Initially, some people welcomed me with open arms. These greedy people were thinking I would play into their hands. But when they realized that I would do what I felt like, they started ignoring me.

Someone asked, “What problem do you have if Dr Sen is being honoured?”

What problem could I have? Let them give the Nobel to him. But this honour was meant for Indian Adivasis then how non-Adivasis got it?

Some people say that you have personal issues. Like that about your passport. You raise them frequently?

No, there are no personal issues. My passport was seized twice. There are some IB people who tell me that my passport was seized because I had made Saranda a major international issue. There was no personal issue involved in the seizure of my passport. What happens is that as you rise, you create more and more enemies. Some people are jealous of you. They will try to put you down by raising personal issues. Let them be. This happens. I have my own commitments. I will fight for society till I am alive.

You have struggled a lot in your life. Tell us about your struggles.

My family was very prosperous. My grandfather was a teacher. He was also involved in social work. He was famous locally. He had two sons – my father and his elder brother. My village is Birni, very close to the Kelaghat Dam in Sindera. When my grandfather got a job, he moved to another village. There, he worked as a teacher and did some other work too and bought 10 acres of land. He thought that if he settled his two sons in different places, they would not quarrel over land. The dam was built in 1980. I was not born then. The entire agricultural land in my ancestral village was submerged. We got some money. A case is still pending in the court. My father was forced to move to the other village after my grandfather’s death. So, the land that was purchased for one brother had to be divided between the two brothers. My father’s elder brother got a job. Our situation was such that there was not even enough to eat in our house. I was very young. I remember that my father brought wood from the forests and sold it at a place 17 km away to arrange for food. Then, the forest department foisted cases on my father saying that he felled trees. The police came and took away my father in the night. At the time, my mother’s arm also got fractured. After my father was released, he filed a case about the land in a court in another village. Later, he became a Munshi. He won the case. The other party comprised many people. When, on 20 June 1990, my father and mother were going to court, they were murdered in a valley that fell between the village and the court. Our relatives took us four brothers and sisters into their various homes. I was barely 12 at the time. I was studying in standard eight. Later, I came back to the village. Everyone, including the teachers, knew me. I was kept in a hostel. Then, I quit the hostel and started living in the village. There, I started studying in standard nine. I grew crops to purchase my uniform and books. I passed the matriculation examination but could not arrange Rs 250 for paying college fees. So I could not get admission. I then started working as bicycle mechanic. I lived with my father’s elder brother. I also took his buffaloes for grazing.

My sister lived in Patna. She worked for just Rs 900 a month. When she came to the village, someone told her that she should take me to Patna, for otherwise my life would be ruined. So, my sister took me with her to Patna. But she did not earn enough to send me to a regular college. She had me admitted but I could not attend classes. So, I started studying in the library of an organization called Ekta Parishad. Pradeep Priyadarshi was the head of the Parishad. One day he called me and asked how I could look after the library just like that. So, I started sweeping the floor and cleaning the toilets of the library. If there was a visitor, I used to prepare tea. They saw that this boy is doing all this for free. So, he asked me to take care of the library and do whatever I was doing and said that he would pay me Rs 500 per month. When I started getting Rs 500 per month, I learnt typing. Then, I joined English language coaching. In six months, I picked up a little English, not much. At the time, I saw that the people who had hired a labourer were giving him food in another plate – like they would do to a dog. At the time, I visited Bhojpur for the first time. I worked with the Dalits in Ekta Parishad. Then, a case came up which filled me with great self-confidence. It was a case related to a farmland. The Savarnas had broken the leg of a Dalit woman. They came with her to our office. There was no one at the office then. I did not know what to do. “Let us go to the Naubatpur police station,” I said. The policemen did not register an FIR. I went to the police station in-charge and argued with him, though I was afraid. But I succeeded and the FIR was registered. Those who were booked, they were staring at me; they were trying to threaten me. I did not know their background, so I wasn’t afraid. I came back home. The next day, I was praised effusively at the office – that this little boy had the FIR registered and that too against musclemen. After that, the people of the organization started sending me out for fieldwork.

How long were you at Ekta Parishad?

For around five years. I passed my intermediate exam. Then, I learnt how to operate the computer. There was a problem. The director asked me, “How can you possibly learn here to use the computer?” There was a catholic priest in Patna supported me. He said that since I knew typing, I could work for him and get paid Rs 1,000 per month. That was a challenging time. I had to pay room rent and the college fees with just Rs 1,000. But I had the passion. For six months, I attended a computer class during lunchtime. Then, I got an opportunity to study at the National Centre for Advocacy Study. That brought about a change in my life. There, Dr Gyan Prakash was giving a lecture on Anthropology. I knew nothing about Anthropology. My knowledge of English was also rudimentary. The other students had studied in good colleges. There were one or two friends who had a similar background but they too had attended college. I only had a degree. I felt that it was the end of the road for me. If they asked questions, I wouldn’t be able to answer them. That day, when I went to my room, I could not sleep the whole night. I kept thinking that this was a golden chance for me and I decided that I would study only English for the following one year. After six months, I wrote an article. It was titled A World called Equality. It was about Dalits. I had worked with them and at the time, in 2002, some Dalits were lynched at Jhajjhar. That article was published in a national magazine called Indian Currents. John Dayal was the editor of the magazine. He praised the article. Then, I went to Orissa for my dissertation. I lived in the forests for six months and researched on forest rights. I worked in 10 villages populated by Adivasis. There, some RSS people came after me. They had a news item published in a newspaper that conversions had begun in the area. Then the Graham Staines incident happened. I feared that they would burn me alive. I came to Jharkhand and became associated with the Ekta Parishad again. We organized a month-long cycle rally during which we raised questions on human rights. We went from village to village, from forest to forest and fought for human rights. We took cases to courts, to commissions. We went to the areas from where people were being displaced. We made them aware. Then we studied the documents and wrote about the cases.

 How many books have you written so far?

Around 20 ­– three of them are in English. I write mostly in Hindi. I write small booklets so that they can reach the people living in rural areas. I write in English so that the world can know about the pain of the Adivasis.


A Memorandum to the Governor of Jharkhand against the Wildlife Corridor


Her Excellency,

Smt. Droupadi Murmu,

Governor of Jharkhand,

Raj Bhawan,

Ranchi – 834001.

Subject: Requesting for withdrawal of the proposed Wildlife Corridors Project by the Department of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (Govt. of Jharkhand) in the Fifth Schedule Areas of Jharkhand.  

Dear Madam,

This is to bring your kind attention on the matter of the proposed ‘Wildlife Corridor’ project by the Department of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (Government of Jharkhand) in the conservation plan of the Palamu Tiger Reserve for the financial years 2013-14 to 2022-23. The conservation plan of the Palamu Tiger Reserve has been prepared and submitted to the state government by Mr. Arun Singh Rawat (IFS), the Chief Conservator of forest & Field Director of Palamu Tiger Reserve, Daltonganj, Palamu, Jharkhand.

The state government has already approved the plan. The forest department has issued notice to the villagers living in the vicinity of Palamu Tiger Reserve to vacate their villages, which has created fear, insecurity and uncertainty in the minds of villagers. If the proposed plan is implemented in the region, there will be adverse affect of the villagers mostly the Adivasis (scheduled tribes) as 595,274.25 acres (see table – 1) of land will be acquired and 870 villages of 9 districts of Jharkhand will be vacated for the wildlife corridors, where approximately 1 million people will be displaced and affected. The state government of Jharkhand has neither carried out any consultative processes nor has it taken free, prior and informed consent of the communities while making such a devastative plan in the name of wildlife conservation.

This is a gross violation of the Provisions of Panchayat (Extension) in Scheduled Area Act 1996, which recognizes the self determination of the Adivasis (scheduled tribes) and empowers the Gram Sabha (village council) to manage the natural resources. This is also the violation of the Supreme Court judgment in the case of ‘Odisha Mining Corporation vs Ministry of Forest and Environment and others (c) No. 180 of 2011, which clearly states that the Gram Sabha is the owner of the natural resources, therefore, the consent of the Gram Sabha must be taken before making any such plan for the region. This is also a clear violation of the Forest Rights Act 2006, which recognizes the individual and community rights over the forest and forest land.

Table 1 : Proposed Wildlife Corridors

Sl. No. Name of the Wildlife Corridors Covering Districts Number of affected villages Area of land

(in Acres)

1. Sirsi-Palkot-Saranda WLC Latehar, Gumla, Simdega and West Singhbhum 214 1,87,733.31
2. Kumandih-Patki-Lawalong WLC Latehar, Palamu and Chatra 47 34,559.32
2a. Lawalong-Tutilawa-Hazaribagh WLS Chatra, Hazaribagh and Bokaro 151 91,680.81
2b. Lawalong-Gautam Bhddha WLS Chatra, Hazaribagh and Kodarma 243 1,32,492.54
2c. Lawalong-Manatu-Patan-Kaimur WLC Chatra and Palamu 83 43,798.90
3. Kutku-Salwahi-Nagar Utari-Kaimur WLC Palamu and Garhwa 132 1,05,009.37
Total 09 870 5,95,274.25

Source: Conservation plan of the Palamu Tiger Reserve 2013-14 to 2022-23

Since you are the custodial of the Fifth Scheduled areas of Jharkhand under the Indian Constitution, and you are also empowered with the special rights given in the Para fifth of the Fifth Schedule, hence, you can dismiss the proposed ‘Wildlife Corridor Project’ in the Fifth Schedule area merely by issuing a public notification.

Therefore, I humbly request you to order the Government of Jharkhand for withdrawal of the proposed ‘Wildlife Corridors’ project, which has created immense pressure in the lives of the Adivasis (Scheduled Tribes) and other forest dwellers communities.

I shall be highly obliged to you for the same.

Thanking You

Yours Sincerely

Gladson Dungdung

General Secretary

JHRM, Ranchi.


Is the Modi government scared of this man?


Tribal rights activist Gladson Dungdung was offloaded from an Air India flight to London on Monday, May 9, 2016. In a Facebook post, the activist wrote that this was not the first time this had happened to him. In 2013 his passport had been impounded. Dungdung is the author of the recently published book, Mission Saranda: A War for Natural Resources in India in which he outlines the plight of tribals in Jharkhand’s mineral-rich Saranda forest. The book, he says, highlighted the government’s anti-people industrialisation policies. Dungdung spoke to Syed Firdaus Ashraf/

This is the second time you have been detained at an airport and deplaned. Why?

It is clear. For the last one decade, I have been raising the fundamental question about Adivasi rights. As you know the Red Corridor, which begins from Nepal to Andhra Pradesh, is called the mineral corridor. This is the same corridor where Adivasis live. The Indian State intends to clean this corridor and hand it over to corporate czars. This is what I have written in my latest book, Mission Saranda: A War for Natural Resources in India. I have proved in the book that this war is not to clean the area of Maoists, but under the guise of flushing out Maoists, the State is intent on waging war on the Adivasis to grab the natural resources. I have been speaking about this for many years. 

Why were you deplaned?

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to the United Kingdom he was asked a question about this (Adivasis and the environment). We are raising these questions globally. People are also questioning investors by telling them that it is because of their money that the Adivasis are getting killed. Many investors withdrew from the Arcelor Mittal project in Jharkhand. Therefore, the Government of India is targeting activists who are going abroad and raising these questions in international fora or the United Nations.

Why were you going to London?

I was going for an international conference on Environmental Politics of South Asia. I was to speak about the Saranda forest and how we will lose this forest because of the mining companies. At present, 22 new mining leases have been given and I have been highlighting this issue. At the same time, Adivasis are not being given rights under the Forest Act. The State does not like to hear uncomfortable questions and that is the main issue.

You said Vijay Mallya was allowed to leave the country, but an activist like you were detained.

Of course, and this is not surprising. Despite Mallya being a huge defaulter of bank loans, he was allowed to leave. Therefore, I said defaulters like Mallya can’t be offloaded, but activists like me are. And that too for raising questions.

All I am saying is enforce the Indian Constitution and the law of the land, which they (the Centre) are not doing. They are only talking about business, business and business. This business is not only a threat to Adivasis, but also to our ecology. You see, we have only 21 per cent forest left in India. India’s government commitment is to maintain at least 33 per cent coverage in India. In 2011, the Government of India came out with a forest survey report which said that the forests are the only place where Adivasis live. So, imagine what will happen if Adivais are not there. There will be no forests. What next? So, the economy must go with ecology. I say if you sell everything for money, what will happen next? We are not thinking of oxygen. See what is happening in Tokyo. They have oxygen cafes. Now, a Canadian company is ready to sell oxygen in India and that is why I am concerned. When we talk about economic growth without ecology we cannot grow. We are making a hell of this country.

Can’t you talk to the government and work together rather than just criticise it?

We are talking to the government. I met Jairam Ramesh, the environment minister of the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government several times. He said he would not allow private mining companies in the Saranda forest. He did not allow it.

Later, Jayanthi Natarajan replaced him and she allowed Jindal and two other companies in the Saranda forest. I am always ready to talk to the government, but this government is not ready to engage with dissent voices. How will you talk to this government?

What is the position in the Saranda forest with regards to mining?

The last government gave 22 new mining leases. Now they are trying to give more mining leases. Environment Minister Prakash Javdekar says he is trying to make it easy to do business. Earlier, it used to take 560 days for forest and environment clearances for any project. Now, they have brought it down to 190 days and now he is saying he will bring it to 100 days. I’m surprised how a minister who is supposed to protect the forests and the environment is happy reaching out to investors for more and more clearances. It is surprising what is happening to India. 

But we need jobs too.

I do not agree with this. Only few jobs are created. Take the example of Tata Steel. When Tata Steel was producing steel up to 1 million tonnes per annum, 70,000 people were employed. Now what is the situation? In 2009-2010 they started producing 8 million tonnes, then how many people must be employed? More than 500,000 right? No, they had only 20,000 people. Employees were reduced. So, where are the jobs?

But that is because of automation. There are other kind of jobs too. If Tata Steel employs 20,000 people, then other jobs get created on the periphery.

You read the book by Dr Ashish Kothari and Dr Aseem Srivastava (Churning The Earth) on jobs in mining companies. You will understand the situation.

We are not focusing on the agriculture sector. In 1950, the contribution of the agricultural sector (to the national economy) was 51 per cent. Today it has come down to 18 per cent. Today, we are focusing more on mining, industry and services. The service sector is fine, but mining and industry do not really care about climate change and deforestation. For money, we cannot sell all our forests and trees. We have to find other ways.

Don’t you think Adivasis too need development?

That is where India fails to understand and globally too, people fail to understand, what development means. Development does not mean taking people out of the forest. You want to run away from nature in the name of development. We are running away from nature and therefore climate change is affecting the world. Development means we need to live with nature. Everybody should go back to nature. Nobody opposes development. Everybody needs education, food, electricity and roads. You provide that and who is objecting to that? Today what is the meaning of development? Take over land, water and forest from the Adivasis and hand it over to corporates. I do not agree with this view. We are losing everything in the name of development and that too for only one per cent of the population. Only 1 per cent of the population holds 99 per cent of the resources of this country. Is this development? The Indian Constitution guarantees economic and social justice to everyone. When will equality come? Government policies are creating more and more disparity. The money coming from mining companies is not going back to the people, but going to Jindal and other industrialists. Take the example of Jharkhand. Each year, there is an income of Rs 15,000 crore (Rs 150 billion) from mining alone, which is almost equal to the annual budget of Jharkhand. Check the below poverty line figures of the state. Around 46 per cent of the people still live below the poverty line. Why? If so much money is coming (from mining), why are people living in poverty? Who is supposed to respond to this question? The Indian State needs to respond.

One charge against you is that when you go abroad you bring disrepute to India’s development agenda.

In the name of development, the Indian State is taking resources from poor people and handing it over to the rich. That is a fact. They are not concerned about people living below the poverty line. All these government schools have become khichdi serving centres. Only Adivasis and Dalit students study there. The rich people send their children to private schools. How will equality ever be attained? The State is working against the Constitution. The ruling elites do not realise this and they must. Today or tomorrow, they have to realise there is no other way and they cannot run away. The Constitution guarantees everyone the Right to Life, Freedom, Liberty and Equality, therefore the State cannot wither away.

What is the status of your passport?

My passport has been seized by the immigration officer. The local passport office authority says there was no question of impounding the passpoprt. They said earlier it was impounded but everything is clear and there is no need to impound it again. I feel there is mischief from the ministry of home affairs. They do not want me travel out of India.

When you were not allowed to board the flight, what did you do?

I narrated the whole story of my passport being impounded in 2013. At that time, they told me that there was an adverse police report against me.

What happened this time?

They said that after my passport was impounded in 2013 it was not cleared and hence, they are impounding it again. This is not true because I had surrendered my passport and got my passport in 2014. I had gone to Denmark then. I went to London twice in 2014 and 2015. I suspect the ministry of home affairs played a dubious role after my book was released. It was released in July 2015 at JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University).

What about the allegations that you are being funded by foreign NGOs to stop India’s development? Also, that you are funded by church money.

My travel was funded by the University of Sussex. It is a government fund and not a NGO.

What is the difference between the Congress government and the Narendra Modi government as both governments detained and deplaned you?

I don’t see much difference. The economic policies are obviously the same. The Modi government is aggressively going for Hindutva whereas the Congress played with soft Hindutva. One difference was that during the UPA tenure, you could talk to them, you could share the table. In the Modi government, that space has gone. You cannot discuss and debate with the Modi government. They are not ready to listen. Our prime minister loves to address people through the radio but does not like to face a press conference. When the prime minister is not ready to face the media, how can you expect that he will speak to common people?


Research Paper

A Vision for Adivasis

By Gladson Dungdung

thumb_img_5015_1024 copy


‘Adivasis’ literally means aboriginal, first settlers, or the original dwellers, or the indigenous folks of the land[1]. The term ‘Adivasi’ was highly popularised by the Adivasi scholar Jaipal Singh Munda during the Jharkhand statehood Movement[2]. Undoubtedly, Adivasis are the Indigenous Peoples of India[3]. In the Indian Constitution, they are classified as the Scheduled Tribes (ST), and guaranteed certain special rights and privileges under the fifth & sixth schedules, Part XVI and Article 46 of the Constitution[4]. There are 705 individual Adivasi ethnic groups notified as the Scheduled Tribes in 30 States and Union Territories[5]. However, several Adivasi ethnic groups are yet to be notified, in that case the percentage of the Adivasi population would certainly go up, which will have direct impact in the demography and politics of the country.

Unfortunately, the Indian Government had repeatedly declined about the existence of Adivasis as the Indigenous Peoples of India in front of the United Nations’ Working Group on Indigenous Populations, nevertheless, on September 13, 2007 the Indian State became party to the United Nations declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was of course, the first official admission of the Adivasis as India’s Indigenous Peoples. Finally, it was legitimatized by the Apex Court of India on January 5, 2011, while hearing on an appeal (the special leave petition (Cr) No. 10367 of 2010 Kailas & others Vs State of Maharashtra), the Court said that the tribal people (Scheduled Tribes or Adivasis) are the descendants of the original inhabitants of India and as a group one of the most marginalized and vulnerable communities in India[6]. However, the India Government has failed to take adequate measures to protect their rights.

According to the census 2011, the Adivasis are 8.6 percent[7] of India’s total population, which is 104 million. 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 and the rest 3 percent live in other states[8].  The sex ratio for the overall population is 940 females per 1000 males, whereas the sex ratio of Adivasi community is 990 females per thousand males[9], manifests the status of gender based equality in the community, which is much better than the Indian society despite having more of or less the same kind of patriarchal social order. The economic liberalisation, globalization and privatization have created terrible impact in social fabric, economy, politics, culture and idea of community development. The self-dependent community has been almost compelled to become Government dependent due to various factors rising out of wrong governmental policies.

This paper is an attempt to understand and visualize a conclusive and achievable vision for the Adivasi community, based on an analysis of historical facts and the present day context. The vision would comprise of short term and long term goals, to be achieved jointly by the communities in democratic and participatory ways.

Historical facts and Present Context

The Adivasis have been living in or around the forests with the rhythm akin to nature and thus their life cycle moves round nature. They do not merely depend on the natural resources for their livelihood, but their sole identity, culture, autonomy, conscience, tradition, ethos and existence are based on it[10]. The Government’s data suggests that 89.9 percent of them still live in the rural areas, and merely 10.1 percent[11] of them have shifted to urban centers. An Adivasi legend Dr. Ramdayal Munda describes the true characters of the Adivasi community as ‘casteless, classless, based on equality, community based economic system, co-existence with the nature, consent based self-rule, dignity and autonomy.[12] Regrettably, these inherent characteristics of the community are rapidly disappearing.

The Adivasi economy could be termed as need based or community centric, with hardly any consideration shown in profit making endeavours.[13]. The rural market was more a place for sharing commodities than selling goods to gain profit. Most of the goods were produced by the community, for instance, oil from seeds, broom, mat, edibles, agricultural equipment, etc. Modernisation with all its positive impacts, on one side, has become detrimental to Adivasi community by imposing on it the profit based economic system and thus all the ills of market dominant economy. Thus, the Adivasis who produced to exchange goods for goods in the rural markets have been strangled by the profit based rural markets limiting them almost as consumers.

Historically, in the ancient period, the Adivasis possessed undisputed ownership rights over the natural resources and they judiciously used these resources for their existence[14]. Consequently, they enjoyed autonomy, peace and prosperity. The situation rapidly changed with the Aryan invasion and turned worse during the British rule in India. On the one hand, the Aryans destroyed the Adivasi civilization, denied them their indigenous identity and did not accept them as fellow human beings, and the Britishers, on the other hand, used violence against the innocent Adivasis for grabbing their land, territory and resources and even listed few of them as criminal tribes.

The British introduced a centrally organized administration, a judiciary and a police system. They also introduced the concept of private property as opposed to the traditional notion of collective usufructuary rights of the community. The communal 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.[15]Gradually, the government enacted various policies, which induced the marginalization of the Adivasis. They were deprived from the natural resources merely for the government’s revenue yielding measures. The “Adivasi economy and identity” was destroyed by imposing revenue on land and duties on the forest produces.

It is a historical fact to be known that almost one hundred years before India’s first recorded independence struggle of 1857, the Adivasis had revolted against the British colonial rule. This is the community that has a history of struggle for more than three centuries. At the very outset, the community resisted to be ruled over by outsiders.  They had been freedom loving people and they valued their freedom to govern and to live as a community. To cite few examples, the Paharia uprising of 1772, the Kol uprising of 1832, Bhumij movement of 1832-33, the Santal Hul of 1855, etc. are against the imposition of the idea of State on them. The community could not comprehend the concept of paying taxes for lands and forest produces because they were fully aware that everything was from the bounty of nature. Nevertheless, the British government forced levy and taxes on them.

Unfortunately, even after Indian independence the status quo remains the same. The Indian rulers were not different from the Britishers when it concerned the monopoly over natural resources. The vested interests, the methods of oppression and the basic ideology remain the same.[16] The Adivasis’ rights over the natural resources were snatched away through various legislations in the name of national interest, economic growth and development. The data suggests that ‘from 1951 to 2004, over 37 million people were displaced in the name of development in India. 26 million were forcibly displaced due to dams and canals construction alone. The Government accepts a national figure of over 50 million arising from ‘development-related-displacement’.[17] Perhaps, only 25 percent people were rehabilitated in some way and 75 percent were completely left out who are still waiting for rehabilitation. [18]

At the same time, there has been a huge illegal land alienation in the community despite having special legislation for safeguarding their land. According to the Annual report of the Ministry of Rural Development (Government of India) 60,464 cases regarding 85,777.22 acres of illegal transfer of land were registered till 2001-2002[19]. 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. But 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. Furthermore, 2,608 cases of illegal land transfer were registered in 2003-2004, 2,657 cases in 2004-2005, 3,230 cases in 2005-2006, 3789 cases in 2006-2007 and 5382 cases in 2007-2008[20], which clearly indicates that the cases of illegal land alienation is increasing rapidly.

However, the India’s war for natural resources continues even today in the name of cleansing the CPI-Maoist.[21] This has resulted in gross violation of civil and political rights of the Adivasis. The cases of brutal killing, molestation, rape, torture and falsely implications of innocent Adivasi men, women, girls, boys and children are countless. At a very rough and minimum estimate, from 2001 to 2016, 2,000 innocent villagers have been murdered by security forces – 1,000 in Chhattisgarh, 700 in Jharkhand and 300 in Odisha.  Similarly, at least 2,000 Adivasi girls and women have been sexually abused by men wearing government uniforms – 1,500 women in Chhattisgarh, 300 in Jharkhand and 200 in Odisha. According to various reports, Adivasis form the vast majority of 27,000 arrested as ‘Maoists’ and ‘encroachers on government land’ in these three States, under various laws, including UAPA, POTA, Arms Act, Explosions Act, 17 CLA Act and Forest Conservation Act 1980 – 17,000 in Chhattisgarh, 8,000 in Jharkhand and 2,000 in Odisha. Ironically, the Indian State regularly denies to take action against the perpetrators despite several commissions reports have exposed the naked truth.

The Adivasi community seems to be the most vulnerable and politically voiceless though there has been political participation in terms of number as there are 47 members in the Indian Parliament and more than 500 members in the Legislative Assemblies of several States, who were elected from the reserved constituencies to represent the Adivasi community. However, these representatives are either voiceless or under the burden of party politics. They are highly obelized to the political party they represent. Consequently, the Adivasi issues are not raised in the corridors of power. It seems clear that the community suffers from leadership vacuum. Most of the Gram Sabhas and other traditional bodies are also under the clutch of the political parties. The community does not possess political power in the real sense due to lack of the politicisation of the community.

The colonial concept of civilisation, and the Indian idea of mainstreaming and inclusion, has resulted in alienation of Adivasis from their land, territory, resources, identity, culture, languages and ethos. The invasion of different communities in different periods in Adivasis’ territories, and civilization and mainstreaming processes carried out by the colonial masters, and later, by the Indian government, after portraying the Adivasis as uncivilized, most backward, sub-human and so on, resulted in their cultural alienation. For instance, the Munda’s started writing their surname as ‘Singh’ and started wearing white thread similar like Brahmins to show their superiority among the Adivasi ethnic groups. They attempted to portray their group as much pure as Brahmis and attached them by writing Singh instead of Munda.

Similarly, the Kherwar and Chero used ‘Singh’ as their surname to associate themselves with the Rajput. However, later, they realized it as a blunder, and made corrections to some extent. But by and large, the cultural alienation has continued. The Adivasis have alienated themselves from Adivasi identity by not writing their surname in public places, changing their food habits, altering their life style, making a shift from community life to individual life, and from community based economy to market economy. Adivasis had inscribed their name in golden letters in national hockey. Today, their representation is dwindling in games and sports especially in hockey, which was their strength. Children tend to imitate cricketers and are seen playing cricket instead of hockey and football inside the forest to cite an example.

The constitutional provision of reservation, modern education system and mainstreaming processes, created a middle class in the Adivasi community, which took the path of huge cultural alienation. This middle class started adopting most of the cultural practices of the modern Indian society. For instance, individualism is placed above community, discrimination is created on the basis of ethnic groups in the line of caste, colour, status, race and gender etc. The community is also alienated from land, territory and resources. The idea of Adivasi development has taken backseat. The traditional health system, education system and the idea of rural infrastructure creation through community cooperation are slowly disappearing. The worst is that the modern day health facilities, educational endeavours and rural development programs have failed to enhance the life of Adivasis.

The status of education and health of Adivasis community is the worst among the lot in the country. On 1st April 2010, the Indian Government enforced the children’s right to free education through the Right to Education (RTE) Act. According to the Census 2011, the literacy rate is 59 percent, with 68.5 percent male and 56.9 percent[22] female literacy rate. The quality education is a far dream in the Government run schools. The children of Naxal affected states are trapped in violence, highly knowledgeable about the latest weapons – AK-47s, SLRs, and various other kinds of gun, pistol, bomb and landmine, which the security forces and Naxals use to target each other. But they hardly know anything from their text books. The students of class 7 were unable to read the text books of class 5 properly, nor could they even solve mathematical problems of class 3[23]. The government run schools have become food serving centres and the teachers are busy with various government programs with hardly any time to teach leading to a high increase in dropout rates from class eight to ten that is almost a staggering 70 percent.

The status of Adivasi children and women is pathetic. According to the Government data, the Neonatal mortality rate is 39.9, post-neonatal rate is 22.3, infant mortality rate is 62.1, child mortality rate is 35.8 and under five mortality rate is 95.7 in per 1000 live birth of Adivasi children[24]. This is higher than the national average of NNMR 39, PNNR 18, IMR 57, CMR 18.4, and UFR 74.3 subsequently. The Adivasi women and children are suffering from anemia and malnourishment. For instance, 85% of women and 80% of children of West Singhbhum distict of Jharkhand are anemic, and 64.3% children aged below five are underweight.[25] The availability of the health infrastructure in the Adivasis’ regions is another area of serious concern. If we see the all India data, 27,958 Health Sub-Centres (HSCs) are operational, against the requirement of 31,257, and the shortfall is 6,796, which is a huge number. Similarly, 3,957 Primary Health Centres are functional against the requirement of 4,674, and shortfall is 1,267. In terms of the Community Health Centers (CHCs), 998 are operational against the requirement of 1,156, making a shortfall of 309 (see Table 2). This data exposes the non-seriousness of the Government(s) on the issue of Adivasis’ health.

In the above situation and circumstances, the Adivasis community needs to envisage its future for next five decades or for a century. The vision could comprise of five major aspects – social transformation, economic prosperity, political empowerment, cultural revival and community centric development. The vision could be realised by the active participation of the community, the sound use of democratic institutions and constitutional and legal provisions.

  1. Social Transformation

The majority of the Adivasis, from impoverished to the well-off, living under the stigma of being the part of Adivasi community, which has been fixed as the most backward, uncivilised, illiterate, unconscious, barbarian, sub-human and wild, resulted in the loss of confidence, mental slavery, dependency, multiple alienation and breakdown of the social fabric. It happened because the Adivasi philosophy was neither scripted nor propagated though it is one of the best philosophies in India. At the same time, the dehumanisation processes continued. The Adivasi community is in much better position comparing to the Indian society in several aspects, which were never highlighted instead the so-called mainstreaming processes were carried out by the Government(s) as well as non-government organisations especially the right wings fundamentalist forces, who intend to bury the Adivasi identity.

The social transformation should take place in the Adivasi community on the basis of its philosophy. The doctrine comprises of co-existence and symbiotic relationship with the nature, community life, liberty, equality, justice, rights, inclusive development, need based economic system, consent based democracy and fraternity (caring and sharing). Coexistence with nature is the top of Adivasi philosophy. Adivasis live with nature and and care its wellbeing. The concept of ‘exploitation’ has no place in Adivasi philosophy, therefore, they do not exploit the natural resources but use it to meet their daily needs while caring for nature. Adivasi philosophy will also address the ecological crisis, the world is facing today because of the their environmental friendly attitude and dealings. Liberty is a rich human value, and it is one of the pillars of any form of colonisation. Therefore, concepts of development needs to be aligned with the liberty.

Equality is another pillar of the Adivasi philosophy. There are two parts in equality – i) general equality and ii) gender based equality. The Indian social structure is largely based on caste, race and gender based inequality whereas there is no such concept of inequality in Adivasi philosophy. A poor person and a person from a well-off family can work together in the agriculture field, share a meal, dance holding each other’s hands, drink rice beer and attend social functions in each other families. Similarly, there is no such gender based discrimination, therefore, both boys and girls are treated equally. The happy consequence is that female foeticide and dowry based torture and killing are unheard of among the Adivasis. However, the processes of mainstreaming has diluted this rich disposition by incorporating the concept of discrimination within tribal ethnic groups on the basis of caste, race and gender, which is turning out to be detrimental to the Adivasi community. Therefore, the lofty concept of equality needs to be brought back into  practice through the Gram Sabhas and other traditional institutions.

There is no such concept of competition in the Adivasi philosophy rather it encourages cooperation, caring and sharing, which results in inclusive growth and development. The community does not care only for the protection of the rights of human beings but the entrain rights of animals are also taken care with required diligence. For instance, a hunting dog is given equal share of the prey and the Adivasis do not consume milk to protect the right to food of the calf. Besides, the consent based democracy and need based economic system facilitate the Adivasi community to maintain its coexistence with nature. Thus, the Adivasis do not indulge in the evil of manipulation and exploitive practices as they hold cooperation as the mantra of their life.

The justice delivery is part of the Adivasi philosophy. However, it has been suppressed by the introduction of the modern judiciary. The Indian State has officially accepted through the Forest Rights Act 2006 that historical injustice has been inflicted on the Adivasis. But the injustice has been continuing in the same pace even today. The modern judiciary system has totally failed in justice delivery to the Adivasi community precisely because the judiciary is under the clutch of the people from the dominant class as well as the fact that the Adivasis do not have the resources to fight a case. Justice is very costly and not affordable. Within the given context, the Adivasi community has to be educated to settle all its issues, as far as possible,  in the community itself through the Traditional judiciary system cultivating a broader perspective drawn from the customary, legal and constitutional framework. An empowerment process has to be seriously initiated to empower the people on constitutional rights and the functions of the legal system in the country. Most importantly, the educated youth have to aspire and compete to participate in the Indian judiciary and legal practices.

Although the traditional judiciary system of Adivasis, which is known for delivering overnight justice, also faced heavy criticisms and was defamed as the kangaroo court for adopting illegal and unconstitutional punishment to culprits in some stray cases but the overall picture has been bright as it has done tremendous work in delivering fair justice to the Adivasis within matter of weeks in very nominal cost in cases related to land conflict, family dispute, marriage problems, cattle related dispute, etc. For instance, Parha Raja Simon Oraon of Bero block located in Ranchi district of Jharkhand is one such example, where justice is delivered to the villagers within three weeks. The Adivasis of seven villages under his jurisdiction, do not go to court for any dispute. The traditional system needs to be aligned with the Gram Sabhas under the traditional self-governance system. The enforcement of the traditional judiciary system will also have positive impact in the Adivasi economy and building up the fraternity.

The Adivasi community needs to get rid of two major social evils – witch hunting and alcoholism. Both have heavily damaged the community. (repetition)  Though, happily the community maintains gender equality, the witch killing has marred its image in its attitude towards poor women deemed witches. For instance, approximately 1500 Adivasi women were brutally killed in Jharkhand between 2001 to 2016 holding them witches. Witch hunting is a serious gender based violence in Adivasi community where women are abused, tortured and killed. Most of the victims are either widows or old women, who are really helpless. The Adivasi community has to resolve to get rid of witch hunting through dialogue and critical awareness.

The excess use of alcohol is another social evil, which has heavily blocked the progress of Adivasi community. Many women have been widowed because of the excessive consumption of alcoholism by married men. Families have been broken and the lives of children have been put at stake.  The ill has affected the Adivasi youth too to the extent of  destroying their carrier Needless to say that rice bear is part of Adivasi culture, which is offered to the deity as well as the ancestors during festivals, religious rituals and social events. However, under the cultural tag, the local and branded liquors have comfortably entered into Adivasi community resulting in accidental deaths, abuses, killings, wife battering and alienation from land. Therefore, there is a thrust need to curb alcoholism, which could be done by having a series of open dialogues in the Gram Sabhas and other traditional local bodies. Since the Gram Sabha is authorized under the PESA Act 1996 to prohibit the use of alcohol and have control over the local markets, Gram Sabhas need to be strengthened. The Adivasi community should have a vision to rebuild it on the basis of its philosophy. The doctrine teaches about liberty, equality, fraternity, respect for all, live with nature, time bound and sound justice and need based economy.

  1. Economic prosperity

The biggest economic challenge for the Adivasi community is to protect the ‘need based economic system’ or ‘community economy’ from the organized attack of the market economy. There has been constant attempt to submerge everything into the market economy, which has resulted in the centralisation of the economy in the hands of few people. Therefore, instead of handing over the economic resources to the private business entities under the government’s recent well legitimatized ‘cashless economy’, the community needs to enhance its traditional ways of cooperation, caring and sharing of goods and services by keeping the concept of ‘profit’ away from the community and market, which will bring sustainability, equity and equal economic prosperity. At the same time, the rural markets need to be maintained as a place of sharing goods and services, which presently have become highly profit making centres. Instead of ‘cashless economy’ the community could play a big role in promoting ‘community economy’, which can address everyone’s needs and the emerging ecological crisis as well.

The community needs to have control over the village economy through the Gram Sabha, precisely, because the village economy is fully controlled by the outside business class people, resulting in migration and trafficking of the Adivasi youths. Therefore, the Adivasis need to take up the micro entrepreneurship as a challenge, which will facilitate in gaining back the control on village economy in the long run. At the same time, the community should produce and manufacture necessary goods to meet its needs instead of fully depending on the market for everything, and that is quite possible as the community has a long legacy of production and manufacturing to meet its needs.

It is known fact that the Adivasi economy is based on agriculture and forest. 90 percent population still depend on agriculture, forestry and animal husbandry. However, the lack of irrigation facility, technical support and investment, the economy seems to be more or less stagnant. Therefore, the investment, technical support and availability of irrigation facility can make a huge difference. For instance, in Jharkhand; 90 mega Dams, 400 medium Dams and 11,878 smalls Dams are available but the water doesn’t reach to the agriculture fields of Adivasis rather the water has been provided to the steel and mining industries. If the water of these Dams are channelized to the farms through canal and lift irrigation facilities, there would be production of multi-crops. Similarly, the value addition on the forest produces would strengthen the Adivasi economy. The community should be given complete ownership on the forest resources.  The Agriculture, fishery, horticulture, animal husbandry and forestry need to be aliened and converted into small scale industries through cooperatives, which will enhance the village economy.

The Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP) could play a big role in stabilising the Adivasi economy. Government of India should ensure the allocation of 8.6 percent budget under the TSP from the central budget per annum as per the Constitutional provision under the Article 275. This fund needs to be spent on human resource development programmes, village development projects, welfare schemes and economic activities (animal husbandry, traditional poultry, farming, horticulture and micro entrepreneurship). The non-utilisation, diversion and misuse of TSP funds are reasons for halting economic activities. The TSP should have a strong monitoring system with involvement of the community. The most thrust need is the transformation of the Adivasi population from the State’s burden into human resources, which could be done by maximum unitisation of the TSP fund in imparting higher education, technical knowledge and entrepreneurship skills to Adivasi Youths. This will create new opportunities towards economic prosperity.

Mining and industry are other vital areas where the paradigm shift is the need of the hour. The major minerals and other natural resources are located in the Adivasi regions of the country, resulting in heavy mining and industrialisation. Unfortunately, the Adivasi population is still deprived of the basic needs. They  hardly get any benefit from industrialisation processes. Therefore, the ‘shareholder’ should be added in the present practice of compensation and rehabilitation packages. The project affected Adivasis should be made shareholders in the mining projects or industries along with compensation and rehabilitation packages, which will guarantee them livelihood possibilities from generation to generation. There would be a flow of economy into Adivasi villages, which will enhance their standard of living, health, education, nutrition, etc.

Tourism could be another area of economic activity. Since, the Adivasi regions are full of touristic hotspots with numerous waterfalls, natural sceneries, lovely lanndscapes and rising and falling hills, tourists could be easily attracted into the region, which, in turn, will create new economic opportunities. The Central and State Governments should provide the basic infrastructures like approach roads, communication facilities, enhancing the spot along with availing drinking water and sanitation facilities. The Gram Sabha should be given ownership of these spots and the members be trained in the art of tourism. Gram Sabha will collect the entry fee from the tourists and also provide them the basic facility and security. The Gram Sabha can pay 10 to 15% revenue to the State, 50% on staffs and rest could go to the Gram Sabha’s fund.  This will create new job opportunities for the Adivasis and also strengthen the village economy.

  1. Political empowerment

Politics decides the future of any nation, society and community today. However, the Adivasi community is not able to influence Indian politics for multiple reasons. There permeates the culture of silence in the community and a slavery mind set among the Adivasi political leaders. Therefore, they are not able to use the democratic institutions to the advantage of the Adivasi communities. The politicisation of the Adivasi community has not yet happened in a systematic way. For instance, there have been endless mass resistances against displacement across the Adivasi regions in the country, there were also police firing and brutalities on the public protests, but whenever there is election of local bodies, Legislative Assemblies or Parliament, the Adivasis cast their votes in favour of those political parties, whose economic policies alienate them from land, forests and other natural resources. The majority of the Adivasi population becomes the traditional voters of any political party instead of replacing them from the power on the basis of their performance, policies and programmes. Jaipal Singh Munda had brought the Adivasi politics to the centre stage, but later, he was trapped. Thus, the status quo remains the same. Therefore, the culture of silence needs to be converted into the culture of critical questioning rising out of awareness and education, sharing information and imparting analytical skill. The politicisation of the Adivasi community will bring about the necessary change in the community.

The reestablishment of self-rule through the strengthening of Gram Sabha is another critical area to work. The Gram Sabha is said to be the most powerful body in the democratic system, which has been legitimatized through various legislations like PESA 1996, Forest Rights Act 2006 and Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013. However, in most of the villages, the Gram Sabhas have either become the political party centric institutions or the Government scheme delivery centres. The Gram Sabhas are unable to play a decisive role for the community. The common Adivasis do not really practice their power due to lack of information, legal knowledge and authoritarian attitude. Consequently, the political parties, corporate houses, NGOs, Extremist Groups and other vested interest groups have gained control over the Gram Sabhas. The people of each village need to be given critical awareness about the role, power and authority of the Gram Sabhas. If the Gram Sabhas are strengthened, the major issues like land alienation, corporate resource grab, trafficking, migration, etc. could easily be curbed.

Historically, the Adivasis had their own system of governance, which was free from the police system. The traditional system of Governance still exists among several ethnic groups. For instance, there is Manjhi-Pargana system among the Santhals, Manki-Munda system among the Munda Adivasis, Doklo-Sohor system among Kharias and Parha system among the Oraon Adivasis. Though majority of them respect their traditional system of Governance the imposition of the so-called modern democratic system has played down the importance of the traditional one. The voting system has overshadowed ‘consent’, which was real democracy, where everyone had a say in the decision making process. Presently, the traditional system of Governance is restricted to social affairs and its political role has been curtailed. Consequently, the political leaders are riding over the traditional system of governance to secure their vote banks and also having control on the community. This needs to be reversed. The community should have control over politics through the traditional system of Governance. It should play a vital role in selecting effective political representatives for the local bodies, Legislative Assemblies and Parliament.

The political leadership building is another core area of intervention. Needless to say that there is a complete lack of the vocal, critical, analytical, inspirational and trustworthy political leaders in the community. It is a big problem that 104 million Adivasis have no credible voice in the Indian Parliament despite having 47 political representatives. The major problem is that there is lack of perspective, lack of deep knowledge on issues and lack of skills to influence the power of corridor. There is also lack of research team and intellectual support to these representatives. Thus, the Adivasi issues are not raised in the corridor of power. The Adivasi community needs to build credible leadership, create an intellectual support group to the political leadership and create a centre, where political leadership could be trained.

The political unity is another thrust area that needs intervention. Although the Adivasis can play a decisive role in the regional politics in several states, which can have a direct impact in the National politics of India but due to multiple divisions, they have totally failed. There are clear divisions on the basis of ethnicity, religion and region as well. However, the division on the ground of religion has damaged the political unity of the community. The right wing Hindutva forces have harvested on the division in different parts of the country. The RSS and its allies have convinced sections of Adivasis that the Christian Adivasis are their main enemy. Consequently, they are engaged in religious conflicts and their votes are largely divided between mainline parties. This division has resulted in land alienation, corporate land grab, police brutalities, race based atrocities and what not? There is a thrust need of political unity among the Adivasis, which could be on the basis of the identity of being an Adivasi irrespective of religious beliefs and expressions.

The enforcement of the constitutional provisions, laws and policies need serious attention. There have been adequate provisions for the Adivasis in the Indian Constitution but due to lack of enforcement, they have not got the benefit. For instance, provisions of fifth and sixth schedule, reservation, Article 46, Article 275, Article 19(1)(5). Similarly, there are several laws like PESA 1996, SC/ST PoA 1989, Forest Act 2006, Land Laws, etc. but the fact is the Adivasis have been alienated from their lands, territories and resources. There are also policies like Rehabilitation & Resettlement policy, Domicile policy but the Adivasis do not get the benefits of these policies. Therefore, the Government(s) have to ensure that the constitutional provisions, laws and policies are enforced at the ground. At the same time, there is also need to introduce Adivasi centric laws, policies and programmes.

However, the prime long-term political vision of the Adivasi community should be the establishment of autonomy in governance within Adivasi traditions, self-determination and self-rule. It has been proved that since, formation of the India State, the Adivasis have been alienated from their lands, territories and resources forcefully by the use of guns, laws and policies. There has also been several policy level talks on the issues of their rights and justice but actually, no such strong attempt has been taken to change the status quo. The President of India and the Governors of the states were made the custodians of Adivasis through the Constitutional provisions, and the district collectors or deputy commissioners were made watchdog of their land through various legislations but these legal authorities totally have failed in protecting Adivasis’ rights. This clearly implies that the State has totally failed in protecting the rights of Adivasis and also in justice delivery. Therefore, the only way to protect the Adivasis rights is by acquiring autonomy, self-determination and self-rule in the Adivasis’ territories within the constitutional setup of Indian union.

  1. Cultural revival

The cultural alienation is one of the major areas that needs quick intervention. The cultural alienation could be seen in the alienation of Adivasis from their community life, identity, languages, religion and sports, etc. The cultural alienation is the result of a well thought out design of alienation, imposed on the community on the basis of the best vs worst, pure vs impure and civilized vs wild. Whatever the Adivasi community possesses is tagged with negative terms like worst, impure and wild, which resulted in their alienation. It has been thrust in their minds that they are worst, impure and wild therefore, they need to join the processes of mainstreaming to become a human being. The cultural alienation could be contained by cultural revolution, which could be done by the propagation of the Adivasi philosophy, which will make them to understand the actual meaning of being Adivasis. The Adivasi philosophy should be scripted as literature in different Adivasi ethnic groups and in other regional languages, which will create pride in the hearts and minds of the Adivasis. The stigma needs to be transformed into pride, which could be done through social events, mass conferences and discussions, etc. However, the Gram Sabhas should be the centres for the cultural revolution, which can reach to each and every family.

The first cultural alienation could be seen in the change of life style. Community living is the foundation of the Adivasi community but it has rapidly changed into individualism. Now the community centric activities have been shifted into individual centric, adopted from the so-called mainstream of the Indian society. The community centric activities need to be promoted even in the towns and cities. The community should be critically made aware about the impact of market economy, which is forcing them to adopt the individual centric life style. The Adivasi co-existence with nature needs to be brought back.

The second major alienation that is taking place is in the area of Adivasi identity. The majority of Adivasis see their Adivasi identity as a stigma therefore, they attempt to hide their identity by not writing their surnames. For instance, the majority of Adivasi youth mostly the girls using Facebook do not expose their surname to hide their Adivasi identity. The Adivasi women have started writing their surname like ‘Devi’ similar to the Hindu women. There are several Adivasi ethnic groups like Kharwar, Gond, Chero, etc. use ‘Kumar’ for boy and ‘Kumari’ for girl instead of using their surname. The Adivasis need to be made aware about the issue of identity. They must be told about the importance of their identity and its link with nature.

Third alienation could be seen in the alienation from traditional food. The food habit has also changed very fast. The Adivasi foods like cereals, double boiled rice, food item made of rice are called as food of the backward classes. Therefore, majority of the Adivasis have changed their food habits. For instance, the Chinese food items are served in marriage and other social functions instead of traditional food made of rice, sugarcane, sugar, etc. The city-dwellers Adivasi children do not want to eat the traditional food for its black colour rather they prefer to eat the white colour food items. The racial discrimination has impacted deep alienation in the minds of Adivasi children. The food habits could be restored by propagation of its importance, availability of nutrition in addressing several diseases. For instance, there are several herbs and cereals, which are used as vegetables and other food items, which are medicinal for blood pressure, diabetics etc.

Fourth area of cultural alienation is Adivasi languages, which are disappearing rapidly. Several ethnic groups have lost their mother tongues and adopted Hindi, Bhojpuri, Oria, Bangla and other languages as their mother tongue. At the same time, the city-dweller Adivasis especially youth and children do not know their languages because their parents didn’t teach them deliberately to get rid of the stigma of being Adivasis. They promoted their children to learn Hindi, English and other regional languages instead. The language could be made alive only by using it. The Adivasi children should adopt three tier languages – mother tongue, Hindi as national language and English as the global language. This could be done through the traditional community learning centres and educational institutions. They can learn their mother tongue at the traditional centres and Hindi and English in educational institutions. Children should also be inspired towards creative writings like poem, stories, articles in their own languages, which could be published in local magazines and journals, etc.

Fifth major area is game and sports. Hockey, the national game of India used to be the integral part of the Adivasi community. Jaipal Singh Munda was the first Indian captain, whose team won the Gold in Olympic. Among 9 gold medals India has won in the Olympic, 8 medals go to hockey. However, cricket has taken over the fields of hockey, football and other local sports. The youth needs to be made aware about the importance of local games and sport, which can also provide them job opportunities. The community should organize annual games and sports festivals at the block, district and state levels.

  1. Community centric development:

The idea of inclusive development is part of the Adivasi philosophy. The Adivasi community follow the development model derived from nature, where all the living beings have equal space and opportunity for growth. There is no such space for competition, leading to inclusive growth. Therefore, the community centric development is much easier to promote.  The focus should be on the development of basic infrastructures like construction of good houses, linking villages with proper roads, availability of well managed health centres and properly administered primary school in every village, availability of electricity, pure drinking water and sanitation facilities in every village. This could be done by the use of TSP fund with community cooperation and its involvement in planning, implementation and monitoring of the rural infrastructure building. However, the community ownership needs to be put in place, which will facilitate in taking care and repairing of the rural infrastructure.

Besides, the rural infrastructure creation, quality services need to be provided in the villages especially in education and health services. Presently, there is lack of quality in the elementary education, the education centres have become food serving centres. Similarly, the health centres are defunct. The teachers, nurses and doctors are paid without providing quality services to the villages. This needs to be changed with community involvement, making available quality teachers and making the medical staffs accountable. The Gram Sabha should be given authority for ensuring quality health and education services.


Although the Adivasis are the first settlers or indigenous peoples of India, who have the history of more than three centuries of resistance against the imposition of the idea of State, alienation from lands, territories and recourses, and imposition of western concept of development, have been struggling for survival. The invasion of different communities in their territories, pushed them to the margins. They were alienated from their lands, territories, resources, identity and culture. Therefore, the Adivasi community needs to envisage its future by designing both short and long term goals. The democratic institutions, constitutional provisions and laws could be used to realise the short term vision where the community needs to play front role by activating and involving its traditional institutions.

However, in the long term vision, there must be social, economic, political, cultural and developmental transformation in the Adivasi community. The community must regain its lost lands, territories and resources, where it should enforce the idea of self-determination, self-reliant and self-rule being the part of the Indian union. The vision of the community must be guided by its philosophy.

[1] Dungdung, Gladson. 2013. Whose Country is it Anyway? Kolkata : Adivaani.

[2] Munda, R.D. & Mullick,S.B. 2003. The Jharkhand Movement. New Delhi: IWGIA & BIRSA

[3] Ibid.

[4] Constitution of India published by the Ministry of Law and Justice (Government of India) in 2007.

[5] Statistical profile of Scheduled Tribes in India 2013. Ministry of Tribal Affairs (Govt. of India).

[6] The Supreme Court order on the SLP (Cr) No. 10367 of 2010 Kailas & others Vs State of Maharashtra.

[7] Census Report 2011 published by the Government of India.

[8] Statistical profile of Scheduled Tribes in India 2013. Ministry of Tribal Affairs (Govt. of India).

[9] Ibid.

[10] Dungdung, Gladson. 2016. Adivasi aur Vanadhikar. New Delhi: Prithvi Prakashan.

[11] Statistical profile of Scheduled Tribes in India 2013. Ministry of Tribal Affairs (Govt. of India).

[12] Dungdung, Gladson. 2016. Adivasi aur Vanadhikar. New Delhi: Prithvi Prakashan.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Dungdung, Gladson. 2013. Whose Country is it Anyway? Kolkata : Adivaani.

[15] Munda, R.D. & Mullick,S.B. 2003. The Jharkhand Movement. New Delhi: IWGIA & BIRSA

[16] Anjum, Arvind & Manthan, 2002. Displacement and Rehabilitation. Pune: NCAS.

[17] Jharkhand Journal of Development and Management Studies vol. 2, December 2004.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Annual Report 2002-03, Ministry of Rural Development (Govt. of India).

[20] Dungdung, Gladson. 2013. Whose Country is it anyway? Kolkata: Adivaani.

[21] Dungdung, Gladson. 2015. Mission Saranda: A War for Natural Resources in India. Ranchi: Deshaj Prakashan.

[22] Statistical profile of Scheduled Tribes in India 2013. Ministry of Tribal Affairs (Govt. of India).

[23] Dungdung, Gladson. 2015. Mission Saranda: A War for Natural Resources in India. Ranchi: Deshaj Prakashan.

[24] Statistical profile of Scheduled Tribes in India 2013. Ministry of Tribal Affairs (Govt. of India).

[25] ‘BJP has ruled Jharkhand for much of its 14-year existence but has delivered precious little’,

Research Paper

Adivasis Towards Violence

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.’[1] 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’[2] 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?

Historical background:

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.’[3] 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.’[4] 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’[5].

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.

Land Alienation:

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’[6] 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.[7] 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’[8].

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.’[9] 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’[10]. ‘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.’[11] 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.[12] 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. 


Areeparampil, Mathew.           1995. Tribal of Jharkhand: victims of Development. New Delhi: ISI.

Anjum, Arvind & Manthan.    2002. Displacement & Rehabilitation. Pune: NCAS.

Ahmad, Nesar.                        2003. Women, Mining and Displacement. New Delhi: ISI.

  1. Tejaswini and K. Ashsish. 2000. Joint Protected Area Management. Pune: Kalpavriksh.

Bijoy, C.R.                              2004. Lesson from Muthanga.pp 25 – 27.

Bakshi, P.M.                           2002. The Constitution of India. New Delhi: ULP.

Das, Vishya.                           1992. Conservation, Government and Tribal people.

WPW (Mumbai) March. Pp 567.

—————                            1998. A State against its people.EPW (Mumbai) Dec. pp.30-31.

Desai, Basant.                         1991. Forest management in India. New Delhi : HPGH.

Das, N.K. (Compiled)             2003. The Orissa forest manual. Cuttack: OLR.

Das, Susanta.                          2004. Orissa forest Act, 1972. Cuttack: OLR.

Dungdung, Gladson.               2003. Life for Livelihood. Indian Currents (NewDelhi) June 29. ————————-                     2003. Sowing seeds of hatred in Adivasis’ land. IC(ND)Aug.17

————————-               2004. Forest Rights. Indian Currents (ND) April. 11.

Fernandes, Walter (ed.)           1992. National development and tribal deprivation. ND: ISI.

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———————– (ed.)         1996. Drafting a people’s forest bill. New Delhi: ISI.

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Heramath, S.R. Kanwalli, S.   1994. All about draft forest bill and forest land. B’lore: SPS.

and Kulkarni, S.(ed.)

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Joshi, Sopan.                           2003. Defunct Democracy. Down to Earth. (Mumbai) July 31.

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Krishnakumar, R.                    2003. A conflict in the forest. Frontline (Chennai) March.

Louis, Prakash.                       2000. Marginalisation of tribals. EPW (Mumbai) Nov. 18.


Lobo, Brain.                            2004. Unequal access to justice. Combat Law(Mumbai)Dec-Jan

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[1] Joshi, Sopan. 2003. Defunct Democracy. Down to Earth (Mumbai) July 31. pp. 26.

[2] Prabhu, Pradeep. 2004. Tribal Interface-Logic of survival. Combat Law (Mumbai) Dec-Jan. pp. 6.

[3] a portal for Santals Freedom Struggle

[4] Anjum, Arvind & Manthan. 2002 Displacement & Rehabilitation. Pune: NCAS pp.4.

[5] Pradeep, Prabhu. 2004. Tribal Forest Interface – Logic of Survial. Combat Law (Mumbai) Dec-Jan. Pp 5.

[6] AISWACS. (‘The Santals’ a note book on Santhal Tribe). P 26.

[7] Fernandes, Walter. 2002. Tribals and Advocacy efforts in India. A essay in book ‘Sruggle for Survival’ edited by John Samuel. Pune: NCAS. p 11.

[8] AISWACS.  (‘The Santals’ a note book on Santhal Tribe). P 1.

[9] Louis, Prakash. P 4089.

[10] The Santals a note book published by AISWACS. P 2.

[11] Ibid. P 2.

[12] Staments are made by Jasai Soren a Santhal tribal of Khoiribhanga village of Kankadahad block.


A Memorandum to the Governor of Jharkhand against the Land Bank


Her Excellency,

Smt. Droupadi Murmu,

Governor of Jharkhand,

Raj Bhawan,

Ranchi – 834001.

Subject: Requesting for withdrawal of community land (sacred groves, common land and village forest land) from the Land Bank of Jharkhand.

Dear Madam,

This is to bring your kind attention on the matter of ‘Land Bank’ constituted under the Department of Land Reform and Revenue by the Government of Jharkhand. The State Government has listed 2,106,073.78 (see table: 1) acres of land of all 24 districts of Jharkhand, which is mostly the sacred groves, common land of villages and forest land, which is primarily owns by the Gram Sabhas (village councils) across the state legitimated by the various laws and the Supreme Court judgment. However, the state Government has listed these lands in the land bank by putting aside the Laws and SC judgment.

The sole purpose of the ‘Land Bank’ is to ensure land for the corporate houses for establishment of their projects. The state Government has signed 210 new MoUs with the corporate Houses during the ‘Global Investors Summit’ held at Khelgoan, Ranchi on 16-17 February 2017, therefore, the Government has been attempting to acquire the common land without (free, prior and informed) consent of the community.  For instance, 488.82 acres of land of 541 sacred groves of Khunti districts is listed as Government land and shown is the data of land bank.

The Government of Jharkhand has constituted the ‘Land Bank’ and enlisted all the land under the purviews of government land. This is a gross violation of the Provisions of Panchayat (Extension) in Scheduled Area Act 1996, which recognizes the self determination of the Adivasis (scheduled tribes) and empowers the Gram Sabha (village council) to manage the natural resources. This is also the violation of the Supreme Court judgment in the case of ‘Odisha Mining Corporation vs Ministry of Forest and Environment and others (c) No. 180 of 2011, which clearly states that the Gram Sabha is the owner of the natural resources, therefore, the consent of the Gram Sabha must be taken. This is also a clear violation of the Forest Rights Act 2006, which recognizes the individual and community rights over the forest and forest land.

Table 1 : Land Bank of Jharkhand

Sl. No. District Total Plot Area of land in Acre
1. Ranchi 10,327 107,677.69
2. Khunti 5,863 53,387.93
3. Lohardaga 3,951 17,490.3
4. Gumla 98,209 192,997.52
5. Simdega 110,766 358,990.52
6. East Singhbhum 22,151 31,607.71
7. West Singhbhum 27,041 375,662.09
8. Saraikela 5,609 28,708.15
9. Bokaro 2,624 21,827.03
10. Dhanbad 6,504 30,769.46
11. Ramgarh 574 4,284.94
12. Kodarma 278 4,128.09
13. Hazaribagh 1,973 25,190.21
14. Chatra 482 6,393.29
15. Palamu 3,282.79
16. Garhwa 31,319 33,546.79
17. Latehar 12,508 79,177.25
18. Dumka 17,308 90,531.70
19. Pakur 15,460 49,817.8
20. Deoghar 7,106 43,043.69
21. Giridih 16,642 452,074.26
22. Godda 4,956 24,403.77
23. Jamtara 9,607 35,962.36
24. Sahebganj 7,889 39,591.56
Total 419,147 2,106,073.78

Source: Land Bank, Department of Land Reform and Revenue (Govt. of Jharkhand)

Since you are the custodial of the Fifth Scheduled areas of Jharkhand under the Indian Constitution, and you are also empowered with the special rights given in the Para fifth of the Fifth Schedule, hence, you can dismiss the formation of ‘Land Bank’ in the Fifth Schedule area merely by issuing a public notification.

Therefore, I humbly request you to order the Government of Jharkhand for withdrawal of the land regarding the sacred groves, common land and forest land from the land bank. These lands must be return and restored to the villagers, which were traditionally owned by them.

I shall be highly obliged to you for the same.

Thanking You

Yours Sincerely

Gladson Dungdung

General Secretary

JHRM, Ranchi.


The Government has betrayed us: Gladson Dungdung


Gladson Dungdung is a renowned Activist, Author, Researcher, Public Speaker and Motivator. Some of his path breaking books are ‘Endless Cry in the Red Corridor’, ‘Mission Saranda: A War for Natural Resources in India’, ‘Whose Country is it Anyway?’, ‘Crossfire’, ‘Adivasis aur Vanadhikar (Adivasis and Forest Rights) and ‘Vikas Ke Kabragar (Graveyard of Development)’. He comes from the Kharia Adivasi community of the Indian state of Jharkhand. Today, he is one of the recognized Adivasi voice in India. Sunil Raj Philip has spoken to him. Excerpt from the interview.

You are an ardent activist author for human rights violation especially for that of the Indigenous Peoples. Who/what was the inspiration/event that motivated you?

I come from a family, who has paid the heavy price for so-called development. Our agricultural land was submerged in ‘Kelaghagh Dam’ constructed over ‘Chhinda River’ for irrigation project near Simdega town in 1980. Unfortunately, we were neither rehabilitated, nor compansade and the water of Dam also never reached to our remaining land. We were simply betrayed in the name of development and forced to live in the forest area, and later coined as encroachers too. However, my father became one of the well known social activists in the region, later; he was brutally murdered along with my mother while they were going to attend Simdega Civil Court related to a case of land dispute in village in 1990. My father used to say that in whatever situation we may be, but we must fight for the people. I have seen him, while struggling for our survival; he was also fighting for the people. At the beginning of my activism, I travelled across the state of Jharkhand, I could see the pain, suffering and agony of our people, who were alienated, uprooted and displaced from their lands, houses and forests for the so-called public interest, national interest and development, but they were hardly able to raise their issues. Therefore, I decided to take up their causes. My parents especially my father is the main source of my inspiration.

Is there any specific area that concerns you the most regarding the violation of Indigenous People’s rights?

In October 2009, when the joint anti-Naxal operation largely known as ‘Operation Green Hunt’ was launched across the Red Corridor of India by the Indian State, which is actually the Adivasi Corridor, I could see that hundreds of innocent Adivasis were brutally killed in fake encounters, women were raped and thousands of them were brutally tortured and imprisoned by the Security Forces falsely implicating them as Naxals. Anybody who would raise the questions against displacement and police atrocity would be targeted by the State therefore, most of the people decided to keep silent. But my inner voice didn’t allow me to do so therefore, I started roaming in the Red Corridor, did fact finding and filed petitions with the National Human Rights Commission and Jharkhand High Court on the cases of fake encounter, rape, molestation, torture and falsely implicated cases. As a result, the State was forced to accept the gross human rights violation caused by the Security Forces in the Red Corridor. The investigations were done; fake encounters were established and family members were also compensated but the most unfortunate part is that the perpetrators were hardly brought to justice. This is how the impunity continues in our Country, where the Constitution guarantees for the social, economic and political justice to each and everyone. However, the major concern is that the Indian State has been waging war against the Adivasis in the name of bringing peace, good governance and development in their territory but the actual aim is to grab the natural resources, which means there is biggest threat to the existence of Adivasis, wildlife and biodiversity.

Tell us about your book – “Mission Saranda” that was launched in Ranchi, JNU, New Delhi and Brunei Gallery, SOAS, London as well as Suxess Univesity, UK?

 In this book, I have documented, reviewed and analyzed the issues of Saranda Forest from a holistic approach, which begins with the challenges of travelling in the Red Corridor. It goes further with the discussion about the relationship between forest and Adivasis and the iron ore mining and its impact in the lives of the Adivasis. It analyses the forest movement and the State suppression, the Naxal Movement, its nexus with the corporate houses and impact on the Adivasis. Further, it analyses the war and human right violations including brutal killing of innocent Adivasis and the role of the National Human Rights Commission. The book reviews the status of health, education and basic needs like drinking water in the Saranda Forest. It analyses the role of media, politicians and local self governance. It also unfolds the corporate houses’ foul play during the public hearings by bribing the community, traditional heads and local politicians. The book analyses the biodiversity and forest rights of the Adivasis. But most importantly, it exposes the failure of the much hyped ‘Saranda Development Plan’, which was propagated as a model for the development of the Naxal affected areas of India.

The book ‘Mission Saranda’ intends to tell the world about the pain, suffering and agony of the Adivasis of Saranda Forest, who are residing over the mineral wealth. It exposes the State sponsored gross human rights violations committed in the name of economic growth, development and establishment of peace and good governance. And of course, it exposes how the Indian State has been waging a war against its own people with clear intention to grab their natural resources, especially the mineral resources and hand those over to the corporate houses. The book aims to bring the Adivasis’ issues at centre stage of the public debate so that the Adivasis are no longer be treated merely either as victims or beneficiaries but they are included as the opinion and decision makers in the corridor of power, which may pave the way for solution to their endless problems.

The case of Saranda Forest in Jharkhand is one of the best examples of how India’s civil war is not about cleansing away the CPI-Maoist so that peace and good governance can be restored in the conflict zones. It is the State’s well planned war against the Adivasis for mineral resources. Although the State, the Corporate Houses, the CPI-Maoist and the Adivasis are the major stakeholders in the war, the losers are the Adivasis.

Presently, on which issue are you working/focusing on?

I’m focusing on the violation of civil and political rights as well and economic, social and cultural rights. For instance, extrajudicial killing, rape, torture, falsely implicated cases by the security forces during anti-Naxal operations. At the same time, I’m also raising the issues of right to life, force displacement, land alienation, freedom of thought and expression, freedom of religion, forest rights, Adivasi identity, autonomy, language, culture, etc.

What is the most challenging obstacle that you face in you ventures?

The State is run by the corporate houses today, who are not allowing to exercise the real democracy, Indian Constitution and people centered Laws. Secondly, there are multiple division among the Adivasis i.e. ethnic group, religion and language, etc., which are not allowing them to unite in one forum. Thirdly, there is also competition among the Adivasi Activists, writers and public intellectuals, which is creating a kind of enmity among us. However, since, I’m in the middle, who have been raising uncomfortable questions against the State, the Corporate houses and the Naxal organizations therefore, I’m targeted from all the corners but I’m least bothered about them.

What are your expectations from people/specifically from the religious Institutions?

The leadership of these institutions must understand the Adivasi issues, Adivasi identity and culture. They should promote the youth leadership in all the areas. Today, providing merely health and education facilities to the Adivasis without critical awareness on their issues will not serve the purposes in long run. There is a thrust need of intellectual revolution among the Adivasis, which will bring back their lost pride, identity, language, culture and autonomy.

What all are the new challenges you find for the Tribals and Adivasis in India under the present Central Government?

The Present government is much more oppressive. Since, the Prime Minister comes from a business community, he sees everything in that perspective therefore, his government has been trying hard to grab the Adivasis’ land, territory and resources by adopting legal route and the Land Acquisition Ordinance is one of the examples of it. He is in too hurry for handing over the natural resources to the corporate houses in the name of economic growth, development and national interest. Besides, this government has been attempting to eliminate the identity of Adivasis by coining them as ‘Vanbandhi’ through government programmes, which is quite dangerous. The right wing Hindutava forces the RSS and its allied organizations used to call the Adivasis as ‘Vanvasi’, which is a derogatory for the Adivasis. Therefore, the Adivasis must understand about the vote bank politics because unless they come together, they are not going to protect their land, territory, resources, identity, culture, tradition, language, etc. And without these, there won’t be Adivasis.

Your message especially to the Indigenous People.

On 5th January 2011, the Supreme Court of India through a landmark judgment has said that the Adivasis and tribals are the real owner of this country and rest are the decedent of either immigrants or invaders. Therefore, the Adivasis must feel proud of being Adivasis, practice their identity, culture, tradition, language and autonomy without fear. Besides, they must take up leadership in all the areas – politics, judiciary, media, literature, education, health, business and what not. If they become leaders, the tide will surly turn on the other side.

Note: Interview was taken in 2016.