do something ..its time.

do something ..its time.

By – Yogesh Sapate moderator – Adivasi engineers & doctors community
My Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Great to see you all, highly educated, young, tribal’s gathered here again. This community is going to help you to build your good career, educate you about the current scenario of our community, and give you a platform to share your ideas n thoughts and also help you to implement them. This is the main motto behind creating this community.

When a person is born some identity sticks to him/her since that moment. Those identities are surname, religion, caste and community. We all are here from tribal community and we all know that our community is not much developed yet. It is still facing problem like illiteracy, superstition, etc.

One day you will secure higher position in your field, will achieve success…. Good for you.

After fulfilling your dreams you shouldn’t forget your community. Because in this society you are going to known by your surname and it clearly indicate your community. So you being at a good position and your community at lower position, it does not feel good, isn’t it??

So I am requesting you do something to help our people before it’s too late. I am not asking you to sacrifies lots for this, You’ll have to just ask yourself , ”what can I do for my community ??” and you will surely have a answer at your level . Think over it and then try to implement your ideas and do share it with us so that we also can be of some help to you.

It’s time to do something for OUR people.

So wake up and start working.

Original posted at –[ Adivasi engineers & doctors community ]

adivasi @

Ādivāsīs (in Devanagari script: आदिवासी), literally “original inhabitants”, comprise a substantial indigenous minority of the population of India. Indian tribals are also called Atavika (forest dwellers, in Sanskrit texts), Vanvasis or Girijans (hill people, e.g., by Mahatma Gandhi).

These autochthonous people, popularly known as the Tribal people are particularly numerous in the Indian states of Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and in extreme northeastern states such as Mizoram. Officially recognized by the Indian government as “Scheduled Tribes” in the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution of India, they are often grouped together with scheduled castes in the category “Scheduled Castes and Tribes”, which is eligible for certain affirmative action measures.

They have their own tribal religions which are different than Islam or Vedic Hinduism but more close to Tantric Shaivism. During the 19th century, substantial numbers converted to Christianity and Brahmoism (modern Hindu sect).

Lord Shiva of the Hindus is believed to have been an Adivasi clan deity originally but was also accepted by the Aryans as a deity. Adivasis also occupy importance in the Ramayan, wherein King Gohu and his tribe help Shri Ram in Chitrakoot. This apart, even in the modern era, a prominent freedom fighter was Birsa Munda, an Adivasi, who was also a religious leader.

Maharishi Valmiki, the author of the Ramayana was a Bhil Adivasi.

Many smaller tribal groups are quite sensitive to ecological degradation caused by modernization. Both commercial forestry and intensive agriculture have proved destructive to the forests that had endured swidden agriculture for many centuries.

Geographic Overview
There is a substantial list of Scheduled Tribes in India recognized as tribal under the Constitution of India. Tribal peoples constitute 8.3% of the nation’s total population, over 84 million people according to the 2001 census. One concentration lives in a belt along the Himalayas stretching through Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand in the west, to Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur, and Nagaland in the northeast. In the northeastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Nagaland, more than 90% of the population is tribal. However, in the remaining northeast states of Assam, Manipur, Sikkim, and Tripura, tribal peoples form between 20 and 30% of the population.

Another concentration lives in the hilly areas of central India (Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, and, to a lesser extent, Andhra Pradesh); in this belt, which is bounded by the Narmada River to the north and the Godavari River to the southeast, tribal peoples occupy the slopes of the region’s mountains. Other tribals, including the Santals, live in Jharkhand and West Bengal. Central Indian states have the country’s largest tribes, and, taken as a whole, roughly 75% of the total tribal population live there, although the tribal population there accounts for only around 10% of the region’s total population.

There are smaller numbers of tribal people in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala in south India; in western India in Gujarat and Rajasthan, and in the union territories of Lakshadweep and the Andaman Islands and Nicobar Islands. About one percent of the populations of Kerala and Tamil Nadu are tribal, whereas about six percent in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are members of tribes.

Criteria of ‘Tribalness’
Apart from the use of strictly legal criteria, however, the problem of determining which groups and individuals are tribal is both subtle and complex. Because it concerns economic interests and voting blocs, the question of who are members of Scheduled Tribes rather than Backward Classes or Scheduled Castes is often controversial. Scholarly opinions also remain divided on this matter. In other parts of the world the Adivasis or Indigenous people are those who predate the colonizers. Many scholars, especially the westerners, claim that the Adivasis of India predate other communities of India. Indian scholars remain divided on this issue. If one accepts that Adivasis predate all other mainstream societies one has to accept that other communities, including Hindus, are migrants in India. It would function as proof-text on “Aryan Invasion Theory” which most scholars (being its members) would vehemently deny it. At best, Adivasis have no say about their own identity. It is decided politically as “Scheduled tribe.” But even this title is controversial since it accepts as tribe. Will the Adivasis lose their tribe if they lose there Scheduled tribe status? The issue requires further clarification. Despite all these challenges there are specific traits of Adivasis that distinguish them from other Indian communities.
A number of traits have customarily been seen as establishing tribal rather than caste identity. These include language, social organization, religious affiliation, economic patterns, geographic location, and self-identification. Recognized tribes typically live in hilly regions somewhat remote from caste settlements; they generally speak a language recognized as tribal.

Unlike castes, which form part of a complex and interrelated local economic exchange system, tribes tend to form self-sufficient economic units. For most tribal people, land-use rights traditionally derive simply from tribal membership. Tribal society tends to the egalitarian, with its leadership based on ties of kinship and personality rather than on hereditary status. Tribes typically consist of segmentary lineages whose extended families provide the basis for social organization and control. Tribal religion recognizes no authority outside the tribe.

Any of these criteria may not apply in specific instances. Language does not always give an accurate indicator of tribal or caste status. Especially in regions of mixed population, many tribal groups have lost their mother tongues and simply speak local or regional languages. In parts of Assam – an area historically divided between warring tribes and villages – increased contact among villagers began during the colonial period, and has accelerated since independence in 1947. A pidgin Assamese developed while educated tribal members learned Hindi and, in the late twentieth century, English.

Self-identification and group loyalty do not provide unfailing markers of tribal identity either. In the case of stratified tribes, the loyalties of clan, kin, and family may well predominate over those of tribe. In addition, tribes cannot always be viewed as people living apart; the degree of isolation of various tribes has varied tremendously. The Gonds, Santals, and Bhils traditionally have dominated the regions in which they have lived. Moreover, tribal society is not always more egalitarian than the rest of the rural populace; some of the larger tribes, such as the Gonds, are highly stratified.

The apparently wide fluctuation in estimates of South Asia’s tribal population through the twentieth century gives a sense of how unclear the distinction between tribal and nontribal can be. India’s 1931 census enumerated 22 million tribal people, in 1941 only 10 million were counted, but by 1961 some 30 million and in 1991 nearly 68 million tribal members were included. The differences among the figures reflect changing census criteria and the economic incentives individuals have to maintain or reject classification as a tribal member.

These gyrations of census data serve to underline the complex relationship between caste and tribe. Although, in theory, these terms represent different ways of life and ideal types, in reality they stand for a continuum of social groups. In areas of substantial contact between tribes and castes, social and cultural pressures have often tended to move tribes in the direction of becoming castes over a period of years. Tribal peoples with ambitions for social advancement in Indian society at large have tried to gain the classification of caste for their tribes. On occasion, an entire tribe or part of a tribe joined a Hindu sect and thus entered the caste system en masse. If a specific tribe engaged in practices that Hindus deemed polluting, the tribe’s status when it was assimilated into the caste hierarchy would be affected.

Since independence, however, the special benefits available to Scheduled Tribes have convinced many groups, even Hindus and Muslims, that they will enjoy greater advantages if so designated. The schedule gives tribal people incentives to maintain their identity. By the same token, the schedule also includes a number of groups whose ‘tribal’ status, in cultural terms, is dubious at best.

During the 1990s, a number of political adivasi movements also introduced a more political rather than ‘scientific’ understanding of the term adivasi, sometimes linking the notion of adivasiness to the international indigenous peoples’ movement, sometimes more to Dalit or Dravidian themes (see Gail Omvedt 2006: Dalit voices).

Adivasi Saints

Saint Buddhu Bhagat, led the Kol Insurrection (1831-1832) aimed against against tax imposed on Mundas by Islamists.
Saint Dhira or Kannappa Nayanar , one of 63 Nayanar Shaivite saints, a hunter from whom Lord Shiva gladly accepted food offerings. It is said that he poured water from his mouth on the Shivlingam and offered the Lord swine flesh.
Saint Dhudhalinath, Koli, Gujarati, a 17th or 18th century devotee (P. 4, The Story of Historic People of India-The Kolis)
Saint Ganga Narain, led the Bhumij Revolt (1832-1833) aimed against missionaries and British colonialists.
Saint Girnari Velnathji, Koli, Gujarati of Junagadh, a 17th or 18th century devotee
Saint Gurudev Kalicharan Brahma or Guru Brahma, a Bodo whose founded the Brahma Dharma aimed against missionaries and colonialists. The Brahma Dharma movement sought to unite peoples of all religions to worship God together and survives even today.
Saint Jatra Oraon, Oraon, led the Tana Bhagat Movement (1914-1919) aimed against the missionaries and British colonialists
Saint Sri Koya Bhagat, Koli, Gujarati, a 17th or 18th century devotee
Saint Tantya Mama (Bhil), a Bhil after whom a movement is named after – the “Jananayak Tantya Bhil”
Saint Tirumangai Alvar, Kallar, composed the six Vedangas in beautiful Tamil verse


Bhaktaraj Bhadurdas, Koli, Gujarati, a 17th or 18th century devotee
Bhakta Shabari, a Bhil woman that offered Shri Rama and Shri Laxmana her half-eaten ber fruit, which they gratefully accepted when they were searching for Shri Sita Devi in the forest.
Madan Bhagat, Koli, Gujarati, a 17th or 18th century devotee
Sany Kanji Swami, Koli, Gujarati, a 17th or 18th century devotee
Bhaktaraj Valram, Koli, Gujarati, a 17th or 18th century devotee


Maharshi Matanga , Matanga Bhil, Guru of Bhakta Shabari. In fact, Chandalas are often addressed as ‘Matanga ’in passages like Varaha Purana 1.139.91
Maharshi Valmiki, Kirata Bhil, composed the Ramayana. He is considered to be an avatar in the Balmiki community. Furthermore, during Mahatma Gandhi’s visit to Delhi, he stayed in a Harijan colony called Valmiki Mandir.


Birsa Bhagwan or Birsa Munda, considered an avatar of Khasra Kora. People approached him as Singbonga, the sun-god. He converted even Christians to his own sect. He was against conversions by missionaries. He wanted not only political, but religious freedom as well! He and his clan, the Mundas, were connected with Vaishnavite traditions as they were influenced by Sri Chaitanya. Birsa was very close to the Panre brothers Vaishnavites.
Kirata – the form of Lord Shiva as a hunter. It is mentioned in the Mahabharata. The Karppillikkavu Sree Mahadeva Temple, Kerala adores Lord Shiva in this avatar and is known to be one of the oldest surviving temples in Bharat.
Vettakkorumakan, the son of Lord Kirata.
Kaladutaka or ‘Vaikunthanatha’, Kallar (robber), avatar of Lord Vishnu.

Other Tribals and Hinduism
Some Hindus believe that Indian tribals are close to the romantic ideal of the ancient silvan culture of the Vedic people. Golwalkar said:

At the Lingaraja temple in Bhubaneswar (11th century), there are Brahmin and Badu (tribal) priests. The Badus have the most intimate contact with the deity of the temple, and only they can bathe and adorn it.

The Bhil tribe is mentioned in the Mahabharata. The Bhil boy Eklavya’s teacher was Drona, and he had the honour to be invited to Yudhisthira’s Rajasuya Yajna at Indraprastha. Indian tribals were also part of royal armies in the Ramayana and in the Arthasastra.

Bhakta Shabari was a Bhil woman that offered Shri Rama and Shri Laxmana ‘ber’ when they were searching for Shri Sita in the forest. Maharishi Matanga, a Bhil became a Brahmana.

Strictly speaking Adivasis that are not Hindus, Christians or Muslims have no name for their religion. Some western authors and Indian sociologists called them animists and spirit worshipers. In central India like Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Orissa their religion is called Sarna, a name given from the Sacred Grove which functions as a place of worship.

The tribals have their own way of conscience, faith and belief. Basically, they believe in the super natural spirit called the ‘Singbonga’. ‘According to the belief of the Santhal community, the world is inhabited by numerous spiritual beings of different kind; and the Santhals consider themselves as living and doing everything in close association with these supernatural beings.’ They perform rituals under the Sal trees at a place called ‘Jaher’ (sacred grove). Often the ‘Jaher’ can be found in the forests. They believe in Bonga’s appearance in Sal trees and have named their religion as ‘Sarna’.

The genesis of the ‘Sarna’ religion is interesting. According to the mythology of the Santhal community, the ‘Santhal tribals had gone to the forest for hunting and they started the discussion about their ‘Creator and Savior’ while they were taking rest under a tree. They questioned themselves that who is their God? Whether the Sun, the Wind or the Cloud? Finally, they came to a 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.4 Thus, Sarna religion came into existence. There are priests and an assistant priests called “Naikey” and “Kudam Naike” in every Santhal village.

Tribal system
Tribals are not part of the caste system. This is an egalitarianism society. Christian tribals do not automatically lose their traditional tribal rules.

When in 1891 a missionary asked 150 Munda Christians to “inter-dine” with people of different rank, only 20 Christians did so, and many converts lost their new faith. Father Haghenbeek concluded on this episode that these rules are not “pagan”, but a sign of “national sentiment and pride”, and wrote:

However, many scholars argue that the claim that tribals are an egalitarian society in contrast to a caste-based society is a part of a larger political agenda by some to maximize any differences from tribal and urban societies. According to scholar Koenraad Elst, caste practices and social taboos among Indian tribals date back to antiquity:

Inter-dining has also been prohibited by many Indian tribal peoples.

Extending the system of primary education into tribal areas and reserving places for tribal children in middle and high schools and higher education institutions are central to government policy, but efforts to improve a tribe’s educational status have had mixed results. Recruitment of qualified teachers and determination of the appropriate language of instruction also remain troublesome. Commission after commission on the “language question” has called for instruction, at least at the primary level, in the students’ native tongue. In some regions, tribal children entering school must begin by learning the official regional language, often one completely unrelated to their tribal tongue.
Many tribal schools are plagued by high dropout rates. Children attend for the first three to four years of primary school and gain a smattering of knowledge, only to lapse into illiteracy later. Few who enter continue up to the tenth grade; of those who do, few manage to finish high school. Therefore, very few are eligible to attend institutions of higher education, where the high rate of attrition continues. Members of agrarian tribes like the Gonds often are reluctant to send their children to school, needing them, they say, to work in the fields. On the other hand, in those parts of the northeast where tribes have generally been spared the wholesale onslaught of outsiders, schooling has helped tribal people to secure political and economic benefits. The education system there has provided a corps of highly trained tribal members in the professions and high-ranking administrative posts.

Most tribes are concentrated in heavily forested areas that combine inaccessibility with limited political or economic significance. Historically, the economy of most tribes was subsistence agriculture or hunting and gathering. Tribal members traded with outsiders for the few necessities they lacked, such as salt and iron. A few local Hindu craftsmen might provide such items as cooking utensils.
In the early 20th century, however, large areas fell into the hands of non-tribals, on account of improved transportation and communications. Around 1900, many regions were opened by the government to settlement through a scheme by which inward migrants received ownership of land free in return for cultivating it. For tribal people, however, land was often viewed as a common resource, free to whoever needed it. By the time tribals accepted the necessity of obtaining formal land titles, they had lost the opportunity to lay claim to lands that might rightfully have been considered theirs. The colonial and post-independence regimes belatedly realized the necessity of protecting tribals from the predations of outsiders and prohibited the sale of tribal lands. Although an important loophole in the form of land leases was left open, tribes made some gains in the mid-twentieth century, and some land was returned to tribal peoples despite obstruction by local police and land officials.

In the 1970s, tribal peoples came again under intense land pressure, especially in central India. Migration into tribal lands increased dramatically, as tribal people lost title to their lands in many ways – lease, forfeiture from debts, or bribery of land registry officials. Other non-tribals simply squatted, or even lobbied governments to classify them as tribal to allow them to compete with the formerly established tribes. In any case, many tribal members became landless labourers in the 1960s and 1970s, and regions that a few years earlier had been the exclusive domain of tribes had an increasingly mixed population of tribals and non-tribals. Government efforts to evict nontribal members from illegal occupation have proceeded slowly; when evictions occur at all, those ejected are usually members of poor, lower castes.

Improved communications, roads with motorized traffic, and more frequent government intervention figured in the increased contact that tribal peoples had with outsiders. Commercial highways and cash crops frequently drew non-tribal people into remote areas. By the 1960s and 1970s, the resident nontribal shopkeeper was a permanent feature of many tribal villages. Since shopkeepers often sell goods on credit (demanding high interest), many tribal members have been drawn deeply into debt or mortgaged their land. Merchants also encourage tribals to grow cash crops (such as cotton or castor-oil plants), which increases tribal dependence on the market for basic necessities. Indebtedness is so extensive that although such transactions are illegal, traders sometimes ‘sell’ their debtors to other merchants, much like indentured peons.

The final blow for some tribes has come when nontribals, through political jockeying, have managed to gain legal tribal status, that is, to be listed as a Scheduled Tribe.

Tribes in the Himalayan foothills have not been as hard-pressed by the intrusions of non-tribals. Historically, their political status was always distinct from the rest of India. Until the British colonial period, there was little effective control by any of the empires centered in peninsular India; the region was populated by autonomous feuding tribes. The British, in efforts to protect the sensitive northeast frontier, followed a policy dubbed the “Inner Line”; nontribal people were allowed into the areas only with special permission. Postindependence governments have continued the policy, protecting the Himalayan tribes as part of the strategy to secure the border with China.

Government policies on forest reserves have affected tribal peoples profoundly. Government efforts to reserve forests have precipitated armed (if futile) resistance on the part of the tribal peoples involved. Intensive exploitation of forests has often meant allowing outsiders to cut large areas of trees (while the original tribal inhabitants were restricted from cutting), and ultimately replacing mixed forests capable of sustaining tribal life with single-product plantations. Nontribals have frequently bribed local officials to secure effective use of reserved forest lands.

The northern tribes have thus been sheltered from the kind of exploitation that those elsewhere in South Asia have suffered. In Arunachal Pradesh (formerly part of the North-East Frontier Agency), for example, tribal members control commerce and most lower-level administrative posts. Government construction projects in the region have provided tribes with a significant source of cash. Some tribes have made rapid progress through the education system (the role of early missionaries was significant in this regard). Instruction was begun in Assamese but was eventually changed to Hindi; by the early 1980s, English was taught at most levels. Northeastern tribal people have thus enjoyed a certain measure of social mobility.

Participation in Indian independence movement
There were tribal reform and rebellion movements during the period of the British Empire, some of which also participated in the Indian freedom struggle or attacked mission posts. There were several Adivasis in the Indian independence movement including Khajya Naik, Bhima Naik, Jantya Bhil and Rehma Vasave.

List of rebellions against British rule
During the period of British rule, India saw the rebellions of several backward-castes, mainly tribals that revolted against British rule. These were:.

Halba rebellion (1774-79)
Chamka rebellion (1776-1787)
Chuar rebellion in Bengal (1795-1800)
Bhopalpatnam Struggle (1795)
Khurda Rebellion in Orissa (1817)
Bhil rebellion (1822-1857)
Paralkot rebellion (1825)
Tarapur rebellion (1842-54)
Maria rebellion (1842-63)
First Freedom Struggle (1856-57)
Bhil rebellion, begun by Tantya Tope in Banswara (1858)
Koi revolt (1859)
Gond rebellion, begun by Ramji Gond in Adilabad (1860)
Muria rebellion (1876)
Rani rebellion (1878-82)
Bhumkal (1910)

Some notable Scheduled Tribes

Dhodia Tribes of Gujarat
indigenous people of Lakshadweep
Maldharis of Gujarat.
Kisan Tribe
Dongria Kondh
Kutia Kondh
Bishapus A’Mishapus

See also

Tribal religions in India
List of Scheduled Tribes in India; according to the constitution
Scheduled castes
Caste system
C. K. Janu
great andamanies

Further reading

The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India, by R.V. Russell, 1916 (E book)
Elst, Koenraad. Who is a Hindu? (2001) ISBN 8185990743
Raj, Aditya & Papia Raj (2004) “Linguistic Deculturation and the Importance of Popular Education among the Gonds in India” Adult Education and Development 62: 55-61
Vindicated by Time: The Niyogi Committee Report (edited by S.R. Goel, 1998) (1955)

Christianity is Nationality: the lesson of Nagaland

Christianity is Nationality: the lesson of Nagaland

A careful look at the northeastern Indian states brings to attention certain bold changes in the demography there. The six small states (excluding Assam) have a higher growth-rate of population than rest of the country. The total population of these six states in 1951 was 2.2 million. In 1991, it was 9.1 million. It grew 4.1 times in four decades, while the national average growth was 2.3 times. Nagaland and Tripura have registered highest growth rate of population.

The most striking feature of demographic change in the six states is the continuous decline in the number of Indian religionists (Hindu, Buddhist, and other local faiths) and the rise in Christian population. The census of 1901 recorded 91% people as Indian religionists; while in the 1991 census they remain a meager 56%. In the same period (1901-91), Muslims in this region have decreased from 6.61% to 4.69%. On the contrary, Christian population has grown from 2.22% to 39%.

The state of Nagaland had 0.59% Christians in its population in 1901, which now records (1991) 87.47% as Christians. American Baptist Church claims that more than 90% of the population in Nagaland is Christian. The state of Arunachal Pradesh did not allow entry to Christian missionaries for a long time. In 1971 census, the state had less than one percent Christians in its population. 1981 census recorded 4.32% Christians, while the Christian population galloped to 10.29% in the 1991 census.

99.7% of the population of –the area now recognized as– the state of Mizoram was Indian religionist in 1901 census. In the population of 82 thousand, only 45 persons were Christians and 206 Muslims. The 1991 census shows 86% Christians in the state’s population of 700,000. The states of Meghalaya, Manipur, and Tripura have recorded similar changes. These changes have not happened overnight, nor are they coincidental. They have happened as per planned strategies changing the religious demography of northeastern India to disintegrate the country further. Each northeastern state has a different story to tell.

Nagaland has the most shocking story of perversion, separatism, and foreign-engineered creation of a fake nationalism. A few months ago, Prime Minister Vajpayee was negotiating a peace-deal with the leaders of National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN) in Bangkok, Thailand. The previous Prime Minister P V Narsimha Rao held similar talks in Paris and his predecessor H D Devegowda tried the same in Zurich. Since 1995, such “Prime Minister-level” talks are on. It is ridiculous that the Indian rulers are negotiating with terrorists when there is a legitimate elected government in the state. And this comes as a sequel to the four decades of battle between Indian armed forces and the Naga rebels (“freedom fighters” – to use their term). Still, the Nagaland riddle is unsolved.

Many are hoping that –in the present negotiations– the Naga leaders will compromise their demand for a separate country. The aging leaders of NSCN (I-M faction) Muivah and Svu –now in their seventies– are in exile for last three and half decades. They are tired and the Naga people are fed up of violence. ‘Negotiate some peace at the earliest’ is their likely mindset. It must be clear to them by now that come what may, India is not going to grant them “freedom”. But the bone of contention is different now. It is the demand of “greater Nagaland” or “Nagalim”. NSCN(I-M) is demanding a sovereign and independent “Nagalim” that shall include the Naga area of Myanmar, Naga-tribes’ areas from the states of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. This makes it further clear that the Naga identity –or the so-called nationality– is uncertain and it flexes as per the wishes of those who define it. Their intention certainly is not the peace, but the continuation of the problem.Naga who?

Naga leaders are claiming many tribes to be Nagas. There is some tribe every other day, which suddenly rises and calls itself Naga. Interestingly, the only thing common in all such tribes is the American Baptist Church! An even more interesting fact is that the negotiations between two warring factions of NSCN were held in the headquarters of Baptist Church in Atlanta, USA. The web-site of this church ( has scores of articles supporting Naga ‘freedom’. This article will give an idea of how the American Baptist Church created the apparently Naga — but practically Christian — nationalism of Nagaland. The next article will explain why they are trying to keep the problem alive instead of helping peace.

Nobody knows the real number of “Nagas”. Indian census (since British times) records tribes in their local name; e.g. Tangkhul tribe inhabits the hilly north of Manipur State. Indian census registers this tribe as Tangkhul. But this tribe since its conversion to Christianity calls itself Naga. There are many such tribes that have turned Naga. ‘Naga’ is not even one language, so the lingual population figures also can not give the number of Nagas. Naga Hoho (the pan Naga organization, dominated by the Church) claims 16 tribes in Manipur to be Nagas. This claim has no reasoning –language, tradition, law– nothing supports this claim. As anthropologist Robbins Burling points out, Nagas speak 30 different languages.

In a recent article on the languages of northeast India, Burling had to take the trouble to separate the political project of Naga unity from the languages spoken by the people who call themselves Naga. “Today, the people known as ‘Nagas’ certainly recognize some common ‘Naga’ ethnicity”, Burling writes, “but this recognition may have come only after the British gave them the name ‘Naga’. Most of the indigenous people of Nagaland, together with some ethnic groups in the bordering areas of Manipur, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, and Myanmar are, by general consensus, now accepted as ‘Nagas’, but this term should not fool us into believing that they must have some linguistic unity”. Naga, Burling emphasized, “is not a linguistic label”. Particularly striking to Burling was that some groups, “whose language a linguist would, without hesitation, classify as ‘Kuki’, have declared themselves to be ‘Nagas”. Yet, adds Burling, “everyone agrees that Nagas and Kukis are sharply distinct ethnically. Indeed, they have been killing each other from time to time”.

John Hutton, the British writer in 1922 mentioned that the expression Naga “is useful as an arbitrary term to denote the tribes living in certain parts of the Assam hills, which may be roughly defined as bounded by the Hokong valley in the north-east, the plain of the Brahmaputra Valley to the north-west, of Cachar to the south-west and of the Chindwin to east. In the south of the Manipur Valley roughly marks the point of contact between the ‘Naga’ tribes and the very much more closely interrelated group of Kuki tribes — Thao, Lushei, Chin etc.”(Hutton, 1922: xv-xvi) The area that Hutton called ‘roughly defined’ is now being demanded as independent Nagalim. The 80 years since Hutton wrote this have seen lot of activity that forged a Naga nationality.

The ethnic landscape of the hills, writes James Scott, has always confused outsiders — states as well as ethnographers. The taxonomies about the hill peoples have been almost always wrong, groups identified as distinct were later found to be not `uniform, coherent, or stable through time’. The ethnic landscape has had a ‘bewildering and intercalated gradients of cultural traits’. Whether it was linguistic practice, dress, rituals, diet or body decoration, neat boundary lines had been impossible to draw. Tri-lingualism, for example, is fairly common (Scott, 2000: 21-22). Thus in the case of the Nagas, ethnographers and missionaries engaged in what Julian Jacobs and his colleagues describe as a struggle ‘to make sense of the ethnographic chaos’ they perceived around them: hundreds, if not thousands, of small villages seemed to be somewhat similar to each other but also very different, by no means always sharing the same customs, political system, art or even language’ (Jacobs, 1990: 23).

The funny thing is that Scott and Jacobs and their likes never understood that entire India is made up of villages that are “somewhat similar… but also very different”. Language changes every twelve miles and each village has its own Gods and Goddesses. They call it “ethnographic chaos”; we call it diversity. Over plateau and other flatlands, the circumference of similarity is wide, for human communication and exchange of traditions is easier. In mountains, the difficult geography narrows down this circle of similarity. The nomadic groups and those who practiced shifting cultivation naturally had variety of languages and customs. It is the greatness of our culture that despite this variety, even outsiders can feel the “somewhat similar” nature of villages.Christian Missionaries

Christian Missionaries found their way out from these “ethnographic chaos”. The first missionary stepped in the Naga areas 100 years ago (1903). According to the missionary records of history, Nagas had the practice of head-hunting. It was believed that unless a fresh human head is sacrificed, farms do not yield good crops. It was natural that even neighboring villages were die-hard enemies as they looked to each other for heads. The villages spoke dialects that were totally incomprehensible to their neighbors. The first few missionaries were beheaded too. But with great courage, they continued coming in. In 1931 census, Nagaland had 12.81% Christians. In next two decades (1951), the percentage of Christians rose to 46. Next four decades (1951-91) saw a record growth of Christians, with their percentage reaching 85. According to historian Richard Eaton it was “the most massive movement to Christianity in all of Asia, second only to that of the Philippines” (Eaton, 1997: 245)

Historian Sanjeeb Baruah writes in Journal of Peace Research: “The single most important development that made the imagining of Nagas as a collectivity possible was their conversion to Christianity… Today Christianity is an essential part of Naga identity. Except for the Zeilongrong Nagas, most Nagas are Christians. Eaton estimates the percentage of Christians to be 90%… and the NSCN-IM puts the figure at 95%. It was the American Baptist Mission that accounted for most of the proselytizing among Nagas; but the conversions of a number of Naga communities happened after the end of colonial rule and even after the Indian government expelled foreign missionaries from India. The profound destabilization of traditional Naga institutions during colonial rule, however, had set the stage for this profound cultural transformation. The village chiefs were the leaders of the community when Naga society was organized on a war footing. But when head-hunting was criminalized by colonial rulers and inter-village warfare ended, the traditional leaders lost their hold over younger warriors and it was these `would-be warriors’ who, according to Richard Eaton, responded most readily to Christian teachings.”

Missionaries printed the Bible in selected Naga dialects such as Ao, Angami and Sema and in the process gave those dialects a written form using the Roman script. This meant a simplification of the Naga linguistic landscape — for while the chosen dialects became recognized as standard, many other dialects disappeared. As literacy and education became a key to social mobility, Nagas realized the advantage of learning those standard dialects. Hundreds of young men from different areas, who were trained in the secondary schools and missionary training schools run by missionaries, were able to communicate with each other. To this generation, the idea of Nagas as a single identity became real. Conversion to Christianity separated their identity from the majority Hindu and Muslim populations of rest of India. It was Christianity alone that gave birth to a separate nationality amongst Nagas. The movement for political separatism or ‘freedom’ was based on their Christian identity concealed under the label Naga. The political and military struggle that Naga rebels carried on was firmly founded on their conversion to Christianity.Naga problem and India

British transferred power to India in 1947. Myanmar acquired some part of Naga Hills, but majority of it remained with India. The leaders of Naga National Council (NNC) met Gandhi-ji, and he assured them that they would not have to join the Indian Union against their wishes. Nowhere in British India or in princely states was anyone given such choice. Nagas did not get any special treatment. Like all other Hindu-majority Indian populations, they were integrated to the Indian union. There were Naga leaders like Queen Gaidenlieu who had fought against the British and firmly supported union with free India. The Christian converts — who dominated the NNC — however, thought otherwise and in 1951, conducted a ‘referendum’. With American and other foreign missionaries still present and dominating, the result of the referendum was not surprising. (Foreign missionaries were expelled only after 1955.) The way the referendum was conducted was ridiculous. Volunteers of NNC went from village to village and collected thumbprints of villagers on the referendum documents. They declared that 99.99% of the villagers wanted independent nation of Nagaland. A biased agency conducting referendum amidst illiterate people without giving an opportunity for the other side to reach them was not a joke; it was a clever conspiracy to legitimize Naga separatism.

Around the same time, Indian army occupied the sensitive border areas of Naga Hills. Small-intensity conflicts with the Naga rebels began. Common people suffered atrocities from both sides. Popular opinion turned anti-India. The reasoning was simple. The Indians visible to Naga people were mostly soldiers who did not speak their language, were armed, and their goal was to maintain law and order. Christian propaganda added fuel to fire. That gave birth to the NSCN slogan, “Nagaland for Christ”. NSCN (National Socialist Council of Nagaland) was not fighting for a ‘National’ or ‘Socialist’ cause, they had this clear goal: Nagaland for Christ. Even today, the guerrillas of NSCN carry two essential things: one, a packet of salt (to avoid dehydration at high altitudes) and two, the Bible. NSCN is running a parallel government for last many decades. Nobody — be it a street-side vegetable vendor, or a federal government official — can live without paying a ‘tax’ to NSCN. Before killing a ‘traitor’, the guerrillas yell “Nagaland for Christ” at him.

Daily Herald recently (May 5, 2003) published a story of a Naga pastor who went to the US as a Baptist missionary. This Naga pastor, Fr. David Jameer came to the US in 1952.. He later organized the handful of Nagas that lived in the US to support Naga freedom. He played a crucial role in negotiations for re-union between rival fractions of NSCN, as well as their negotiations with the Indian government. Fr. Jameer expressed his frustration in these words: “It’s as if the Naga church is frozen in time, stuck in a 50-year-old morality… If you take a drink or have a smoke, then it’s like you’re a bad Christian, but if you pick up a gun and kill people – the church suddenly has nothing to say… ‘Nagaland for Christ’ what does that mean?”

Jameer after so many years has understood something that all religious nationalists/separatists should understand. Religious fanaticism –be it for any religion– creates uncontrolled chauvinism and a superiority complex that demeans human respect. Fanaticism corrupts true religion and brings no good. It is unfortunate that — the people of Kashmir gripped in the ‘Jehadi’ fanaticism, the people of Punjab under the spell of ‘Khalistani’ pride, and the people of Nagaland under the heels of ‘Nagaland for Christ’– have learnt this after a costly human sacrifice.

Christian Conversion created the so-called Naga nationality. This is a fact as clear as sunlight. The states of Mizoram, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh are walking on the same “Christian” path. Ignoring the advent of Christianity and Christian proselytism in those areas shall prove suicidal to our national integration. More on this in the next article…

– Milind Thatte (03 May ’04)


Liberationists and Maoists: Acquitted for lack of evidence?

Liberationists and Maoists: Acquitted for lack of evidence?

The separatists in tribal areas are now sporting a new mask; in fact the mask is already old and well used but its scary canines are increasingly becoming obvious. India’s peculiarity is in her diversity. Finding cleavages in this diversity, and widening them has been the strategy of the missionaries and their European-American mentors. Their current formula is ‘not conversion, but perversion’. Once cut from the roots that unify the tribes with the Indian mainstream, it becomes much easier not only to convert, but also to enslave. The success of this strategy in Nagaland and Mizoram gave a big boost to the missionary business. The clever strategists made some timely improvements in their packaging. That gave birth to hundreds of organizations like ‘Adivasi Ekta Parishad’, ‘Shramik Mukti Sanghtana’, ‘Jharkhand Mukti Morcha’, ‘Tripura Liberation Tigers’ and so on. It has become so common that whenever one notices the word ‘liberation’ or ‘Mukti’ (which also means liberation) in the name of an organization, it is surely a sign of neo-colonialism. Each organization has some separate words, but the principle is one: Mukti, liberation from India!

“Shurpanakha (a female demon from Ramayana) was a tribal woman. To insult the her tribal beauty, Ram and Lakshman — the Aryans — cut her nose and ears.” This is what the liberationists– notably the Adivasi Ekta Parishad– campaign in the tribal areas. Tribals traditionally say ‘Ram Ram’ as a greeting. But the Ekta Parishad brainwashes that ‘you should stop saying Ram-Ram. Say Ravan-Ravan (the demon) instead. For he was your ancestor… Hanuman was a tribal man, the Aryan invader Ram enslaved him and forced him to sit by his feet’. These are the public speeches of AEP leaders. That is exactly what the missionaries want: insulting and degrading local faith. This is what they achieved in Nagaland; the Nagas learnt to call themselves ‘spiritually blind pagans’. Nagas were forced to forget that they had a religion. That’s what Ekta Parishad is doing in central India (Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and Maharashtra): destroying the local faith and paving way for the Christian missionaries.

Hanuman (the so-called Monkey god) from Ramayana was not a monkey. He was a minister to the tribal king Sugreeva. The tribe was called Vaanar (which means monkey) and had the tradition of wearing animal-tails as a body decoration. Hanuman, the intelligent minister engineered a pact of friendship between Ram and his king Sugreeva. Ram always called Hanuman his friend. That was Hanuman’s status. But the Ekta Parishad has declared him a slave of Ram. Ekta Parishad fails to explain why Ram — if he was an “Aryan invader”– did not come with an Aryan army. Ravan is projected as a non-Aryan indigenous king. This is another lie. ‘Arya’ is not the name of a race. The word Arya means ‘cultured’. Ravan’s ministers — as depicted in Ramayana — call him ‘Arya’ to give him respect. His wife calls him ‘Aryaputra’ (Son of Arya). If Ravan were anti-Aryan, non-Aryan, it would not have been so. But Ekta Parishad likes to project Ram-Ravan war as an Aryan vs. indigenous war. Ramayana was written by a great sage who himself was a forest-dwelling tribal. All this does not make any difference to the great speakers of Ekta Parishad for their intention is creating divisions and widening them. It is quite a joke because Ekta means unity, and the Ekta Parishad is never able to see anything that unites India.

“Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram and the RSS are forcibly converting us the Adivasis (indigenous peoples) to Hinduism. Their brahminism must be crushed. If their (RSS’s) ex-students contest elections, break their legs and kick them out…” This was said in a speech at Ekta Parishad mass-convention in the Thane district of Maharashtra in November 2001. Ekta Parishad strains its vocal cords so much to bash what they call ‘forcible Hinduization and invasion on Adivasi culture’, but it never even mentions the Christian conversions. They exhaust their energy in protesting against the alleged atrocities on ‘Christian tribals’ and blaming Hindutva for that.

They never even by mistake say ‘Hindu Adivasis’, because they insist that ‘Adivasis’ is a different culture, they don’t have a religion, they are not Hindus. But they have no problem harping ‘Christian Adivasis’. They shed tears for the rights of Christian Adivasis and the protection of those rights and the fight for that. If Adivasis were really different peoples, why does the Ekta Parishad not protect them from both: Hindus and Christians? This behavior of the Adivasi Ekta Parishad is not surprising at all, for a dog never barks at its master, and the Ekta Parishad is a well-trained dog.

For those who are unaware, this is a brief backgrounder. This idea of a separate Adivasi culture and the concept Adivasi — which means indigenous people — are both foreign sponsored lies. British rulers paid Max Mueller to create a myth of Aryan invasion. Aryans were depicted as white invaders coming from the northwest to India. (There is no proof of this; it is a blatant lie. But one can still find it in some school textbooks in India.) The intention was double-edged: to teach Indians that they were always slaves, and to create a divide of indigenous-extraneous within the Hindu population. If one goes through census records since 1871, it becomes obvious how this divide was created. The British enlisted some tribes under a schedule and forced census officers to count them as ‘animists’. Census officers complained that it was difficult to distinguish between Hindus and animists. But they were forced to separate the tribes from the Hindu mainstream. In next few censuses, the tribes were termed ‘aborigines’ or Adivasi. The famous Indian anthropologist G. S. Ghurye exposed the British myths and proved this division wrong in his book “The Scheduled Tribes”. He insisted that the tribes are Hindus and that if one needs to categorize them separately, they can be called ‘backward Hindus’. (I am trying to be brief on this. Refer to Ghurye’s book and to “Aryan invasion and Indian nationalism” by Shrikant Talgeri for more.)

Anti-national intentions

Ekta Parishad claims that it represents the tribals. Their speeches offend and are deliberately hurting to non-tribal population. Quite logically the non-tribal or urban population is not going to give donations to Ekta Parishad. Their leaders are supposedly dedicated, which officially means that they are not amassing riches. Yet they go on foreign tours. They attend international conventions of the Alliance of Indigenous peoples and they sign anti-India pacts. Who sponsors all this? It is worth investigation as to who fathers the Adivasi Ekta Parishad.

If one goes to — and this writer has done so — any tribal village in the Maharashtra-Madhya Pradesh border area, and asks a lay-villager as to what does the Ekta Parishad do. The villagers have one answer: Ekta Parishad convenes mass meetings. They arrange free transport on trucks to take villagers to towns for mass-meetings and villagers even get a bottle of liquor as an incentive. What welfare of tribals is Ekta Parishad achieving by only arranging mass-meetings? Their single-minded clear purpose is brainwashing the tribal people to believe that they are not Hindus and that they are a separate people, so that they can be cut from the national mainstream.

The Naga Christians are themselves saying that they were pagans, never had a religion, worshipped spirits and it was conversion to Christianity that showed them the light. They are ashamed of their own culture and history. That has denationalized them. The missionaries achieved this by decades of brainwashing. The Ekta Parishad ‘s bubbles about ‘Ravan being the tribals’ ancestor’ are a beginning of such brainwashing. Confuse the tribals about their religion. Make them believe that they don’t have a religion, that their faith is blind and fake. Force them to shed off their old faith. The vacuum of faith then created can readily be filled by the missionaries. The same old game, the difference is they are playing new cards.

The Ekta Parishad is affiliated with International Alliance of Indigenous Peoples (IAIP). The ‘Charter of Indigenous Peoples’ rights’ made by the IAIP is signed by the Ekta Parishad. This charter has demanded ‘sovereignty’ for indigenous people. Recognizing indigenous populations as ‘peoples’ is accepting their separateness. The government of India has consistently opposed the term ‘peoples’ and has always used ‘populations’. The charter signed by Ekta Parishad leaders has many anti-national provisions; e.g. If an International institution (like the World Bank) wants to implement development project, it will be through a tri-partite agreement between the national government, World Bank, and the tribal organization.

Divisive designs

Ekta Parishad and their brotherhood ‘Mukti’ organizations had planned a ‘Bhilkhand’ movement demanding a separate Bhil tribal state by breaking up territory from Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. Many volunteers and activists quit this movement when they understood the real intention: to divide and denationalize the Bhil group of tribes. The activists who walked out rang a red alert. Social organizations and governments took quick action and the Bhilkhand movement never caught any momentum. Bhilkhand was intended to be a remake of the Jharkhand movement. Jharkhand agitation had demanded “Jharkhand for Christians” right in 1947. But the leaders of Jharkhand Party were fortunately corrupt and were bought by the ruling party at the center. This always hampered the progress of Jharkhand movement. After the Jharkhand ‘Mukti’ Morcha was founded, non-Christian leaders like Shibu Soren were projected. They too were sold out and the dream of offering an independent Jharkhand to Christ could never be fulfilled. On the contrary infidels of the BJP are ruling the state.

Tribal majority belt starts from the Thane district of Maharashtra and Selvassa south of Gujarat (both close to west coast) and stretches diagonally upwards to the northeast. It is a continuous belt covering the Dangs (Gujarat) and Nandurbar (Maharashtra), Narmada valley, southern districts of Madhya Pradesh and covering almost the entire states of Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Assam and the rest of Northeast. The illegal term Adivasi is used quite often to indicate the tribal people in this belt. If this belt is cut into another country/countries, India will be partitioned into at least four parts. The part to the south of this belt will become Dravidistan. This tribal belt will be called Philistan (Palestine); northeast will be divided into many countries, and whatever remains in the north will be Hindustan! This vision becomes quite clear if one works at grassroots level in the affected areas. There are random web-sites like that even project the maps of those partitions. That is the dream of liberationists; and Maoists are hand in hand with them.

Each are in this west-to-northeast belt — or the would-be Philistan — is facing some kind of disruptive movements. Wherever law and order is almost absent and the jungle is deep, the gun-power of the Naxalites (the Maoist terrorists) is ruling. The Naxalites of the MCC (Maoist Communist Center) from Jharkhand are spreading their wings to the adjacent northern areas of Chhattisgarh. The Naxalites of the PWG (People’s War Group) from the southern state of Andhra Pradesh are infiltrating in the southern districts of Chhattisgarh. The Naxalites from Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra — though in small numbers — are entering the western areas of Chhattisgarh. While writing this article, the alliance between these three — MCC, PWG and the Maharashtra unit of PWG — was almost final.

It is true that the tribal youth angered — by the atrocities of Government officials and their partnership with the exploiting capitalists and landlords — takes up arms and becomes a Naxalite. But who instigates the tribal youth to take up guns? While the tribals live in extreme poverty and in dearth of basic necessities, who supplies them costly guns and expensive ammunition? Rising in rebellion against injustice, fighting for rights is always justified. Godavari Parulekar — later famous as the queen of Warlis — was also a communist and led a successful Warli revolt. She led the Warli tribals to acquire their rights, but never taught them to take guns.

Naxalites are Maoists and their organizations have mushroomed in many places forming a chain from Mao’s country to Andhra Pradesh. Starting from Maoists in Nepals and linking those in Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh — it is a continuous chain. When this linking becomes clear, it becomes clearer how poor tribal youth can afford the expensive AK47s when they turn naxalites.

There are still some weak links in this Maoist Chain. North Bengal (the small part of the state of West Bengal situated to the north of Bangladesh) was one such link. It is now filled up by the Mukti-ists of Kamtapur Liberation Organization (KLO). They demand Kamtapur or North Bengal as a separate state. In this recent military action by the Bhutanese army, the terrorist training camps of KLO within Bhutan were destroyed. The other weak link is the area of Narmada valley that borders Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. Adivasi Ekta Parishad is doing its best in this area — especially in the districts of Alirajpur and Nandurbar. In 2001, Naxalites too attempted a beginning in this area. This writer has seen posters for birth-centenary celebrations of Charu Mazumdar — the founder of Naxalite movement — in the Dhadgaon-Molgi area of Narmada valley. Police took a quick action and the celebrations were foiled.

Maoists and Liberationists both are growing. Foreign writers or eminent researchers have not written any major book on them. The movements are not old enough for big historians to take note of them. They are not enough famous yet, for the Parliament to take cognizance or for the army to act. Except the Jharkhand-Maharashtra-Andhra forest belt, their terror is not enough to run parallel governments like the Naga terrorists. Government has not appointed any Enquiry commission to investigate. Witnesses and evidences are not collected yet. So shall we assume that these separatists do not exist? The information in this article is visible and obvious if one travels in the tribal areas of the country. Can we still turn a blind eye and acquit Maoists and Liberationists as innocent for lack of evidence?

— Milind Thatte (09 May, 2004)


Do reservations work? by Tarun Jain

A number of researchers in economics have started to look closely at political reservations. In one recent instance, Professor Rohini Pande of Yale University has found that reservations in state legislatures do increase influence in policy-making for scheduled castes and tribes. Tarun Jain reports.

15 April 2005 – In an editorial last year, India Together argued in favour of reservations for lower castes. In their piece, Ashwin Mahesh and Subramaniam Vincent commented on the reasons we have reservations. Affirmative action policies they argued not only directly benefit lower castes through higher incomes, but have a larger impact on public policies when individuals from lower castes are given a voice in the decision making process. Other commentators on these pages have followed a similar line of reasoning. For instance, when advocating for reservation of Parliament seats for women, Kalpana Sharma writes that “there is a greater chance of mainstreaming women’s concerns if there are more women in positions of power from where these concerns can be addressed.”

“Are reservations working?” ask Mahesh and Vincent, who say that the impact of reservations on public policy would be most visible in legislatures and panchayats. Despite their arguments, none of these writers are able to provide any evidence that the legislators, once elected, actually behave in ways expected of them. The complexity of the political system means that there are a number of ways in which legislators get impeded in their work. The legal scholar Upendra Baxi argues that SC and ST legislators need to appeal both to upper-caste constituents in reserved jurisdictions and to the primarily upper-caste membership of their parties. Also, the dynamics of political parties and bargaining within legislatures can dull activism of individual legislators in favour of their communities. Or MLAs and MPs might simply concentrate on increasing their own wealth and not care about their constituents at all. Kalpana Sharma, perhaps thinking about the behaviour of Indira Gandhi, Mayawati, Rabri, and other women in power, writes that “there is no guarantee that [women’s reservation] in itself will make a difference to the status of women in the country.” These are prescient words, for casual empirics do not explain what has been the actual result of political reservations in India.

When casual empirics fail, perhaps it is time for a more rigorous approach. A number of researchers in economics have started to look closely at political reservations, both for lower castes and tribes and for women in India. In an important paper published in the American Economic Review in 2003, Professor Rohini Pande of Yale University asked if reservations in state legislatures increased influence in policy-making for scheduled castes and tribes. She concluded that they did, and backed up this assertion by presented evidence of targeted redistribution policies passed by SC and ST legislators.

Legal identification of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes
Selection criteria for scheduled castes

1. Cannot be served by clean Brahmans
2. Cannot be served by the barbers, water-carriers, tailors, etc. who serve the caste Hindus
3. Pollutes a high-caste Hindu by contact or by proximity
4. Is one from whose hands a caste Hindu cannot take water
5. Is debarred from using public amenities such as roads, ferries, wells, or schools
6. Will not be treated as an equal by high-caste men of the same educational qualification in ordinary social intercourse
7. Is depressed on account of the occupation followed and, but for that, occupation would be subject to no social disability

Selection criteria for scheduled tribes

1. Tribal origin
2. Primitive ways of life and habitation in remote and less accessible areas
3. General backwardness in all respects

Source: Constitution of India

For her analysis, Pande exploits a particular feature of the Indian representative set-up. Each state legislature has seats reserved for SC and ST candidates, but the proportion of seats varies by state. There are more seats for states with higher proportion of SC and ST population, and vice versa. Also, between 1950 and 1980, the seat allocations kept changing as new data from the census became available. So these variations allow Pande to compare the policies in states with higher SC and ST representation to those with lower SC and ST reservation.

Increasing SC reservation does not have a significant impact on general spending policies such as total spending, spending on education or land reforms. However, it has a significant impact on targeted spending policies.
• Women’s representation
• The merit of reservations
• Caste: Don’t ask, don’t tell

Pande’s results show that reservations impact different groups differently, depending on the policy. Increasing SC reservation does not have a significant impact on general spending policies such as total spending, spending on education or land reforms. However, it has a significant impact on targeted spending policies. Increasing reservations by 1% increases job quotas for SCs by 0.6%, but does not affect spending on SC welfare schemes. This split between general and targeted policies sits well with the social structure of these groups. Compared to STs, SCs are well educated but geographically distributed, so they rely on individual specific schemes such as job quotas. An SC legislator who advocates group-specific policies cannot be sure that they will actually be used by the community that she or he wants to target.

In contrast, ST reservations have an impact on a broader range of spending policies. Increasing ST reservation by 1% decreases spending on education by 0.4%, but increases spending on tribal welfare schemes by 0.8%. Again, this matches what we know about tribal communities in India. They are remote from the major population centres yet live cohesively. So they are able to take advantage of and prefer group-specific programs over individual-specific ones.

Pande’s research is one of the first threads in an emerging literature on the behaviour of elected representatives in office. In 2004, Professors Raghabendra Chattopadhyay of IIM Calcutta and Esther Duflo of MIT published their research on the impact of reservations for women in panchayats, specifically looking at Rajasthan and West Bengal. Their analysis pointed to important differences in policies enacted by panchayats headed by women and men, debunking the myth that women sarpanches are puppets controlled by men. Even in panchayats with “unassertive” women as sarpanches, the presence of a woman in a position of authority often inspired other women in the Gram Sabha to speak up, changing the dynamic of village policy making.

In another 2004 study, Professors Tim Besley, Rohini Pande, Lupin Rahman and Vijayendra Rao found that if the Sarpanch position is reserved for person from a Scheduled Caste or Tribe, then SC or ST households are 7% more likely to have access to a toilet, an electricity connection, or a private water connection via a government scheme.

Adivasi Contributions to Indian Culture and Civilization

Adivasi traditions and practices pervade all aspects of Indian culture and civilization, yet this awareness is often lacking in popular consciousness, and the extent and import of Adivasi contributions to Indian philosophy, language and custom have often gone unrecognized, or been underrated by historians and social scientists.

Although popular myths about Buddhism have obscured the original source and inspiration for it’s humanist doctrine, it is to India’s ancient tribal (or Adivasi) societies that Gautam Buddha looked for a model for the kind of society he wished to advocate. Repulsed by how greed for private property was instrumental in causing poverty, social exploitation and unending warfare – he saw hope for human society in the tribal republics that had not yet come under the sway of authoritarian rule and caste discrimination. The early Buddhist Sanghas were modelled on the tribal pattern of social interaction that stressed gender equality, and respect for all members. Members of the Sanghas sought to emulate their egalitarian outlook and democratic functioning

At that time, the tribal republics retained many aspects of social equality that can still be found in some Adivasi societies that have somehow escaped the ill-effects of commercial plunder and exploitation. Adivasi society was built on a foundation of equality with respect for all life forms including plants and trees. There was a deep recognition of mutual dependence in nature and human society. People were given respect and status according to their contribution to social needs but only while they were performing that particular function. A priest could be treated with great respect during a religious ceremony or a doctor revered during a medical consultation, but once such duties had been performed, the priest or doctor became equal to everyone else. The possession of highly valued skills or knowledge did not lead to a permanent rise in status. This meant that no individual or small group could engage in overlordship of any kind, or enjoy hereditary rights.

Such a value-system was sustainable as long as the Adivasi community was non-acquisitive and all the products of society were shared. Although division of labor did take place, the work of society was performed on a cooperative and co-equal basis – without prejudice or disrespect for any form of work.

It was the simplicity, the love of nature, the absence of coveting the goods and wealth of others, and the social harmony of tribal society that attracted Gautam Buddha, and had a profound impact on the ethical core of his teachings.

(To this day, sharing is a vital and integral part of the philosophy of the Mullakurumba Adivasis of South India. When the Mullakurumbas go hunting a share is given to every family in the village, even those who may be absent, sick or cannot participate for any other reason. An extra portion is added for any guest in the village and even a non-tribal passersby will be offered a share. Not sharing is something they find difficult to comprehend.)

Nevertheless, tribal societies were under constant pressure as the money economy grew and made traditional forms of barter less difficult to sustain. In matters of trade, the Adivasis followed a highly evolved system of honour. All agreements that they entered into were honoured, often the entire tribe chipping in to honor an agreement made by an individual member of the tribe. Individual dishonesty or deceit were punished severely by the tribe. An individual who acted in a manner that violated the honor of the tribe faced potential banishment and family members lost the right to participate in community events during the period of punishment. But often, tribal integrity was undermined because the non-tribals who traded with the Adivasis reneged on their promises and took advantage of the sincerity and honesty of most members of the tribe.

Tribal societies came under stress due to several factors. The extension of commerce, military incursions on tribal land, and the resettling of Brahmins amidst tribal populations had an impact, as did ideological coercion or persuasion to attract key members of the tribe into “mainstream” Hindu society. This led to many tribal communities becoming integrated into Hindu society as jatis (or castes) while others who resisted were pushed into the hilly or forested areas, or remote tracks that had not yet been settled. In the worst case, defeated Adivasi tribes were pushed to the margins of settled society and became discriminated as outcastes and “untouchables”.

But spontaneous differentiation within tribal societies also took place over time, which propelled these now unequal tribal communities into integrating into Hindu society without external violence or coercion. In Central India, ruling dynasties emerged from within the ranks of tribal society.

In any case, the end result was that throughout India, tribal deities and customs, creation myths and a variety of religious rites and ceremonies came to absorbed into the broad stream of “Hindu” society. In the Adivasi traditions, ancestor worship, worship of fertility gods and goddesses (as well as male and female fertility symbols), totemic worship – all played a role. And they all found their way into the practice of what is now considered Hinduism. The widespread Indian practice of keeping ‘vratas’, i.e. fasting for wish-fulfillment or moral cleansing also has Adivasi origins

Mahashweta Devi has shown that both Shiva and Kali have tribal origins as do Krishna and Ganesh. In the 8th century, the tribal forest goddess or harvest goddess was absorbed and adapted as Siva’s wife. Ganesh owes it’s origins to a powerful tribe of elephant trainers whose incorporation into Hindu society was achieved through the deification of their elephant totem. In his study of Brahmin lineages in Maharashtra, Kosambi points to how many Brahmin gotras (such as Kashyapa) arose from tribal totems such as Kachhapa (tortoise). In Rajasthan, Rajput rulers recognised the Adivasi Bhil chiefs as allies and Bhils acquired a central role in some Rajput coronation ceremonies.

India’s regional languages such as Oriya, Marathi or Bengali developed as a result of the fusion of tribal languages with Sanskrit or Pali and virtually all the Indian languages have incorporated words from the vocabulary of Adivasi languages.

Adivasis who developed an intimate knowledge of various plants and their medicinal uses played an invaluable role in the development of Ayurvedic medicines. In a recent study, the All India Coordinated Research Project credits Adivasi communities with the knowledge of 9000 plant species – 7500 used for human healing and veterinary health care. Dental care products like datun, roots and condiments like turmeric used in cooking and ointments are also Adivasi discoveries, as are many fruit trees and vines. Ayurvedic cures for arthritis and night blindness owe their origin to Adivasi knowledge.

Adivasis also played an important role in the development of agricultural practices – such as rotational cropping, fertility maintenance through alternating the cultivation of grains with leaving land fallow or using it for pasture. Adivasis of Orissa were instrumental in developing a variety of strains of rice.

Adivasi musical instruments such as the bansuri (flute) and dhol (drum), folk-tales, dances and seasonal celebrations also found their way into Indian traditions as did their art and metallurgical skills.

In India’s central belt, Adivasi communities rose to considerable prominence and developed their own ruling clans. The earliest Gond kingdom appears to date from the 10th C and the Gond Rajas were able to maintain a relatively independent existence until the 18th C., although they were compelled to offer nominal allegiance to the Mughal empire. The Garha-Mandla kingdom in the north extended control over most of the upper Narmada valley and the adjacent forest areas. The Deogarh-Nagpur kingdom dominated much of the upper Wainganga valley, while Chanda-Sirpur in the south consisted of territory around Wardha and the confluences of the Wainganga with the Penganga.

Jabalpur was one of the major centers of the Garha-Mandla kingdom and like other major dynastic capitals had a large fort and palace. Temples and palaces with extremely fine carvings and erotic sculptures came up throughout the Gond kingdoms. The Gond ruling clans enjoyed close ties with the Chandella ruling clans and both dynasties attempted to maintain their independence from Mughal rule through tactical alliances. Rani Durgavati of Jabalpur (of Chandella-Gond heritage) acquired a reputation of legendary proportions when she died in battle defending against Mughal incursions. The city of Nagpur was founded by a Gond Raja in the early 18th century.

Adivasis and the Freedom Movement

As soon as the British took over Eastern India tribal revolts broke out to challenge alien rule. In the early years of colonization, no other community in India offered such heroic resistance to British rule or faced such tragic consequences as did the numerous Adivasi communities of now Jharkhand, Chhatisgarh, Orissa and Bengal. In 1772, the Paharia revolt broke out which was followed by a five year uprising led by Tilka Manjhi who was hanged in Bhagalpur in 1785. The Tamar and Munda revolts followed. In the next two decades, revolts took place in Singhbhum, Gumla, Birbhum, Bankura, Manbhoom and Palamau, followed by the great Kol Risings of 1832 and the Khewar and Bhumij revolts (1832-34). In 1855, the Santhals waged war against the permanent settlement of Lord Cornwallis, and a year later, numerous adivasi leaders played key roles in the 1857 war of independence.

But the defeat of 1858 only intensified British exploitation of national wealth and resources. A forest regulation passed in 1865 empowered the British government to declare any land covered with trees or brushwood as government forest and to make rules to manage it under terms of it’s own choosing. The act made no provision regarding the rights of the Adivasi users. A more comprehensive Indian Forest Act was passed in 1878, which imposed severe restrictions upon Adivasi rights over forest land and produce in the protected and reserved forests. The act radically changed the nature of the traditional common property of the Adivasi communities and made it state property.

As punishment for Adivasi resistance to British rule, “The Criminal Tribes Act” was passed by the British Government in 1871 arbitrarily stigmatizing groups such as the Adivasis (who were perceived as most hostile to British interests) as congenital criminals.

Adivasi uprisings in the Jharkhand belt were quelled by the British through massive deployment of troops across the region. The Kherwar uprising and the Birsa Munda movement were the most important of the late-18th century struggles against British rule and their local agents. The long struggle led by Birsa Munda was directed at British policies that allowed the zamindars (landowners) and money-lenders to harshly exploit the Adivasis. In 1914 Jatra Oraon started what is called the Tana Movement (which drew the participation of over 25,500 Adivasis). The Tana movement joined the nation-wide Satyagrah Movement in 1920 and stopped the payment of land-taxes to the colonial Government.

During British rule, several revolts also took place in Orissa which naturally drew participation from the Adivasis. The significant ones included the Paik Rebellion of 1817, the Ghumsar uprisings of 1836-1856, and the Sambhalpur revolt of 1857-1864.

In the hill tribal tracts of Andhra Pradesh a revolt broke out in August 1922. Led by Alluri Ramachandra Raju (better known as Sitarama Raju), the Adivasis of the Andhra hills succeeded in drawing the British into a full-scale guerrilla war. Unable to cope, the British brought in the Malabar Special Force to crush it and only prevailed when Alluri Raju died.

As the freedom movement widened, it drew Adivasis into all aspects of the struggle. Many landless and deeply oppressed Adivasis joined in with upper-caste freedom fighters expecting that the defeat of the British would usher in a new democratic era.

Unfortunately, even fifty years after independence, Dalits and Adivasis have benefited least from the advent of freedom. Although independence has brought widespread gains for the vast majority of the Indian population, Dalits and Adivasis have often been left out, and new problems have arisen for the nation’s Adivasi populations. With the tripling of the population since 1947, pressures on land resources, especially demands on forested tracks, mines and water resources have played havoc on the lives of the Adivasis. A disproportionate number of Adivasis have been displaced from their traditional lands while many have seen access to traditional resources undercut by forest mafias and corrupt officials who have signed irregular commercial leases that conflict with rights granted to the Adivasis by the Indian constitution.

It remains to be seen if the the grant of statehood for Jharkhand and Chhatisgarh ameliorates the conditions for India’s Adivasis. However, it is imperative that all Adivasi districts receive special attention from the Central government in terms of investment in schools, research institutes, participatory forest management and preservation schemes, non-polluting industries, and opportunities for the Adivasi communities to document and preserve their rich heritage. Adivasis must have special access to educational, cultural and economic opportunities so as to reverse the effects of colonization and earlier injustices experienced by the Adivasi communities.

At the same time, the country can learn much from the beauty of Adivasi social practices, their culture of sharing and respect for all – their deep humility and love of nature – and most of all – their deep devotion to social equality and civic harmony.


Abhishek Sheetal from the Munda tribe in Jharkhand wrote to us emphasizing how traditionally tribal societies valued gender equality, respect for nature and equality of all trades. This Munda fable is particularly illustrative:

There was a king who lost a war with Munda tribals. He sent a messenger to the king of Mundas. The messenger looked around but could not find the king or his palace. He asked one farmer as to where to find the king. The farmer replied, “He was here a while ago, let me see (he looks around)….Oh there he is (pointing to a man plowing his fields with his bullocks)… He is working there.”

original artical at –


1. What is Living and What is Dead in Indian Philosophy – Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya
1b. Stcherbasky: Buddhist Logic (New York, 1962), Papers of Stcherbasky – (Calcutta – 1969,71)

2. The Indian Historical Review, Vol. 16:1,2 Baidyanath Saraswati’s review of P.K Maity, Folk-Rituals of Eastern India

3. Bulletins of the ICHR (Indian Council of Historical Research)

4. Studies in the History of Science in India (Edited by Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya)

5. Adivasi: A symbiotic Bond – Mari and Stan Thekaekara (Hindu Folio, July 16, 2000)

Note: The term Adivasi has been used broadly to represent those classified as Scheduled Tribe under the Indian constitution. Roughly speaking, the term translates as aboriginal or native people (or native dwellers).

Some Dalit activists now prefer to also be characterized as Adivasis. Others seek to bring all of India’s oppressed groupings under the ‘Bahujan Samaj’ umbrella. While the term Harijan is largely out of favour, there are some who simply identify with the government designated terms ST (scheduled tribe) and SC (scheduled caste).

Although, districts with large Adivasi populations are to be found almost throughout India, the majority of India’s Adivasis hail from Jharkhand, Chhatisgarh and Orissa. Tripura, Arunachal, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland also have large Adivasi populations. There are also districts in Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra and Tamil Nadu with sizeable Adivasi populations.