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Moving on from our last discussed piece – Tribal Issues | Part 2 | Pre Independence Tribal Revolts
The task of integrating the tribal people into the mainstream was extremely complex. This was because of the varied conditions under which they live in different parts of the country, and their different languages and distinct cultures. The 1971 Census recorded over 400 tribal communities numbering nearly 38 million people and constituting nearly 6.9% of the Indian population.
Colonialism brought radical transformation of the tribals.
Their relative isolation was eroded by the penetration of market forces and they were integrated with the British and princely administrations.
A large number of moneylenders, traders, revenue farmers and other middlemen and petty officials invaded the tribal areas and disrupted the tribals’ traditional way of life.
They were increasingly engulfed in debt and lost their lands to outsiders.
They were often reduced to the position of agricultural labourers, sharecroppers and rack-rented tenants.
Many were forced to retreat further into the hills.
Simultaneously, ‘missionaries were destroying their art, their dances, their weaving and their whole culture’.
#4. Relation with forests:
Tribals depended on the forest for food, fuel and cattle feed and for raw materials for their handicrafts.
In many parts of India, the hunger for land by the immigrant peasants from the plains led to the destruction of forests, depriving the tribals of their traditional means of livelihood.
To conserve forests and to facilitate their commercial exploitation, the colonial authorities bought large tracts of forest lands under forest laws.
Laws forbade shifting cultivation and put severe restrictions on the tribals’ use of the forest and their access to forest products.
Heart of the tribal integration policy = preservation of the tribal people’s rich social and cultural heritage. Jawaharlal Nehru (JLN) = the main influence in shaping the govt’s attitude towards the tribals.
Challenges in tribal integration (According to JLN):
JLN thought that Indian nationalism was capable of accommodating the uniqueness of the tribal people.
Approach to tribal integration:
There were two major approaches regarding the place to be accorded to tribals in Indian society:
#1. To leave the tribal people alone, uncontaminated by modern influences & to let them stay more or less as they were.
Problem: External influences had already gone too far into tribal areas to keep them isolated. Hence it was neither desirable nor appropriate to keep them isolated. Thus this approach was rejected.
#2. Assimilating them completely and as quickly as possible into the Indian society. The disappearance of the tribal way of life was not to be regretted; it was to be welcomed because that would represent their ‘upliftment’.
Problem: Loss of the tribals’ social and cultural identity and of the many virtues they possessed. This was also rejected.
‘Making them an integral part of the Indian nation, even while maintaining their distinct identity and culture.’
The challenge was to combine these seemingly contradictory parameters.
The 5 guidelines:
The measures undertaken: To give shape to this policy, beginning was made in the constitution itself:
Article 46: The state should
Schedule V & VI:
Commissioner for SCs & STs: Appointed by the President; to investigate whether the safeguards provided for them were being observed
Political rights: Reservation of seats in the legislatures and positions in the administrative services for the STs.
This series is a part of How to crack the Tribal Issues for IAS Mains?. For a much detailed understanding, read up with all the post in this section as we develop this story in full.