10th March – Adivasis

Having an ear to Adivasi ground

The uncertainty of Adivasi life has a strong connection with the ‘mainstream’ view about them. In popular discourse, the socio-economic disadvantages of the Adivasis as compared with the rest of the population are often seen through a lens of benevolence.

A singular view –

  • The views about the ‘underdevelopment’ of the Adivasis typically subscribes to this section of the population being the ‘takers/receivers’ of governmental benefits.
  • Policies and practices rooted in this approach, fail, in most cases, to accommodate the question of the participation of the Adivasis in the ongoing processes of the nation as co-citizens.
  • This in turn not only deprives the Adivasis of the socioeconomic progress they are capable of but also results in a loss to the rest of the nation.

Ample lessons for nation-building –

  • The rich moral, cultural and social values, and linguistic and other practice-acquired developments that the Adivasis have been nurturing throughout history could have added immensely toward strengthening our democracy.
  • Mutual co-operation, decision making through discussion, peaceful co-habitation with others and with nature, age-old and time-tested practices of environmental protection, and other such high civic qualities observed by them could have added to the country’s “democratic curriculum.

Unfair treatment –

  • The knowledge gap about the Adivasis has resulted in imposition of superiority of the outside world over them which has led to them considering themselves as inferior and primitive. This pushes them to the margins, even making them abandon some of their socially unifying customs and cultural practices.
  • Pushed to the exploitation and oppression, marginalisation and subjugation, Adivasis, in many cases, cling to oppressive behaviours such as witchcraft which only make the label of them being primitive even more indelible.
  • A situation where they are a source of cheap labour and live lives where they are half-fed with no opportunities to flourish and develop their human capabilities seems unalterable.

What must be done?

  • It is important to go beyond the administrative convention of bracketing Adivasis into a single category. Rather, policy framing requires mandatory recognition of their wide diversity so as to address the different problems faced by different groups — by community as well as by region.
  • It is also important to abide by the general constitutional rules which are often violated by the state. In other words, the very common instances of violations of the Forest Rights Act, the Right to Education Act, and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act — which affect them — have to be eliminated.
  • The possibility of fair implementation of public programmes, however, is contingent to an agentic involvement of the communities concerned. Instead of being considered to be mere passive recipients, Adivasis must be respected as active agents of change and involved in all spheres of policy, from planning to implementation.

Conclusion –

Instead of considering Adivasis to be a problem, the entire country can benefit a great deal by considering them as co-citizens and sharing their historically constructed cultural values which often manifest the best forms of democracy and uphold the notions of higher levels of justice, fairness, and equality — better than those prevalent in seemingly mainstream societies.

SourceThe Hindu

QUESTION – Discuss how the mainstreaming of Adivasi communities can actually strengthen our democracy in terms of inclusivity and resourceful customary values.

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