Adivasis (Scheduled Tribes) are the largest tribal population in the world – World Directory of Minorities

Profile | To read the full article, click here >>

Learn more from Virginius Xaxa & G.N. Devy Devy >>
Search publications via Indian publishers & libraries:
Virginius Xaxa & Ganesh Devy or G.N. Devy >>

Adivasis is the collective name used for the many indigenous peoples of India. The term Adivasi derives from the Hindi word ‘adi’ which means of earliest times or from the beginning and ‘vasi’ meaning inhabitant or resident, and it was coined in the 1930s, largely a consequence of a political movement to forge a sense of identity among the various indigenous peoples of India.

Officially Adivasis are termed scheduled tribes, but this is a legal and constitutional term, which differs from state to state and area to area, and therefore excludes some groups who might be considered indigenous.

Adivasis are not a homogeneous group; there are over 200 distinct peoples speaking more than 100 languages, and varying greatly in ethnicity and culture. However, there are similarities in their way of life and generally perceived oppressed position within Indian society. According to the official Census held in 2001, Adivasis constitute 8 per cent of the nation’s total population, over 84 million people.

Unofficial figures vary significantly but represent a much higher proportion of India’s population. Adivasis live throughout India but are primarily based in the mountain and hill areas, away from the fertile plains. According to the 2001 census, the greatest concentration is in Chattisgrah (38%), Jharkahand (26%) Madhya Pradesh (20%), Orisssa (22%), Andhra Pradesh (6%) Gujarat (15%) Rajastahan (12%), Maharashtra (9%) and Bihar (0.9%).

Historical context

Adivasis, as their name reflects, are the earliest inhabitants of the subcontinent and once inhabited much larger areas than they do at present. Little is known of their history, although it appears that many were pushed into the hill areas after the invasions of the Indo-Aryan tribes 3,000 years ago. Indigenous peoples were not integrated into Hindu caste society, but there were many points of contact. Indigenous religious beliefs contain many aspects of Hinduism (and vice versa); Adivasis traded with settled villagers on the plains and sometimes paid tribute to Hindu rulers. In turn some Adivasi rulers conquered and ruled over non-Adivasis and some Adivasis permanently settled and entered caste society.

It was not until the unifying political rule of the British from the late eighteenth century that the government made substantial inroads into Adivasi society. British rule brought money, government officials and moneylenders into indigenous areas, beginning the process of encroachment on Adivasi land by outsiders. […]

Source: World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples
URL: https://minorityrights.org/minorities/adivasis-2/
Date visited: 20 November 2021

“Casteism is the investment in keeping the hierarchy as it is in order to maintain your own ranking, advantage, privilege, or to elevate yourself above others or keep others beneath you …. For this reason, many people—including those we might see as good and kind people—could be casteist, meaning invested in keeping the hierarchy as it is or content to do nothing to change it, but not racist in the classical sense, not active and openly hateful of this or that group.” | Learn more about India’s caste system and the effects of “casteism” on tribal communities >>

India ranked 51th in 2021’s Peoples under Threat index, from 54th in 2020’s Peoples under Threat index

Communities at risk
Assamese, Bodos, Nagas, Tripuras, other Adivasis, Kashmiris, Sikhs, Muslims, Dalits

Source: “India: Communities at risk”, World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples
URL: https://peoplesunderthreat.org/countries/india/
Date visited: 8 January 2022

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

“The issue is not whether the world’s economy is governable toward ambitious goals like promoting social justice, equality between countries and greater democratic control for the bulk of the world’s people, but whether it is governable at all.” – Mogobe B. Ramose quoting Globalization in question by Hirst, P. and Thompson, G in “Globalization and ubuntu” (The African Philosophy Reader), pp. 732 | Globalization >>

See also

Adverse inclusion | Casteism | Rural poverty

Childhood

Crafts and visual arts

Demographic Status of Scheduled Tribe Population of India (Census figures 2011)

Denotified Tribes, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes – Report and Recommendations (Technical Advisory Group)

Fact checking | Figures, census and other statistics

Human Rights Commission (posts) | www.nhrc.nic.in (Government of India)

Imprisonment & rehabilitation

Search tips | Names of tribal communities, regions and states of India

State wise population of Scheduled Tribes (ST) and their percentage to the total population in the respective states and to the total STs population

“What are the Rights of Scheduled Tribes? – Government of India (National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, NCST)

“What is the Forest Rights Act about?” – Campaign for Survival and Dignity

“Who are Scheduled Tribes?” – Government of India (National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, NCST)

For up-to-date information on any of the above places, persons or issues, use the search window seen here

“In 1871, the British passed the ‘Criminal Tribes Act.’ It notified about 150 tribes around India as criminal, giving the police wide powers to arrest them and monitor their movements. The effect of this law was simple: just being born into one of those 150 tribes made you a criminal.” – Dilip D’Souza in “Vicious cycle” | Read the full article in the Adivasi Special issue (The Hindu) >>

“These groups were formally ‘de-notified’ in 1952 by the Indian government, but event today they continue to carry the stigma of being ‘born criminals’.” – “Justice for the DNTs” (Bhasha Trust)” | Learn more >>

“More than 10 crore [100 million] Indians from 1,400 communities belong to Denotified, Nomadic, Semi-nomadic (SEED) Tribes.” – Ab­hi­nay Lak­sh­man in “Denotified, nomadic, semi-nomadic tribes: 402 SEED registrations so far online, none approved yet” (The Hindu, 29 August 2022) | Learn more >>

Up-to-date reports by Indian journalists and commentators

For a list of websites included in a single search, click here. To search Indian periodicals, magazines, web portals and other sources safely, click here. To find an Indian PhD thesis on a particular tribal community, region and related issues, click here >>

Search tips

Combine the name of any particular state, language or region with that of any tribal (Adivasi) community.

Add keywords of special interest (health, nutrition endangered language, illegal mining, sacred grove); learn about the rights of Scheduled Tribes such as the Forest Rights Act (FRA); and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, women’s rights, and children’s right to education.

Specify any other issue or news item you want to learn more about (biodiversity, bonded labour and human trafficking, climate change, ecology, economic development, ethnobotany, ethnomedicine, global warming, Himalayan tribe, hunter-gatherers in a particular region or state, prevention of rural poverty, water access).

Try the following in case Google Custom Search window or media contents are invisible on this page: (1) switch from “Reader” to regular viewing; (2) in browser’s Security settings select “Enable JavaScript”; (3) check Google support for browsers and devices | More >>

See also

CBC Unreserved (Canada) radio space for indigenous community, culture, and conversation

Eco tourism | Tourism

eJournals, eBooks & reports

eLearning: Center for World Indigenous Studies

Gandhian social movement

Indigenous people are at the forefront of the struggle to save the planet

Internet Archive | Archive.org

Journalism | Media portrayal

NGO | Organizations

People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI) | RuralIndiaOnline.org

Storytelling | Success stories

Tribal/indigenous culture worldwide

Video resources – external

Videovolunteers