Tip | Explore tribal culture in a larger context: A society in search of “a vision for itself that is morally defensible”

We are so much more than that. We follow a tradition rich in music, dance and love.

Author Swarnalatha who runs an NGO that works for the upliftment for people of her Irula community >>

This website is being maintained with the motto “Showcasing new initiatives in education“. To catch up with “what’s going on in today’s India”, suffice a few pointers to discussions in today’s India.

Appreciating “tribal” or “Adivasi” traditions will shed new light on India’s cultural heritage in general. The challenge here is the fact that each tradition deserves to be studied in its own right.

In order to succeed, we need to look into current issues or “modernity” as well. The reward is a better understanding of India, a country that prides itself as being the “worlds largest democracy” even as the checks and balances envisaged by the constitution cannot be taken for granted any longer.

India is experiencing what is known as ‘competitive authoritarianism’ or ‘electoral authoritarianism’ today [as] we need to look at what is politics in India between elections. Because democracy is under attack for more serious reasons when you look at the way checks and balances are not working anymore. Most of the institutions have become instruments of the executive. Many developments in present-day India – critics and dissenters being silenced, independent institutions being compromised and a pliable media – last occurred during the Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi in 1975.

Source: “Indian Judiciary Has Become an Instrument of the Executive”, interview by Sidharth Bhatia, The Wire, 7 July 2022
URL: https://thewire.in/rights/full-text-christophe-jaffrelot-sidharth-bhatia-india-hindutva
Date Visited: 11 July 2022

“We shall first have to give up this hubris of considering tribes backward. Every tribe has a rich and living cultural tradition and we must respect them.”

Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu on India’s Constitutional obligation to respect their cultural traditions
Gandhiji at Prayer Time, Parnakuti, Poona (1944) by Chittaprosad, the great advocate of the rights of workers and revolutionary artists. | Learn more in “Gandhi, Secularism, and Cultural Democracy” by Vinay Lal >>
Gandhian social movement | Constitution >>

“Air is free to all but if it is polluted it harms our health… Next comes water… From now on we must take up the effort to secure water. Councillors are servants of the people and we have a right to question them.” – Mohandas K. Gandhi, Ahmedabad address on 1 January 1918; quoted by his grandson, Gopalkrishna Gandhi, in “On another New Year’s Day: Mahatma Gandhi’s ‘khorak’ a 100 years ago” (The Hindu, 1 January 2018)

“We part with the fond hope that the closing years of the twentieth century would see us keeping the promise made to our children by our Constitution about a half century ago. Let the child of the twenty-first century find himself into that ‘heaven of freedom’ of which our poet laureate Rabindranath Tagore has spoken in Gitanjali.” – Supreme Court of India quoted by the National Commission for Protection of the Child Rights (1996)

“I think a creative writer should have a social conscience. I have a duty towards society” – Award-winning writer Mahasweta Devi in Postcolonial Studies (2012)

“India needs a vision for itself that is morally defensible” – Harish Khare (The Hindu Opinion, 6 June 2013)

“I would like to direct attention to the general approach when we encounter the ‘other’ – the question of our protocol, etiquette and attitude. In our eagerness to know we probably show a disregard to these civilities. We try to buy friendship for building up rapport; we try to intrude into others’ territory without being invited and carry presents that we perceive would be appreciated to assert our friendliness.” – Anthropologist R.K. Bhattacharya in “The Holistic Approach to Anthropology”

“Adivasis in the hills and the forests have lost their land and health and have been displaced by development projects” – Ramachandra Guha in “What’s holding India back?” (Deccan Herald, 13 November 2012)

“India is blessed with unique and an enormous amount of biodiversity that sustains many of our economic endeavours, and provides aesthetic, cultural and spiritual values. This biodiversity is declining, and this decline is threatening our survival.” – Kamaljit S. Bawa on the need of partnerships for sustaining life in “Our biodiversity, our life, our future” (The Hindu, Sci-Tech / Energy & Environment, 2 August 2010)

“The tribal culture at its best provides a living example of the Gandhian concept of trusteeship […] In cross-cultural settings, individual and group relations among tribals are valued on trust rather than on dominance.” – Lachman Khubchandani in Indigenous Peoples: Responding to Human Ecology

“There are grim realities of existence as tribals in this country, and the unfortunate aspect is that their unheard voices fail to make a din in the power corridors […] we must devise innovative systems of engagement, based not on power or hierarchical administration but equality.” – Gopal Subramanium, a senior advocate, a former Solicitor General of India, and a former Chairman, Bar Council of India favouring a “more inclusive approach that respects human rights” in response to extremism (The Hindu, Opinion, 8 June 2013)

“The defining characteristics of these forested and hilly terrains [in a clearly demarcated known as ‘Red Corridor’ within the ‘Ramayana Corridor’] are a high proportion of vanvasis [forest dwellers] and backwardness. A section of intelligentsia trained in typical colonial mould takes ‘ethnicity’ and isolation of vanvasis to paint a negative picture about the Indian State and mainstream society.” – Indian Police Service (IPS) officer M Nageswara Rao in “Scheduled Tribes: Who are they? How to mainstream them?” (Times of India, Opinion, 16 May 2020)

“Scheduling was the act of committing certain areas to a written list or inventory of ‘special administrative regimes’; here, normal laws and regulations prevalent in the rest of British India would not be applicable. […] The underlying belief behind this categorization was that modern representative democracy with electoral politics and law courts was highly unsuited to tribal communities.” – Saagar Tewari, quoted by Richard Kamei (doctoral candidate at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai) in “Uncivilising the Mind: How anthropology shaped the discourse on tribes in India” (Caravan Magazine, 1 March 2020)

Find publications on these issues by reputed authors including Open Access (free download): Worldcat.org >>


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Adivasis and non-Adivasis have long worked together with shared values while addressing misconceptions and discrimination. To familiarize yourself with their joint efforts, follow a brief Guided Tour of this website >>

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  4. explore India’s tribal cultural heritage with the help of another interactive map >>

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Secretary, Tribal Cultural Heritage in India Foundation (2010-2022)
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