Adivasi people: proud not primitive | Read the full article >>
[…] Defining what’s special about India’s adivasi or indigenous people is complicated. People, mostly anthropologists and human rights defenders, who know adivasis and have worked closely with them, also tend to be accused of romanticizing tribal peoples. Yet you can begin to understand what’s special about them if you read India’s first Prime Minister Jawarharlal Nehru’s lyrical descriptions about the tribes of India. In his Panchsheel, or development guidelines, he begged our civil servants to respect adivasis and for Tribal Belt development to focus on ‘respecting their own genius’, not turning them ‘into pale imitations of ourselves’.
Yet almost 66 years after Independence, India’s adivasi people continue to be treated shabbily. They are described practically universally, in even our best newspapers and magazines, as primitive and backward. Our media is totally ignorant about the meaning of adivasi culture and history. It is common on major festivals to see them depicted perhaps as ‘noble savages’, dancing in feathers and grass skirts, for an uninformed public to gawk at like creatures in a zoo.
When we arrived in the Nilgiris in 1984, my husband Stan and I often asked young adivasi people what they thought the word adivasi, ‘original people’ in Sanskrit, meant. Their replies were predictable. They answered ‘ignorant, uncivilized, wild, jungle folk, illiterate, uneducated and even stupid people’. Children joining local schools had their adivasi names changed by their teachers and were instructed to civilize their communities. They were taught to feel ashamed of their people and their culture. Since 1986, we have aimed to help these communities assert their rights, especially over land. Also to join the outside ‘mainstream’ if they so wished, on their own terms, with pride in their culture, with heads held high. We consistently worked on issues of pride and self-esteem.
So, the news that Survival International has launched a campaign called ‘Proud not Primitive’ is really welcome. Adivasis constitute nine per cent of the Indian population. They once led lives of quiet dignity. Now they live and die in quiet desperation.
‘Development’ in the areas where adivasi people live leaves them exploited and deprived, in total contradiction to Nehru’s beautifully worded Panchsheel. The reality of the adivasi existence, most of the nine per cent, is nothing short of shameful. […]
The forest department has criminalized their existence, treating them as intruders when in fact the recent Forest Rights Act acknowledged the historical injustice perpetrated on them and declared that their rights to an ancient forest heritage would finally be recognized.
Adivasi people have an alternative world view, which has rarely been acknowledged or recognized. Their existence was never based on accumulation or consumerism. To understand the cliché, they have a ‘symbiotic relationship with nature’, needs close observation of a forest community. They took what they needed from nature, but never in excess. They never hoarded. This is viewed by non-tribal neighbours as ‘lazy’ and unambitious. They never had a need to subdue, conquer or master nature. So, unlike their neighbours, they did not cut down vast tracts of forest. They plant vegetables between the trees. […]
It is in this context that Survival India’s campaign is sorely needed. There is a new generation of adivasis educated in the dominant society’s ‘world view’ who are beginning to look back at their own heritage and culture, Alex Hailey-like, to their ‘roots’.
This cultural revival is crucial for the survival of the adivasi world view, the only truly sustainable lifestyle when the world is looking desperately for solutions to save the earth. […]
All of us can learn from them. And it’s about time we started.
Source: “Adivasi people: proud not primitive” by Mari Marcel Thekaekara, New Internationalist 15 July 2013
Address : https://newint.org/blog/2013/07/15/india-adivasi-survival-international/?55521117611331971
Date Visited: Wed Jul 17 2013 17:56:34 GMT+0200 (CEST)
[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]
Read more posts by Mari Marcel Thekaekara >>
Up-to-date reports in the Indian press | More search options >>
Articles and authors
- Rethinking tribals by GN Devy
- Call us adivasis, please by Gail Omvedt
- A society in transition by Suresh Sharma
- To be governed or to self-govern by Smitu Kothari
- Strong sense of self and place by Amita Baviskar
- Dishonoured by history by Meena Radhakrishna
- Curators of biodiversity by KK Chakravarthy
- Treading lightly on earth by Ashish Kothari
- A symbiotic bond by Mari Thekaekara and Stan Thekaekara
- Vicious cycle by Dilip D’Souza
- A better quality of life? by Roopa Devadasan and N Devadasan
- A history of alienation by Pankaj Sekhsaria
- Cultural expressions by Jaya Jaitly
- Through Adivasi eyes by Mari Thekaekara and Stan Thekaekara
- A Toda friend by S Anandalakshmy
Source: Folio (Special issue with the Sunday Magazine): ADIVASI: JULY 16, 2000 from the publishers of THE HINDU
Date Visited: 15 March 2018 (discontinued since)
Research the above issues with the help of Shodhganga: A reservoir of theses from universities all over India, made available under Open Access >>
Find more book reviews and articles by these authors in the Indian press
List of Indian periodicals and sites covered by the present Custom search engine
- https://news.trust.org (Thomson Reuters Foundation)
- Ashoka Trust (Atree.org)
- Biodiversity | Biodiversity hotspot | Hyderabad biodiversity pledge
- Ecology and environment
- Eco tourism | Tourism | Wildlife tourism
- Environmental history and what makes for a civilization – Romila Thapar
- Equations blog
- Forest Rights Act (FRA)
- Indigenous knowledge systems
- Information provided by Indian government agencies and other organizations (FAQ)
- Man animal conflict
- Nature and wildlife | Crocodile | Elephant | Tiger | Mangrove forest | Trees
- PARI’s tales from tiger territory | People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI)
- Revival of traditions
- Sacred grove
- Shola Trust | Nilgiri biosphere
- Success story
- Western Ghats – tribal heritage & ecology
- Wildlife tourism
- What is the Forest Rights Act about?
Who is a forest dweller under this law, and who gets rights?
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