Serving endangered languages, denotified and nomadic Communities: Ganesh Devy on the need for a “sustainable economic and social base in the homeland”

A Nomad Called Thief:
Reflections on Adivasi Silence and Voice by Ganesh [G.N.] Devy | Publications >>

A collection of essays on Adivasis. Tribal groups (adivasis) in India have often been excluded, marginalized and oppressed by ‘mainstream’ society. In many ways this exclusion, marginalization and oppression is fostered by the way in which ‘mainstream’ society looks at the adivasis – as exotic, dangerous, or ‘primitive’ others. Devy’s book looks at the problems of adivasis, the threat to their physical environment, the terror and indignity of the stigma of being considered ‘criminal’ tribes and their induction into the communal violence in Gujarat. But he also discusses the simple sophistication of Adivasi knowledge systems, language and literature, as also initiatives taken along with tribals in the areas of health, microfinance and preservation of cultural forms.

Source:, 2006, 199 pages, ISBN 978-81-250-3021-8
Accessed: 19 March 2018

“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 the constitutional obligation to respect the cultural traditions of India’s tribal communities

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 | Adverse inclusion >>

“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)

“The world has enough for everyone’s need but not for anyone’s greed.” – Mahatma Gandhi quoted by Medha Patkar and Baba Amte (Narmada Bachao Andolan)

See also

Adverse inclusion | Casteism | Rural poverty


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) | (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)

Other books by Prof. Ganesh Devy on issues concerning Adivasis as well as indigenous people in other continents

  • Indigeneity, Edited by G N Devy, Geoffrey Davis, K K Chakravarty, Orient Blackswan 2009
  • Voice and Memory, Edited by G N Devy, Geoffrey Davis, K K Chakravarty, Orient Blackswan 2009
  • Narrating Nomadism, Edited by G N Devy, Geoffrey Davis, K K Chakravarty, Routledge 2012
  • Knowing Differently, Edited by G N Devy, Geoffrey Davis, K K Chakravarty, Routledge 2014
  • Performing Identity, Edited by G N Devy, Geoffrey Davis, K K Chakravarty, Routledge 2015
  • The Language Loss of the Indigenous, Edited by G N Devy, Geoffrey Davis, K K Chakravarty, Routledge 2016
  • Key Concepts in Indigenous Studies, Edited by G N Devy, Geoffrey Davis, Routledge (Forthcoming)

Find scholarly books, poetry and fiction relating to tribal culture – Indian publishers

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Struggle for survival, not of faith by Ganesh Devy | Read the full article in The Indian Express (Opinion, March 6, 2016) >>

The term tribal defies any universal definition. Between the Maoris of New Zealand, the Aborigines of Australia and the Indigenous People of North America, there is a shared historical fact. They were all there before the colonial powers pushed them to margins. This is not so in the case of all tribal communities in India.

Some of the Indian tribes such as the Onges and the Jarawas of Andaman and Nicobar Islands have been entirely indigenous. Some others like the Banjaras in Western and Central India and the Gujjars in the Himalayas have been nomadic. And, some, such as several sub-groups of Bhills, have migrated in various historical phases to their present geographical locations. The stories of migration of such communities are found in their oral traditions. The diverse histories of tribes in India are seen among the ‘Particularly Vulnerable Groups’ as well. The term ‘primitive’ used for them at one time has fortunately been declared as pejorative. […]

The writer is chairman, People’s Linguistic Survey of India, and a tribal activist

Times Of India, Ahmedabad, Jan 26, 2014

Seven Gujaratis figured in the list of Padma awardees declared by the government on Saturday. The names include Ghulam Mohammed Sheikh for painting, late Dr Dhirubhai Thaker for literature and education, Mathur Savani for social work, Dr Hasmukh Shah for public affairs, Kiran Kumar Alur Seelin for science and engineering, Dr Kiritkumar Acharya for his work in medicine and professor Ganesh Devy for literature and education.  […]

Ganesh Devy, 63, reacting to the news said, “I have been working for dying-out languages since quite some time. I feel very happy that my work has been recognized. This will strengthen my resolve to do more such work.” […]

Devy is one of the founders of the denotified and nomadic tribes right action group. It was Devy who led the ambitious people’s linguistic survey of India. The project which began in 2010 with the aim of documenting every living language in the country identified 816 Indian languages. He was professor of English at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Vadodara, and a renowned literary critic.

Source: 7 Gujaratis in Padma awards list – Times Of India
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Shoeb Khan, Times Of India, Jaipur, Feb 7, 2014

The number of languages that do not figure in the 8th schedule of the Indian constitution may go up to 4,000 and 800 of them have been identified from various states across the country. The findings are being published in different languages and in 50 volumes, said cultural activist and founder of Language Research and Publication Centre Professor Ganesh Devi during his innaugural address on a lecture titled “What India Speaks: Language Mapping for Our Time” at Central University of Rajasthan on Friday. […]

He emphasized the importance of diversity in languages in retaining diverse cultures “When a language dies, it is not just the language that disappears, but the whole culture, history and knowledge archives of the speakers,” said Devi. […]

He cautioned that if we do not do this, we may reverse the process of evolution and end up being nothing but brutes without a language to think and articulate sophisticated feelings, ideas and messages.

Prof. Devy has been awarded the Padma Shri in 2014 and has also received Sahitya Akademi award and many more. He has been working on Intangible Heritage and for Denotified and Nomadic Communities and also on Endangered Languages of our country.

Source: India’s linguistic diversity in danger: Professor Ganesh Devi – Times Of India
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Date Visited: Fri Feb 14 2014 10:33:50 GMT+0100 (CET)

The Bhasha Vasudha: Global Languages Meet. A report by RNLD’s Margaret Florey

January 15, 2012, 3:29 pm by Nick Thieberger
To read the full report and view more photos, click here >>

The Bhasha Vasudha: Global Languages Meet was held over several venues in Gujarat, India from 7-8 January 2012. The Meet was the creation of language activist Dr Ganesh Devy of the Bhasha Research and Publication Centre, who in 2011 was awarded the International Linguapax Award in recognition of “a lifetime dedicated to the promotion, dignification and preservation of a multitude of languages in India”.

The Meet commenced at the Sir Sayajirao Auditorium in Vadodara with the release of the People’s Linguistic Survey of India (PLSI). This ambitious project is a partnership between scholars, writers and activists, which aims to capture how Indian people identify, name and perceive what they speak. It provides an overview of each language variety, along with short samples of the language. The PLSI is being published in English by Routledge, and in Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati and Oriya by various Indian publishing houses. […]

The following day the Meet moved some 100 km to the Adivasi Academy in Tejgadh. The Academy, founded by Ganesh Devy, encompasses all aspects of development concerning the tribal regions in Gujarat and Maharashtra. Devy believes that Indigenous languages will only survive if there is a sustainable economic and social base in the homeland. Thus the comprehensive program he is developing amongst the adivisi (tribal peoples) is based around a Green Economic Zone (GEZ) encompassing ecological conservation, development of a strong skills base and local employment, a micro-credit scheme, health care, and an innovative educational program. […]

A Bhasha-Van (Forest of Language) is being developed at the Adivasi Academy. Currently, trees have been planted to represent the languages of India.

In the coming months, the forest will expand to include languages of the world. Ganesh Devy later plans to fit the trees with bio-sensors so that every time a visitor passes a tree in the forest it will speak or sing in an Indian language.

An exhibition ‘Through the eye of the ancestor’ was installed in an outdoor setting against a backdrop of hills and rocky outcrops. The exhibition consisted of photos of the cultural heritage of the Adivasi, repatriated from the SOAS archive (Furer-Haimedorf), the Grassi Museum für Völkerkunde, Leipzig, Germany (Eickstedt archive), and the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge (Archer and Milward archives). […]

Source: Endangered Languages and Cultures » Blog Archive » The Bhasha Vasudha: Global Languages Meet. A report by RNLD’s Margaret Florey
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Date Visited: Fri Feb 14 2014 10:46:03 GMT+0100 (CET)

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Related posts

Tribal communities of Gujarat: BhilChaudhariDehwaliDhodiaGamitKathodi, Kolgha, Kotwalia, Kunkna, Padhar, Warli [Varli] | In-depth research >>

Learn more

Adivasi Academy & Museum of Adivasi Voice at Tejgadh

Bhasha | Free eBooks & Magazine: Adivasi literature and languages

eBook | Adivasi Stories from Gujarat

Endangered language | Multi-lingual education

Ganesh [G.N.] Devy | Publications | Lecture “A View of Higher Education in India”

Gujarat | Video

Languages and linguistic heritage | Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL)

Literature and bibliographies | Literature – fiction | Poetry

Museum collections – India

People’s Linguistic Survey of India | Volumes (PLSI) |


Success story

Video | A conversation with Pradeep Marawi – Gondi artist from Bhopal

Video | Adivasi pithora artist Desing Rathwa

Video | “Nations don’t make us human – languages make us human”: Ganesh Devy

Video | Setu “bridge” on Adivasi poet and publisher Jeetendra Vasava belonging to the Narmada region – Gujarat

Video | South Gujarat tribal music documentation by Bhasha – Gujarat

Western region –  Western Zonal Council

Tip: click on any red marker for details on endangered languages in a particular region of India.
Please note: the facts and figures cited (via hyperlinks) links call for updates and fact checking >>
Cultural invisibility – India’s 600 potentially endangered languages | Linguistic Survey of India (official website) >>