eBook | Jawaharlal Nehru’s “Five Principles” for the policy to be pursued vis-a-vis the tribals

Jawaharlal Nehru >>
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Jawaharlal Nehru [1889–1964, first Prime Minister of India] formulated the following “Five Principles” [Panchsheel] for the policy to be pursued vis-a-vis the tribals:

(1) People should develop along the lines of their own genius, and the imposition of alien values should be avoided.
(2) Tribal rights in land and forest should be respected
(3) Teams of tribals should be trained in the work of administration and development.
(4) Tribal areas should not be over administered or overwhelmed with a multiplicity of schemes.
(5) Results should be judged not by statistics or the amount of money spent, but by the human character that is evolved.


Jawaharlal Nehru, ‘The Right Approach to Tribal People’, Indian Journal of Social Work, Vol. XIV, 1953-4, pp. 231-5.

––‘Tribal Folk’, in The Adivasis, Delhi, Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, 1955, pp. 1-8.

Report of the Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes Commission 1960-1961 (Chairman U.N Dhebar), New Delhi, Manager of Publications, Vols. I and II, 1961.

Source: Jawaharlal Nehru quoted by Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf in “The Position of Tribal Populations in Modern India”, Ch. IX (pp. 182-222). India and Ceylon: Unity and Diversity. A Symposium. Edited by Philip Mason, Director, Institute of Race Relations, London. Published for the Institute of Race Relations. Oxford University Press, London 1967, p. 217

The establishment of vast industrial enterprises in tribal zones lends urgency to the extension of protective measures to all tribals whose rights and way of life have been placed in jeopardy.

Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf in “The Position of Tribal Populations in Modern India”. India and Ceylon: Unity and Diversity. A Symposium (p. 216) | Learn more: eBook | Jawaharlal Nehru’s “Five Principles” for the policy to be pursued vis-a-vis the tribals >>

Download the full chapter: https://archive.org/details/the-position-of-tribal-populations-modern-india-Haimendorf-1967


  • Unity and diversity : an introductory review / by Philip Mason —
  • The position of the Muslims, before and after partition / by Percival Spear —
  • Language and region within the Indian union / by W.H. Morris-Jones —
  • The cohesive role of sanskritization / by M.N. Srinivas —
  • The future of the backward classes : the competing demands of status and power / by Andre Beteille —
  • Caste and local politics in India / by Adrian C. Mayer —
  • Rural cities in India : continuities and discontinuities / by Owen M. Lynch —
  • The Gandhian view of caste, and caste after Gandhi —
  • The position of the tribal populations in modern India / by Christoph von Furer —
  • Elites, status groups, and caste in modern India / by Andre Beteille —
  • Cohesion and division in Indian elites / by T.B. Bottomore —
  • Nationalism, communalism, and national unity in Ceylon / by S. Arasaratnam —
  • Is there an Indian nation? / by Hugh Tinker.

Print version: Mason, Philip. India and Ceylon: unity and diversity.
London, New York [etc.] published for the Institute of Race Relations by Oxford U.P., 1967

Alternative source: online resource by HathiTrust Digital Library, 2010. MiAaHDL (viii, 311 pages) maps, tables; Details: Master and use copy. Digital master created according to Benchmark for Faithful Digital Reproductions of Monographs and Serials, Version 1. Digital Library Federation, December 2002.
URL: http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/575365973

Jawaharlal Nehru was among the few people who understood Elwin’s belief that tribal society must be allowed to evolve in its own distinctive manner and its culture must not be violated.

Learn more about Verrier Elwin: Author and educator known for his work with the tribes of India >>

Elwin was for a long time his major adviser on tribal affairs. Not that Nehru was altogether able to prevent the exploitation of tribals and the violation of their culture; but at least he kept it in some check. Unless the successors of Nehru can teach ‘mainstream’ society to respect the different methods of the tribal people and devise ways of controlling the process of cultural desecration, mere economic development will not prevent the alienation of tribal communities. The question is whether it is already too late.

Source: Guest Column “Hands off tribal culture” (India Today, 9 January 2014)
URL: https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/guest-column/story/19800915-hands-off-tribal-culture-821415-2014-01-09
Date Visited: 5 June 2021

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Synthesis and Adjustment. The Beginnings of the Caste System

[…] Among the indigenous tribes many were gradually assimilated and given a place at the bottom of the social scale, that is among the Shudras. This process of assimilation was a continuous one. These castes must have been in a fluid condition; rigidity came in much later. […]

Probably caste was neither Aryan nor Dravidian. It was an attempt at the social organization of different races, a rationalization of the facts as they existed at the time. It brought degradation in its train afterwards, and it is still a burden and a curse; but we can hardly judge it from subsequent standards or later developments. […]

Growth of Industry: Provincial Differences

The transition from a pre-industrialist economy to an economy of capitalist industrialism involves great hardship and heavy cost in human suffering borne by masses of people. […]

Slowly India recovered from the after-effects of the revolt of 1857-58. Despite British policy, powerful forces were at work changing India, and a new social consciousness was arising. The political unity of India, contact with the west, technological advances, and even the misfortune of a common subjection, led to new currents of thought, the slow development of industry, and the rise of a new movement for national freedom. The awakening of India was two-fold: she looked to the west and, at the same time, she looked at herself and her own past. […]

Though the masses of India were desperately poor and growing poorer, a tiny fringe at the top was prospering under the new conditions and accumulating capital. It was this fringe that demanded political reform as well as opportunities for investment. […]

The rural credit system was almost entirely in the hands of these banias [retail and wholesale dealers and moneylenders]. They spread even to the tribal and independent territories of the north-west and performed important functions there. As poverty grew agricultural indebtedness also grew rapidly, and the money-lending establishments held mortgages on the land and eventually acquired much of it. Thus the moneylender became the landlord also.

Source: The Discovery Of India by Jawaharlal Nehru (1946), OUP Centenary ed. 1989, pp. 85-87 & 299-330
URL: https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.98835
Date Visited: 16 December 2021

Usage in legal and historical records

Dr. Ivy Hansdak clarifies that during the early twentieth century, “two main streams within Indian anthropology influenced the literary and visual representations of tribes by mainstream writers, artists and film-makers. One group was led by GS Ghurye (the assimilationist position) and the other by Verrier Elwin (the isolationist position). Later, Elwin shifted to the intergrationist position. According to the former, tribes were seen as ‘backward Hindus’ and an attempt was made to assimilate them into the Hindu fold. The identity of tribals as ‘vanavasi‘ comes from this position. Elwin, on the other hand, wanted to preserve their distinctive culture and often glorified them as the Noble Savage. Elwin’s views influenced Pandit Nehru’s tribal policy. Today, most tribals are being clubbed together with the scheduled castes (SC or dalit) with whom they share reservation in college admission and jobs. In the government documents, ‘SC/ST‘ are usually written together. The certificate that is issued to those claiming reserved status is also called ‘caste certificate’.” (email dated 26 April 2023)

Jawaharlal Nehru commenced his long stint as the first and, to this day, the longest-serving Prime Minister of India in exhilarating and yet difficult and unusual circumstances. His speech as the country’s chosen leader on 14-15 August 1947 to the Constituent Assembly famously spoke of India’s “tryst with destiny”. It was a moment long wished for, but Nehru recognized that the man whom he knew to be the mastermind of the freedom struggle, Mohandas Gandhi, was not there to celebrate India’s independence. Gandhi had lodged himself in Calcutta in an effort to bring peace to the riot-torn city. The blood feud between India and Pakistan would leave a long trail of dead and wounded, generate the world’s largest flow of refugees, traumatize tens of millions of people, and even send the two countries to war […]

The task before Nehru was immense. The leaders of other colonized nations had doubtless their own challenges, but the challenge before India under Nehru was greater. Over 300 million Indians, living in half a million villages, towns, and cities, encompassed a staggering diversity—whether with regard to religion, caste, the mother tongue, cultural inheritance, or socio-economic standing. Most Indians, moreover, were desperately poor, itself a damning indictment of two hundred years of unremittingly exploitative rule of India, and to most witnesses and commentators the political institutions that India inherited from the colonial ruler had seemingly been designed for vastly different circumstances. There was really no precedent in history for catapulting such a country into what the Constitution of India, itself crafted over a year-long intense and at times brilliant debate in the Constituent Assembly, called a modern “sovereign democratic republic.” There was much else that was singular to India: alongside undivided British India, there were 562 native states presided over by hereditary rulers, and the vast majority of these states had willy nilly to be ‘absorbed’ into India. Students of Indian history have described this process as the ‘integration of Indian states’, but it would not be incorrect to say that the task before Nehru and the ruling Congress party was yet greater—the consolidation of the idea of India as a modern nation-state. […]

This essay has been written on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru (14 November 1889 – 27 May 1964)

Source: “A Patrician and Statesman at the Helm: India under Nehru” in Lal Salaam: A Blog by Vinay Lal, 15 November 2022
URL: https://vinaylal.wordpress.com/2022/11/15/a-patrician-and-statesman-at-the-helm-india-under-nehru/
Date visited: 16 November 2022

“Opportunities are limited, jobs are scarce and so far ‘development’ remains a slogan. There’s a lot that is being done to keep caste going in spite of saying that we are trying to erode caste. We are, of course, dodging the real issue. It’s true that there has been a great deal of exploitation of Dalit groups and OBC’s [Other Backward Castes] in past history; making amends or even just claiming that we are a democracy based on social justice demands far more than just reservations. The solution lies in changing the quality of life of half the Indian population by giving them their right to food, water, education, health care, employment, and social justice. This, no government so far has been willing to do, because it means a radical change in governance and its priorities.” – Romila Thapar (Emeritus Professor of History, Jawaharlal Nehru University) in You can’t run disciplines on the basis of the notions that particular governments may have”: An Interview with Romila Thapar by Nikhil Pandhi (Caravan Magazine, 7 October 2015) | Learn more >>

“The theoretical debate on caste among social scientists has receded into the background in recent years. [C]aste is in no sense disappearing: indeed, the present wave of neo-liberal policies in India, with privatisation of enterprises and education, has strengthened the importance of caste ties, as selection to posts and educational institutions is less based on merit through examinations, and increasingly on social contact as also on corruption.” – Harald Tambs-Lyche (Professor Emeritus, Université de Picardie, Amiens) in “Caste: History and the Present” (Academia Letters, Article 1311, 2021) | Learn more >>

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) | 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)

The vulnerability of tribal populations to exploitation by minor government officials, as well as moneylenders, landlords, and other agents of vested interests, can largely be traced to their illiteracy and general ignorance of the world outside the narrow confines of their traditional environment. […]

Brought up in a system in which all communications are by word of mouth, and hence used to trusting verbal statements, they get confused by constant reference to documents and written rules, which increasingly determine all aspects of rural life.

Source: Tribes of India: The Struggle for Survival. Berkeley: University of California Press (1982), pp. 126-7
Date Visited: 19 January 2022

For centuries, moneylenders have monopolised rural Indian credit markets. Families have lost land and assets, farmers have been asked to forfeit jewellery of their wives or to prostitute them to pay off debts, and, when all else has failed, they have tied the noose to end their misery. […]

With institutional credit drying up for farmers, local sharks have taken the place of banks. They charge an arm and a leg and are creating a debt-trap for farmers who rely on crop success — and prayers — for loan repayments. But a suicide does not absolve the rest of the family from paying back a loan. Unlike a bank loan, which is squared by the government’s waiver package, the moneylender’s loan has to be atoned by the distraught family.

Source: “Moneylenders still rule India’s rural economy” by Moin Qazi, The Statesman, 1 August 2017
URL: https://www.thestatesman.com/opinion/moneylenders-still-rule-india-s-rural-economy-1501622495.html
Date Visited: 16 December 2021

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

“Education has to liberate a person from narrow world view and the boundaries of caste, community, race and gender. Teachers have been entrusted with the responsibility of moulding the young minds to understand the world and make it better.” – Shri Pranab Mukherjee, President of India (National Award 2014 to Teachers)

Diversity, plurality and tolerance are “core values of our civilisation”: Rashtrapati Bhavan >>

The world has enough for everyone’s need but not for anyone’s greed.
Mahatma Gandhi >>

Source: Acceptance speech by Medha Patkar and Baba Amte (Narmada Bachao Andolan), Laureates of the 1991 Right Livelihood Award (“a courage-powered community for social change committed to peace, justice and sustainability for all)
URL: https://rightlivelihood.org/speech/acceptance-speech-medha-patkar-and-baba-amte-narmada-bachao-andolan/
Date visited: 11 March 2022

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