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

Jawaharlal Nehru >>
Photo © Indian Express

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 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.


  • 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

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

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.

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

“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 >>

“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 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

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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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For more details (some with hyperlinks), click on the map button seen on the left top; scroll and click on one of the markers for information of special interest. | Explore India’s tribal cultural heritage with the help of another interactive map >>

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