Jawaharlal Nehru’s “five principles” for the policy to be pursued vis-a-vis the tribals

Jawaharlal Nehru >>
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Nehru was fascinated by the spontaneity of tribal culture and their capacity of joy and heroism in spite of their appalling poverty, destitution, and ignorance. […] In Nehru’s view, the process of modernization must not be taken as forcing a sudden break with the tribals past but help them build upon it and grow by a natural process of evolution.” – Dr. Chittaranjan Mishra in “Tribal Philosophy and Pandit Nehru” (Odisha Review, November 2017) | Learn more >>

Jawaharlal Nehru [1889–1964, first Prime Minister of India] formulated the following five principles 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

Source © Deepanwita Gita Niyogi (Pulitzer Center May 27, 2021)
India’s Adivasi Identity in Crisis >>

The country has the highest number of Indigenous people in the world after Africa. As tribes uphold unique cultures, their preservation is vital at a time when a specific national cultural discourse is growing stronger.

In the light of extreme right-wing ideology dominating the nation, there is a need to explore the tribal consciousness in the backdrop of climate change, development, and deforestation.

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

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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See also

India is one of the oldest civilizations in the world with a kaleidoscopic variety and rich cultural heritage. It has achieved all-round socio-economic progress since Independence. As the 7th largest country in the world, India stands apart from the rest of Asia, marked off as it is by mountains and the sea, which give the country a distinct geographical entity. Bounded by the Great Himalayas in the north, it stretches southwards and at the Tropic of Cancer, tapers off into the Indian Ocean between the Bay of Bengal on the east and the Arabian Sea on the west.

Source: States and Union Territories – About India
URL: https://knowindia.india.gov.in/states-uts/
Date visited: 4 September 2021

Learn more about India’s 28 States and 8 Union Territories – From Andhra Pradesh to West Bengal | Nutrition >>

Research the above issues with the help of Shodhganga: A reservoir of theses from universities all over India, made available under Open Access >>

Tip: type the name of a tribal community, region or state in the search field seen below. For better results, combine search words of special interest to you: Adivasi, Indigenous or tribal with topics like artist, music, craft, poetry, literature, education, biodiversity, ethnobotany, festival, film, health, nutrition, forest rights or human rights

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  1. www.indiatoday.in
  2. www.india-seminar.com
  3. www.livemint.com
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  5. www.ruralindiaonline.org
  6. scroll.in
  7. www.sanctuaryasia.com
  8. www.tehelka.com
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  10. www.theweek.in

What I wanted to do was to make people, for whom Indian democracy and institutions mean something, think about the places where it fails so utterly and completely, and how their own lives are connected to these other citizens.

Nandini Sundar (Professor of Sociology, Delhi University), interviewed by Chitrangada Choudhury (Livemint, 10 October 2016)

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Human trafficking is a crime. To report in India, call
Shakti Vahini on +91-11-42244224+91-9582909025
or the national helpline Childline on 1098.
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