Continuation of colonial-era forest laws and mass evictions: Historical displacement of tribals from forests – Forest Rights Act

Nitin Sethi, The Wire, 15 February 2019

State governments would have to undertake mass evictions if the court accepts a petition filed by wildlife groups. […]  

If the court accepts the plea of petitioners, state governments would have to undertake mass evictions. The union ministry for tribal affairs estimates that by the end of November 2018, out of the 4.2 million claims received, 1.94 million claims have been rejected. As many as 1.89 million claimants have actually got titles over their traditional forestlands.  […]  

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has ordered states to report what action they have been taken against tribals and forest-dwellers whose claims to forestlands have been rejected under the Forest Rights Act. | Read the full article >>

Also read: Wildlife and Forest Rights Groups Have Shared Interests. Why Don’t They Work Together?

The Health of Indigenous Populations in South Asia

Despite South Asia’s promising social inclusion processes, staggering social and health inequalities leave indigenous populations largely excluded. Marginalization in the South Asian polity, unequal power relations, and poor policy responses deter Adivasi populations’ rights and opportunities for health gains and dignity. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is likely to result in a disproportionate share of infections and deaths among the Adivasis, given poor social conditions and exclusions. Poor health of indigenous people, inequalities between indigenous and non-indigenous groups, and failures in enforcing constitutional and legal provisions to reclaim indigenous land and cultural identity herald deeper structural and political fractures. This article unravels health inequalities between the Adivasis and non-Adivasi populations in their social context based on a critical review of secondary sources. We call for intersectoral policies and integrated health care services to address systemic inequalities, discrimination, power asymmetries, and consequent poor health outcomes. The current COVID-19 pandemic should be viewed as a window to pursue real change.

COVID 19, health inequalities, indigenous/Adivasi health, social determinants, South Asia, subaltern populations […]

Eviction and Land Alienation
In post-colonial South Asia’s social settings of unequal power relations, enforced eviction of Adivasi populations from their sociocultural habitat by the state and private-interest groups without fair dialogue, collective consent, or compensation, often through forgery and fraudulence, has been a continuous saga. When the colonial administration introduced new land revenue settlement, it transformed the customary collective land rights of Adivasis, favored infringement of land by the state and settlers, accelerated deforestation and destruction of the natural environment, and relegated Adivasis to migrant laborers. The post-independent states in South Asia occupied tribal land for military and security reasons, natural resource extraction, and development projects; leased land to corporations; and created zoning regulations to protect industry and private interests. In addition to the destitution caused by ecological devastation, the development projects—industry, hydraulics (dams and irrigation), infrastructure (roads, railways), mining, and plantations—led to massive, enforced displacement and migration in South Asia. […]

Source: “The Health of Indigenous Populations in South Asia: A Critical Review in a Critical Time” (free access in SAGE Journals, August 2020) by Chundankuzhiyil Ulahannan Thresia, Prashanth Nuggehalli Srinivas, Katia Sarla Mohindra, Chettiparambil Kumaran Jagadeesan
Date Visited: 25 October 2021

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

Adivasi [adibasi] – which is derived from Sanskrit – is applied to the dark-skinned or Austro-Asiatic indigenous groups of India (usually those from Eastern India). It is a commonly-used term in Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal and Odisha. It is also used by the local Mongoloid tribes of North Eastern India for the migrant workers who were brought in as indentured labourers to work in tea plantations during the colonial period. ‘Tribal’ is a very broad term in the English language, as we all know, and includes all the different indigenous groups of India.” – Dr. Ivy Hansdak (email dated 27 March 2020) | “Who are Scheduled Tribes?” (National Commission for Scheduled Tribes) | Classifications in different states >>

“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.” – Ganesh [G.N.] Devy in A Nomad Called Thief: Reflections on Adivasi Silence and Voice | Classifications in different states >>

“Adivasis are not a homogeneous group; there are over 200 distinct peoples speaking more than 100 languages, and varying greatly in ethnicity and culture.” – Source: World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples – India | Learn more | Classifications in different states >>

“Since the Indian Constitution uses the term ‘Scheduled Tribes’ or ‘tribals’ to refer to indigenous communities in India and the colloquial reference used by several indigenous communities themselves is ‘adivasis’ these two terms shall be used interchangeably.” – Rebecca S . David in “An analysis of the impact of the Forest Rights Act (2006) in three states of India” (MPhil University of Cambridge, UK, 2014), p. 1 | Learn more | Classifications in different states >>

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A call for harnessing the potential of Denotified Tribes, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes for national development: “India’s labour force must be liberated from an abhorrent colonial doctrine (‘criminality by birth’)” – Report and Recommendations of the Technical Advisory Group | “Adivasi”, “Tribals” and “Denotified tribes” (classifications in different states) >>

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

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Tip: click on any red marker for details on endangered languages in a particular region of India. This map is bound to be incomplete as recent surveys in-depth studies on this subject have revealed. 

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