Listen patiently to the tribals, with their immense knowledge and creativity: The key to preserving nature while ending widespread exploitation and stigmatization of women

In contemporary practice, the tribal memory is greatly undermined. There is general insistence that tribal children attend schools where non-tribal children attend schools, that they use medicines manufactured for others and that they adopt common agricultural practices. All because the world has very little time to listen patiently to the tribals, with their immense knowledge and creativity. We have decided that what is good for us is good enough for them. In the process we are destroying a rich vein of our cultural heritage. Tribal communities are distinguished by the absence of the caste system or any other form of discrimination, and respect for every member of the community can be seen in every aspect of their lives. Among tribals, widows are not ignored, raped women are not stigmatized and orphans are not left to beg. Tribals do not exploit other people’s labour for the sake of their own avarice, nor do they destroy nature to build monuments to the human ego.

Source: GN Devy’s anthology of tribal literature, Painted Words, quoted by Ivy Hansdak in: Inaugural Speech for “Tribes In Transition-II: Reaffirming Indigenous Identity Through Narrative” (National Conference 2017) | Read the full speech >>

Work should help build social justice and ecological viability. Work needs to be organized so that it can be fairly distributed and reduced to what is necessary for modest convivial survival rather than unequal lopsided growth. Like it or not, an increasing number of ecological economists – along with a lively degrowth movement – believe this is where our future rests.


Source: “Living well” by Richard Swift, New Internationalist #534, 8 December 2021
URL: https://newint.org/features/2021/10/07/living-well
Date Visited: 6 June 2022

In many parts of India, a college degree is still seen as part of a marriage dowry in some conservative wealthy families. “The returns to women in education are largely in the marriage market, but not in the labor market,” said Rohini Pande, an economics professor at Yale University. “Parents are worried about marriage prospects if they let their daughters go where the jobs are.” 

Source: “A Missing Link in India’s Economy” by Shan Li and Vibhuti Agarwal, The Wall Street Journal, 21 August 2023
URL: https://store.wsj.com
Date Visited: 21 August 2023

“If women are empowered, there is more development in society” – Droupadi Murmu
Find this and other speeches by the 15th President of India >>

Photo: Report on Women’s Rights, p. 15

Equality of Opportunity in matters of Public Employment
Constitution Article 15

Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.—(1) The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them. (2) No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them, be subject to any disability, liability, restriction or condition with regard to— (a) access to shops, public restaurants, hotels and places of public entertainment; or (b) the use of wells, tanks, bathing ghats, roads and places of public resort maintained wholly or partly out of State funds or dedicated to the use of the general public. (3) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children. 2 [(4) Nothing in this article or in clause (2) of article 29 shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.]

Source: pp. 9 & 16, “Women’s Rights in India: An Analytical Study of The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and The Indian Constitution, Legislations, Schemes, Policies & Judgements 2021” by Research Division, National Human Rights Commission, India (www.nhrc.nic.in) | Learn more >>
URL: https://www.jorhatjudiciary.gov.in
Date Visited: 9 May 2023

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

“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 >>

Dr. Ivy Hansdak

Ādivāsi [ādibāsi] may be used in accordance with local conventions; and increasingly so for official purposes (e.g. in “Conserving Tradition and Practices of Adivasi Communities in India” published on NIDM.gov.in); Dr. Ivy Hansdak clarifies:

Adivasi – 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 and includes all the different indigenous groups of India. The terms ‘indigenous’ and ‘aboriginal’ are not used often as the government claims most groups are indigenous in India. ‘Denotified Tribes’ is only used for those nomadic tribes who were notified as ‘criminal tribes’ during the British Raj [colonial rule]; later they were ‘denotified’ but still bear the stigma.” (emails dated 2020 & 2023)

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

Tribes of India: The Struggle for Survival >>

“Cover Your Country” by PARI: Rural people speak about their lives through photos, narratives, film, and audio materials >>

Video | “I saw women working 90 per cent of the time. They did backbreaking jobs for which you need an erect spine,” says P. Sainath in Visible Work, Invisible Women: Bricks, coal and stone | RuralIndiaOnline.org >>

In Marginalised but not Defeated, Tarun Kanti Bose (a seasoned public interest journalist) asserts that “the mainstream development paradigm is being questioned and new rainbows of collective, community reassertions are happening across the tribal belt in India. More so, in most cases, led by brave, empowered and resilient women.” | Learn more: https://countercurrents.org/2023/05/book-review-marginalised-but-not-defeated >>

“In less than 200 years, photography has gone from an expensive, complex process to an ordinary part of everyday life. From selfies to satellites, most of the technology we use and spaces we inhabit rely on cameras. […] While photographic documentation can aid in shaping history, it can also be a window into the horrors of the past.” – Read more or listen to Butterfly Effect 9 – The Camera on CBC Radio Spark 26 May 2023 >>

Learn more: Bondage | Bonded labour | Childhood | Human trafficking | SlaveryZamindari >>
Human trafficking is a crime. To report in India, call Shakti Vahini
+91-11-42244224, +91-9582909025 or the national helpline Childline on 1098.

“As per a study on human trafficking, the state of Jharkhand has emerged as India’s trafficking hub with thousands of tribal women and girls being trafficked out of the state each year to Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and beyond [while] human traffickers are also involved in many cases of missing children.” – The Wire | Shakti Vahini | Tourism locations | Adivasi tribal bondage slavery trafficking (Safe search) >>

Watch “The Good Ancestor – The Legacies We Leave” (3 min.): An animation that explores the legacies we might leave for future generations >>

Links to some of the most important organisations, thinkers and doers that are leading the way and that have inspired the book The Good Ancestor by Roman Krznaric >>

Find up-to-date information provided by, for and about Indian authors, researchers, officials, and educatorsMore search options >>
Search tips: in the search field seen below, combine the name of any particular state, language or region with that of any tribal (Adivasi) community; add keywords of special interest (health, nutrition endangered language, illegal mining, sacred grove); learn about the rights of Scheduled Tribes such as the Forest Rights Act (FRA); and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, women’s rights, and children’s right to education; specify any other issue or news item you want to learn more about (biodiversity, bonded labour and human trafficking, climate change, ecology, economic development, ethnobotany, ethnomedicine, global warming, Himalayan tribe, hunter-gatherers in a particular region or state, prevention of rural poverty, water access).

For a list of websites included in a single search, click here. To search Indian periodicals, magazines, web portals and other sources safely, click here. To find an Indian PhD thesis on a particular tribal community, region and related issues, click here >>

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Learn more about water-related issues that affect India’s tribal communities >>
“National development and the development of tribal communities are linked to each other.” – Droupadi Murmu | Speeches by the 15th President of India >>

“Together, we must endeavour to strengthen tribal communities which are the role model in preservation of water, forest and land, and learn from their connection with nature and the surrounding environment for the sake of the entire human race.” – journalist and tribal rights activist Dayamani Barla in The Wire >>