A plethora of cultural strengths that can be fruitfully utilised in educational initiatives: Report “Living World of the Adivasis of West Bengal: An Ethnographic Exploration” – West Bengal

Learn more about the tribal communities of West Bengal >>

Adivasis do not form a homogenous community. Achievements related to socio-economic well-being were found to vary across groups and places among the members of the same community. [some excerpts]*

There exists—in both the public and academic domains—a wide knowledge gap about that selectively forgotten, and pragmatically remembered population of the country known as Adivasis. Who they are, where they live, what they do, their socio-economic status, their cultural and linguistic practices— are issues about which information is largely fragmented and ambiguous. For example, in West Bengal, there are 40 Adivasi groups notified by the government as Scheduled Tribes (Sts). Yet, most people use the terms Adivasi and Santal interchangeably, while the latter, in fact, is but one of the 40 notified tribes forming 47 percent of the total ST population.

Wide socio-economic variations between the different Adivasi groups and within the specific Adivasi communities, despite having been shown in the Census data, have hardly attracted any attention either in public policy or in general discussion. Their rich linguistic and cultural heritage and their potential to interact with other societies on equal terms do not seem to have found any base among the apparently mainstream societies. The widely prevailing belief which tends to associate all Adivasis with a nomadic life isn’t rooted in objective reality; more often than not it comes from the easy—fictitious—route of distance and dominance. […]

The very common instances of violations of the Right to Forest Act, the Right to Education Act, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, and the like, have to be eliminated. It is not very difficult to identify the issues related to accessing the educational opportunities by the Adivasi children in general, and children within certain groups in particular. They include difficulties of physical access, the problem of language and culture, and the contrast between the apparent backwardness of these communities as imagined by the authorities and a very different objective reality that upholds a plethora of cultural strengths that can be fruitfully utilised while planning educational initiatives. Utilisation of resources available in the form of educated Adivasi youths would be just one of several to achieve this end.

Similarly, the terrible neglect in public delivery of healthcare must not be allowed to continue. […]

The general challenges of cultural threats in the spheres of language, social structure and economic progress tend to have particular relevance with regard to the numerically smaller groups. Social policy needs to address these problems with special attention and emphasis.

Finally, it is imperative that the entire outlook on the Adivasi question be reversed. Instead of seeing the Adivasis as ‘problems,’ the entire country can benefit massively by perceiving the Adivasis as co-citizens and sharing their historically constructed cultural values which often manifest the best forms of democracy and uphold the notions of higher levels of justice, fairness and equality than those which prevail in the seemingly mainstream societies. By ensuring their rights to live their own lives, the country can in fact guarantee itself a flourishing democracy.

The findings of the study, as mentioned in the beginning, are neither comprehensive nor definitive in nature. There were many areas that the study could not look into. Nevertheless, the indications of the study can usefully add to social inquiry as well as policy modifications.

* Source: Brochure for the report titled “Living World of the Adivasis of West Bengal: An Ethnographic Exploration”, issued on the occasion of the Kolkata International Book Fair 2020, courtesy Dr. Boro Baski (email 27 February 2020)

Dr. Boro Baski works for the community-based organisation Ghosaldanga Adibasi Seva Sangha in West Bengal. The NGO is supported by the German NGO Freundeskreis Ghosaldanga und Bishnubati. He was the first person from his village to go to college as well as the first to earn a PhD (in social work) at Viswa-Bharati. This university was founded by Rabindranath Tagore to foster integrated rural development with respect for cultural diversity. The cooperation he inspired helps local communities to improve agriculture, economical and environmental conditions locally, besides facilitating education and health care based on modern science.

He authored Santali translations of two major works by Rabindranath Tagore, the essay “Vidyasagar-Charit” and the drama Raktakarabi (English “Red Oleanders”), jointly published by the Asiatic Society & Sahitya Akademi (India’s National Academy of Letters) in 2020.

Other posts contributed by Dr. Boro Baski >>

Ghosaldanga Bishnubati Adibasi Trust
Registration under Trust Registration Act 1982
P.O. Sattore, Dist. Birbhum
West Bengal-731 236

For inquiries on Santal cultural and educational programs, please contact:
Mob. 094323 57160 or [email protected]

Prof. Amartya Sen
Learn more about Living World of the Adivasis of West Bengal released at
Kolkata Book Fair 2020 >>

“The smart boy or clever girl who is deprived of the opportunity of schooling, or who goes to a school with dismal facilities (not to mention the high incidence of absentee teachers), not only loses the opportunities he or she could have had, but also adds to the massive waste of talent that is a characteristic of the life of our country.” – Nobel Awardee Amartya Sen in The Argumentative Indian (Penguin Books, 2005), p. 344 | Find this and other books published in India >>

Related: Tribal Children’s Right to Education | Childhood | Ekalavya (Eklavya, Eklabya), EMR & Factory schools | Childrens rights: UNICEF India >>

Shanthi Kunjan with mother © Priti David in 
“The forest in Shanthi Teacher’s classroom” on Ruralindiaonline.org >>
More about Tribal elders & Women >>
Success stories >>

Mother’s love is unconditional, it is all-protective, all-enveloping; because it is unconditional it can also not be controlled or acquired. Its presence gives the loved person a sense of bliss; its absence produces a sense of lostness and utter despair. Since mother loves her children because they are her children, and not because they are “good,” obedient, or fulfill her wishes and commands, mother’s love is based on equality. All men are equal, because they all are children of a mother, because they all are children of Mother Earth.

The next stage of human evolution, the only one of which we have thorough knowledge and do not need to rely on inferences and reconstruction, is the patriarchal phase. In this phase the mother is dethroned from her supreme position, and the father becomes the Supreme Being, in religion as well as in society. The nature of fatherly love is that he makes demands, establishes principles and laws, and that his love for the son depends on the obedience of the latter to these demands. He likes best the son who is most like him, who is most obedient and who is best fitted to become his successor, as the inheritor of his possessions. (The development of patriarchal society goes together with the development of private property.) As a consequence, patriarchal society is hierarchical; the equality of the brothers gives way to competition and mutual strife. Whether we think of the Indian, Egyptian or Greek cultures, or of the Jewish- Christian, or Islamic religions, we are in the middle of a patriarchal world, with its male gods, over whom one chief god reigns, or where all gods have been eliminated with the exception of the One, the God. However, since the wish for mother’s love cannot be eradicated from the hearts of man, it is not surprising that the figure of the loving mother could never be fully driven out from the pantheon. […]

To have faith in the possibility of love as a social and not only exceptional-individual phenomenon, is a rational faith based on the insight into the very nature of man.

The Art of Loving by social psychologist Erich Fromm (New York: Harper & Row, 1956), pp. 65-65 & 133
URL: https://archive.org/details/TheArtOfLoving
Date Visited: 10 June 2023

Erich Fromm [Erich Seligmann Fromm] 1900 Frankfurt am Main – 1980 Muralto, Ticino, Switzerland

Fromm’s most popular book was The Art of Loving, an international bestseller first published in 1956, which recapitulated and complemented the theoretical principles of human nature found in Escape from Freedom and Man for Himself—principles which were revisited in many of Fromm’s other major works. […]

Beyond a simple condemnation of authoritarian value systems, Fromm used the story of Adam and Eve as an allegorical explanation for human biological evolution and existential angst, asserting that when Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge, they became aware of themselves as being separate from nature while still being part of it. […]

According to Fromm, the awareness of a disunited human existence is a source of guilt and shame, and the solution to this existential dichotomy is found in the development of one’s uniquely human powers of love and reason. However, Fromm distinguished his concept of love from unreflective popular notions as well as Freudian paradoxical love. […]

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erich_Fromm
Date Visited: 15 September 2022

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

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Adivasi (Adibasi)

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