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[T]he Constitution gives equal respect to all communities, sects, lingual and ethnic groups, etc. The Constitution guarantees to all citizens freedom of speech (Article 19), freedom of religion (Article 25), equality (Articles 14 to 17), liberty (Article 21), etc.

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When It Comes to Dalit and Tribal Rights, the Judiciary in India Just Does Not Get It

Instead of questioning why the abolition of untouchability has failed in India, the apex court has upheld and reiterated false stereotypes against Dalits and Adivasis.

Though the Indian constitution envisaged the abolition of ‘untouchability’ and an end to discrimination, prejudice is rampant among the affluent sections of society and those entrusted with upholding the constitution have tended to treat Dalits and Adivasis with utter insensitivity.

For years, ‘mainstream’ discourse in society has focused on limiting the constitutional provisions enacted in favour of Dalits and Adivasis. In particular, two key concerns of these groups — protection from atrocities, and adequate representation — have been the target of several prejudices, stereotypes, and fake propaganda. It is unfortunate that even the Supreme Court of a constitutional democracy like ours has often failed to sift fact from fiction. […]

The application of affirmative action policies through the constitutionally entrenched provisions of reservations has consistently been limited by the Supreme Court in a series of judgments. The language in these judgments [e.g. ‘primitive culture’, ‘human zoo’] reflects the inherent stereotypes against the idea of reservations. […]

This view is damaging and contrary to the constitutional obligation of the state to provide adequate representation to Dalits and Adivasis. On one side, the Supreme Court has restricted the application of reservation through its consistent judgments by placing a mandatory condition for any government to collect data regarding the inadequate representation of Dalits and tribals and to exclude the “creamy layer”, before making reservation in promotion policies. But, on the other side, the court abdicated its responsibility by holding that it would not hold the government accountable even if the under-representation of Dalits and tribals in public services is brought to its notice. […]

The court seems to have forgotten, or perhaps ignored the fact that policies made in favour of Dalits and tribals are not patronising in nature or made out of pity or charity. These freedoms have been won by Dalits and tribals after constant struggle and sacrifice, as they believe that their identity and way of life is in no way inferior to anyone else’s in the country. […]

Source: “When It Comes to Dalit and Tribal Rights, the Judiciary in India Just Does Not Get It” by Anurag Bhaskar (Jindal Global Law School, Sonipat and Center on the Legal Profession at Harvard Law School), The Wire, 3 May 2020
URL: https://thewire.in/law/when-it-comes-to-dalit-and-tribal-rights-the-judiciary-in-india-just-does-not-get-it
Date Visited: 8 July 2022

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“Tribal men and women mix freely, but with respect for each other [but] caste Hindu society in India is so convinced of its own superiority that it never stops to consider the nature of social organisation among tribal people. In fact it is one of the signs of the ‘educated’ barbarian of today that he cannot appreciate the qualities of people in any way different from himself – in looks or clothes, customs or rituals.” – Guest Column in India Today >>

“Casteism is the investment in keeping the hierarchy as it is in order to maintain your own ranking, advantage, privilege, or to elevate yourself above others or keep others beneath you …. For this reason, many people—including those we might see as good and kind people—could be casteist, meaning invested in keeping the hierarchy as it is or content to do nothing to change it, but not racist in the classical sense, not active and openly hateful of this or that group.” | Learn more about India’s caste system and the effects of “casteism” on tribal communities >>

“Tribal languages are a treasure trove of knowledge about a region’s flora, fauna and medicinal plants. Usually, this information is passed from generation to generation. However, when a language declines, that knowledge system is completely gone.” – Ayesha Kidwai (Centre for Linguistics, School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi) quoted by Abhijit Mohanty in “Seven decades after independence, many tribal languages in India face extinction threat” | Learn more about the work done by the People’s Linguistic Survey of India and endangered languages worldwide >>

“The notion of ‘mainstreaming’ needs to be challenged not just because Adivasi culture is being crushed, but also because Adivasi values and ways of life offer insights that the ‘mainstream’ needs. If we are to halt the destruction of ecosystems, we need to understand how closely biodiversity and cultural diversity are intertwined. Perhaps it is time to reverse the gaze and begin to learn afresh from Adivasis.” – Felix Padel & Malvika Gupta (The Hindu) | Learn more about the role of tribal communities in fostering biodiversity, ethnobotany and cultural diversity | Success stories | Tribal identity >>

“I think that by retaining one’s childhood love of such things as trees, fishes, butterflies and … toads, one makes a peaceful and decent future a little more probable, and that by preaching the doctrine that nothing is to be admired except steel and concrete, one merely makes it a little surer that human beings will have no outlet for their surplus energy except in hatred and leader worship.” – George Orwell | Learn more: Childhood | Customs | Games and leisure time | Literature – fiction | Storytelling >>

“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) | Learn more: Accountability | Democracy | Education and literacy >>

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 here, type the name of any tribal (Adivasi) community, region, state or language; add keywords of special interest (childhood, language, sacred grove, tribal education, women); consider rights to which Scheduled Tribes are entitled (FRA Forest Rights Act, protection from illegal mining, UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, right to education, Universal Declaration of Human Rights); specify any other issue or news item you want to learn more about (biodiversity, climate change, ecology, economic development, ethnobotany, ethnomedicine, global warming, health, nutrition and malnutrition, rural poverty)

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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