“Adivasi”, “Tribals” and “Denotified tribes”: Usage in legal and historical records, in textbooks, scholarly papers and the media –  Classifications in different states

Government documents apply various labels besides “Scheduled Tribes” and “tribals”:

Hill Tribes, Nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes, Forest dwellers, Indigenous communities, Aborigines, Backward Tribe, Backward Classes, Tribal settlers, Original settlers, Primitive tribes, and Denotified tribes.

Note: “Denotified tribes” have been oppressed as “criminal tribes” ever since the introduction of British (colonial) legislation, passed with the aim of justifying forced displacement / dispossession / enslavement of (semi) nomadic tribal communities; and also to legitimize their exploitation and encroachment on tribal/forest lands for the purpose of commercial timber extraction, (“eco”) tourism and plantations – often found to be illegal or polluting and, in the case of state participation, unconstitutional according to a judgement passed by the Supreme Court of India; thus amounting to (ongoing) human rights violations; some of these meant to be addressed by India’s Forest Rights Act passed in 2006 (with varying success).

“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. […]

For strategic planners, forests are ‘an administrative category implying a desired land use’ whether or not trees are included, but it is useful in making claims to ‘extend the control of the forest service’. […]

To tribal people, forests involve habitat and identity and are thus inseparably linked to their lives and livelihoods. Because of this reality, several inter-disciplinarians see forests as something linked to human rights for indigenous communities.

Source: “An analysis of the impact of the Forest Rights Act (2006) in three states of India” by Rebecca S . David (MPhil University of Cambridge, UK, 2014), p. 1
Date accessed: 11 October 2020

Under the [FRA] law, forest dwellers can apply to state governments for either individual or community forest rights – which means they can take ownership of the process of protecting and conserving forests in their areas. They can also gather and sell minor forest produce such as tendu leaves or bamboo, which was an illegal activity before the law was enacted. However, states have not been particularly proactive about implementing these rights. [E]ven as Maharashtra is foremost in implementing community forest rights, it is also slowly attempting to reverse this with new forms of forest management. | Read more >>

Source: Mridula Chari in (Scroll.in, 9 July 2017)

After Independence, the erstwhile aborigines were classified as scheduled tribes, the untouchables were classified as scheduled castes and others included in the backward classes. Although, many of the denotified, nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes are spread among SC/ST/OBC, many are still not classified anywhere and have no access to socio-economic benefits, whether education, health, housing or otherwise. […]

Except a few states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, etc, some of these communities figure in various classifications in the states such as Backward Tribe (Puducherry), Most Backward Classes (Tamil Nadu), Extremely Backward Classes (Bihar), “original settlers” in Arunachal Pradesh, Primitive Tribes (Jharkhand/ Odisha), Hill Tribes (Assam) etc. In some states they are called “tribal settlers”. In some states they are called “hidden tribes” etc. […]

There are many anomalies in terms of identification of these communities, from state to state. Many people also do not know what is denotified tribe and which authority is looking after their grievances. Recently, this Commission made a recommendation to the Government of India to write to all state governments to form a district-level Grievances Redressal Committee under the District Collector to hear the grievances of these communities/groups/tribes. | Read more >>

Source: 2016 Report of the NCDNT [National Commission for Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes], quoted by Bibek Debroy in “An unfortunate legacy” (Indian Express, 5 January 2017)
Address: https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/crime-criminal-act-racial-discrimination-non-bailable-offence-criminal-tribes-act-an-unfortunate-legacy-4459258/
Date Visited: 12 October 2020

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

Whether “tribal” is preferred over Adivasi (Adibasi) depends on local conventions, official usage and historical context; see also Classifications in different states and Who are Scheduled Tribes? >>

Reports in the Indian press | List of periodicals included in this search >>

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