Constructive action is our only future – Prof. Ganesh Devy on the “adivasiness of the tribals” in Gujarat

WHEN Gujarat was burning between 27 February and 4 March [2002], the tribal belt on the eastern border of Gujarat was quiet. The only exception was the two districts of Panchmahals for which Godhra is the main town. Elsewhere in the tribal areas, tribals, Hindus and Muslims continued to coexist peacefully. The only disturbing sight was the long lines of tribal labourers walking the distance from the curfew-bound cities to their villages, in some cases a walk of 100 kilometres. They walked silently, carrying the burden of all their belongings on their heads, a lot of misery in their hearts and terrified like trapped animals. […]

For about a decade now the Sangh Parivar has been active in the tribal areas in every state. Through one of its sister organizations, the Vanavasi Seva Sangh (VSS), it has been spreading the message of Hindutva among the tribals. The VSS insists on calling the tribals vanavasis and not adivasis which means ‘the indigenous people’, since the VSS shares the RSS view of history in which the Aryans are the original inhabitants of India. How can adivasis, who in the VSS opinion are non-Aryans, be the original inhabitants? Thus the adivasiness of the tribals is a serious threat to Hindutva. […]

We are in a situation where if we do not act every moment, we will have to own up to the responsibility of complicity to violence. Therefore, constructive action is our only future. There is none other, for otherwise there will be no future for us.

Source: “Tribal voice and violence” by Ganesh Devy in SOCIETY UNDER SIEGE: a symposium on the breakdown of civil society in Gujarat (, # 513 May 2002)
Address :
Date Visited: 15 July 2021

SOCIETY UNDER SIEGE: a symposium on the breakdown of civil society in Gujarat
Source: 513, May 2002, Gujarat – Society under siege
Address :
Date Visited: 15 July 2021

What is characteristic of the relationship between tribe and civilization in India is that there was virtually no way in which a tribal dynasty could legitimize its rule without becoming Hinduized. This meant, among other things, bringing in Brahmin priests, Barbers, Washermen and the rest, and replicating in due course of time the hierarchical structure of caste.

Source: “Uncivilising the Mind: How anthropology shaped the discourse on tribes in India” by Richard Kamei (Caravan Magazine, 1 March 2021)
Date Visited: 15 July 2021

“We shall first have to give up this hubris of considering tribes backward. Every tribe has a rich and living cultural tradition and we must respect them.”

Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu on India’s Constitutional obligation to respect their cultural traditions
Gandhiji at Prayer Time, Parnakuti, Poona (1944) by Chittaprosad, the great advocate of the rights of workers and revolutionary artists. | Learn more in “Gandhi, Secularism, and Cultural Democracy” by Vinay Lal >>
Gandhian social movement | Constitution >>

“Air is free to all but if it is polluted it harms our health… Next comes water… From now on we must take up the effort to secure water. Councillors are servants of the people and we have a right to question them.” – Mohandas K. Gandhi, Ahmedabad address on 1 January 1918; quoted by his grandson, Gopalkrishna Gandhi, in “On another New Year’s Day: Mahatma Gandhi’s ‘khorak’ a 100 years ago” (The Hindu, 1 January 2018)

Full text of the report © 2002, Sabrang Communications & Publishing Pvt. Ltd, Mumbai, India, and The South Asia Citizens Web, France | To read the full article, click here >>

Most indigenous tribal people of India refer to themselves as Adivasi (literally: first inhabitants). This term of choice also the one that is used in almost all matters of public discourse about tribal peoples – from school textbooks to government documents and newspaper accounts to academic scholarship. The only exception to this more or less universal rule is the Sangh Parivar and all those who are ideologically committed to Hindutva. The term of choice for them is “vanvasi” (forest dwellers) as opposed to “adivasi” (first inhabitants).

Historically, the adivasi’s have been marginalized from the mainstream of Indian society through the caste system. […]

Thus under the guise of tribal welfare and education what is undertaken by most IDRF funded Sangh organizations is an intense religious reconversion program […]

Source: Adivasi vs Vanvasi: The Hinduization of Tribals in India
Address :
Date Visited: Thu Jan 09 2014 13:23:40 GMT+0100 (CET)

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

“[A] common perception of conversion, prevalent in India, is that all conversions take place only among deprived lower caste or tribal groups, which are considered more susceptible to allurement or coercion. The reality of upper caste conversions is ignored in this climate of cynicism.”– Ivy Imogene Hansdak in “Pandita Ramabai Saraswati: the convert as ‘heretic’”

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See also

India is one of the oldest civilizations in the world with a kaleidoscopic variety and rich cultural heritage. It has achieved all-round socio-economic progress since Independence. As the 7th largest country in the world, India stands apart from the rest of Asia, marked off as it is by mountains and the sea, which give the country a distinct geographical entity. Bounded by the Great Himalayas in the north, it stretches southwards and at the Tropic of Cancer, tapers off into the Indian Ocean between the Bay of Bengal on the east and the Arabian Sea on the west.

Source: States and Union Territories – About India
Date visited: 4 September 2021

Learn more about India’s 28 States and 8 Union Territories – From Andhra Pradesh to West Bengal | Nutrition >>

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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