Adivasis rejected the British knowledge and “chose to remain outside the colonial economy and social discourse”: Ganesh Devy – A View of Higher Education in India

A Nomad Called Thief: Reflections on Adivasi Silence and Voice by
Ganesh [G.N.] Devy | Publications >>

Adivasis confronted the British. They fought the British. They resisted the Raj in every possible way, did not accept the British Raj at all. Adivasis chose to remain outside the colonial economy and social discourse. Even when the universities came up in the 1850s, the Adivasis did not join the Bombay colleges or the Chennai (Madras) colleges at all. They kept fighting for their land. They rejected the British knowledge. However, Indians did not look at Adivasis as part of the freedom struggle. Dalits were subjugated and freed together with the rest of India. The Adivasi freedom has not been synchronous with the rest. The two stories are different and that’s why the leadership patterns are different.

Prof. Ganesh Devy in response to a listener’s question as regards “Adivasi identity”
Source: “A View of Higher Education in India” p. 43 by Prof. Ganesh Devy (Chair, People’s Linguistic Survey of India, Bhasha Research and Publication Centre)

“The most beautiful dioramas illustrating tribal life”
Bharatiya Adimjati Sevak Sangrahalaya museum inspired by Mahatma Gandhi >>

The accounts of nineteenth- and twentieth-century anthropologists, and those written by political commentators, scholars and government officials, are critical to a discussion of how tribal people have long been positioned as antithetical to ‘civilised’ societies. The political scientist Uday Chandra speaks of how primitivism, which he describes as ‘a type of liberal imperial ideology of rule that has justified the subjugation of populations and places described wild, savage or, simply, primitive,’ has continued, despite changes in its approach, into the present day, whether in law, policy or discourse about development.

Source: “Uncivilising the Mind: How anthropology shaped the discourse on tribes in India” by Richard Kamei (Caravan Magazine, 1 March 2020)
Date Visited: 5 June 2021

[These] forested and hilly terrains are segregated from the general society due to several constitutional, legal and administrative restrictions. […] At the time of independence in 1947, twenty-three lakh [2.3 million] people were reportedly suffering as Criminal Tribes. Pertinently, while the targeted communities were Hindu castes, the British maliciously labelled many of them as ‘tribes’ […] thereby gaming them for ‘civilising’ missions. […]

The Government of India Act, 1935, a precursor of the Constitution of India, further formalized the exclusion of vanvasi areas by classifying them as Excluded Areas and Partially Excluded Areas. As a result, general Indians became almost foreigners to these areas in their own country as they were forbidden from entering and/or acquiring property there. […]

The STs in Scheduled Areas do not get quality education, healthcare and other services as these are rare there. The STs who hold immovable property there cannot sell or monetize them as the free market does not operate in Scheduled Areas. […]

Source: “Scheduled Tribes: Who are they? How to mainstream them?” by IPS officer M Nageswara Rao (Times of India, 16 May 2020)
Date Visited: 5 June 2021

[C]aste is not a residual variable, but is an active agent which stifles economic transformation.

Source: “The role of caste in economic transformation” by A. Kalai­yarasan (As­sis­tant Pro­fes­sor at the Madras In­sti­tute of De­vel­op­ment Stud­ies and non-res­i­dent fel­low at the Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary South Asia, Brown Univer­sity), The Hindu, 23 June 2022
Date Visited: 24 June 2022

“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 >>

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 ( | Learn more >>
Date Visited: 9 May 2023

“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 >>

As the nation commemorates “150 years of the Mahatma Gandhi”, NCST [National Commission for Scheduled Tribes] brought out a book titled “Janjatiya Swadhinta Sangram” in Hindi. The book, which was released by the Vice President, brings out the little unknown facets of the freedom struggle of tribal people in the country. The book highlights the contribution of tribal uprising against british regime during freedom struggle. It includes articles on Shaheed Veer Buddhu Bhagat, Bhagwan Birsa Munda, Tilka Manjhi, Sidhu Kanhu, Bhumkal Gundadhur, Krantiveer Surendra Sai, Kunwar Raghunath Shah, Vidrohi Tantya Bheel, Amar Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh, Param Balidani Govind Guru and Janjati Veerangana Maharani Durgawati. It is an effort of the Commission to bring out the invaluable contribution and valour of tribal leadership in the freedom struggle of India. […] 

Source: M. Venkaiah Naidu (Vice President of India) quoted in “Vice president delivers ‘first foundation day lecture of NCST’: Constitution and Tribes” by Press Information Bureau, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST), 19 February 2019
Date visited: 4 November 2020

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

See also

Information about the above-mentioned freedom fighters hailing from tribal communities across India may be found by typing their names in the search window seen below (including Indian PhD theses available on Shodhganga).

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, climate change, ecology, economic development, ethnobotany, ethnomedicine, global warming, effective measures to prevent rural poverty, bonded labour, and human trafficking).

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 >>

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