United Nations General Assembly: excerpts from the report on the 107th & 108th Meetings in 2007

The United Nations General Assembly designates a number of “International Days” to mark important aspects of human life and history | Official list >>
International Day of the World’s Indigenous People (9 August) >>

Vote on Indigenous Rights Declaration
By a vote of 143 in favour to 4 against (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States), with 11 abstentions, the Assembly adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which sets out the individual and collective rights of the world’s 370 million native peoples, calls for the maintenance and strengthening of their cultural identities, and emphasizes their right to pursue development in keeping with their own needs and aspirations. […]

AJAI MALHOTRA (India) said his country had consistently favoured the promotion and protection of indigenous peoples’ rights. The fact that the working group had been unable to reach consensus was only reflective of the extreme complexity of the issues involved. While the Declaration did not define what constituted indigenous peoples, the issue of indigenous rights pertained to peoples in independent countries who were regarded as indigenous on account of their descent from the populations which inhabited the country, or a geographical region which the country belonged, at the time of conquest or colonization or the establishment of present State boundaries and who, irrespective of their legal status, retained some or all of their socio-economic, cultural and political institutions.

Regarding references to the right to self-determination, it was his understanding that the right to self-determination applied only to peoples under foreign domination and that the concept did not apply to sovereign independent States or to a section of people or a nation, which was the essence of national integrity. The Declaration clarified that the right to self-determination would be exercised by indigenous peoples in terms of their right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs, as well as means and ways for financing their autonomous functions. In addition, article 46 stated clearly that nothing in the Declaration might be interpreted as implying for any State, people, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act contrary to the Charter. It was on that basis that India had voted in favour of the adoption of the Declaration. […]

Source: UN Department of Public Information (New York, 13 September 2007)
http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2007/ga10612.doc.htm
Date Visited: 28 March 2011

My delegation aligns with the statement made by the delegation of China on behalf of the Like Minded Group. India is a strong supporter of the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples. We had supported the adoption of UNDRIP in 2007. […]

We would like to remind that the concept of indigenous peoples relates to the specific situations where people suffered from historic injustices as a result of their colonization and dispossession of their lands, territories and resources. […]

My delegation will continue to remain actively engaged in the consultations and the intergovernmental negotiations on the issue in future towards achieving a consensus decision.

Source: Statement by Mr. Mayank Joshi, Councellor, Permanent Mission of India to the UN, New York (General Assembly, 8 September 2017)
URL: https://pminewyork.gov.in/IndiaatUNGA?id=MzUwMQ,,
Date Visited: 17 April 2022

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

“Many people – though not all – have been able to secure freedom from torture, unjustified imprisonment, summary execution, enforced disappearance, persecution and unjust discrimination, as well as fair access to education, economic opportunities, and adequate resources and health-care. They have obtained justice for wrongs, and national and international protection for their rights, through the strong architecture of the international human rights legal system.” – Introduction to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, p.vi

See also: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 70 | Human Rights Commission (posts) | National Human Rights Commission: www.nhrc.nic.in (Government of India) >>

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[*] Some clarifications on caste-related issues by reputed scholars

Understanding “caste” in the context of Indian democracy: The “Poona Pact of 1932”
“Mahatma Gandhi and BR Ambedkar differed over how to address caste inequities through the electoral system. Their exchanges led to the Poona Pact of 1932, which shaped the reservation system in India’s electoral politics. […]
Two prominent figures who have significantly contributed to this discourse are Mahatma Gandhi, Father of the Nation, and Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Father of the Constitution. The two stalwarts of Indian politics, while revered equally by the public, had contrasting views on the caste system. Their subsequent debates have shaped the course of Indian society and politics. While Gandhi denounced untouchability, he did not condemn the varna system, a social hierarchy based on occupation, for most of his life. He believed in reforming the caste system through the abolition of untouchability and by giving equal status to each occupation. On the other hand, BR Ambedkar, a Dalit himself, argued that the caste system disorganised and ‘demoralised Hindu society, reducing it to a collection of castes’. […] 
And yet, despite their differences, they developed an understanding to work for the betterment of the marginalised.” – Rishabh Sharma in “How Ambedkar and Gandhi’s contrasting views paved way for caste reservation” (India Today, 6 October 2023)
URL: https://www.indiatoday.in/history-of-it/story/ambedkar-gandhi-caste-system-poona-pact-1932-reservation-2445208-2023-10-06

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“That upper caste groups should declare themselves to be OBCs [Other Backward Castes] and want to avail of the reservation policy is a pandering to caste politics of course, as also are caste vote-banks. It is partially a reflection of the insecurity that the neo-liberal market economy has created among the middle-class. Opportunities are limited, jobs are scarce and so far ‘development’ remains a slogan. There’s a lot that is being done to keep caste going in spite of saying that we are trying to erode caste. We are, of course, dodging the real issue. It’s true that there has been a great deal of exploitation of Dalit groups and OBC’s in past history; making amends or even just claiming that we are a democracy based on social justice demands far more than just reservations. The solution lies in changing the quality of life of half the Indian population by giving them their right to food, water, education, health care, employment, and social justice. This, no government so far has been willing to do, because it means a radical change in governance and its priorities.” – Romila Thapar  (Emeritus Professor of History, Jawaharlal Nehru University) interviewed by Nikhil Pandhi (Caravan Magazine, 7 October 2015)
URL: https://caravanmagazine.in/vantage/discipline-notion-particular-government-interview-romila-thapar 

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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.” – Book review by Dilip Mandal for Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents (The Print, 23 August 2020)
URL: https://theprint.in/opinion/oprah-winfrey-wilkerson-caste-100-us-ceos-indians-wont-talk-about-it/487143/

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“The theoretical debate on caste among social scientists has receded into the background in recent years. [However] caste 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. There is a tendency to assume that caste is as old as Indian civilization itself, but this assumption does not fit our historical knowledge. To be precise, however, we must distinguish between social stratification in general and caste as a specific form. […]
From the early modern period till today, then, caste has been an intrinsic feature of Indian society. It has been common to refer to this as the ‘caste system’. But it is debatable whether the term ‘system’ is appropriate here, unless we simply take for granted that any society is a ‘social system’. First, and this is quite clear when we look at the history of distinct castes, the ‘system’ and the place various groups occupy within it have been constantly changing. Second, no hierarchical order of castes has ever been universally accepted […] but what is certain is that there is no consensus on a single hierarchical order.” – Harald Tambs-Lyche (Professor Emeritus, Université de Picardie, Amiens) in “Caste: History and the Present” (Academia Letters, Article 1311, 2021), pp. 1-2
URL: https://www.academia.edu/49963457

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“There is a need for intercultural education. We all need to work together to bridge these divides not only between religions and castes but also regions. It is not correct to think that one part is better than the other. Some of the limitations of India as a whole are due to our common heritage, say the one that has restricted women from having a flourishing life for themselves.” – Prof. V. Santhakumar (Azim Premji University) in “On the so called North-South Divide in India” (personal blog post in Economics in Action, 13 April 2024)
URL: https://vsanthakumar.wordpress.com/2024/04/13/on-the-so-called-north-south-divide-in-india/

Learn more

Adivasi (Adibasi)

Anthropology

Articles on Adivasi culture in Folio Special issue

Contents on this website by and about Prof. Ganesh Devy

eBook | Background guide for education

eBooks, eJournals & reports | eLearning

Education and literacy | Right to education

Forest Rights Act (FRA) | Nishad (Nishada, Sanskrit Niṣāda, “tribal, hunter, mountaineer, degraded person outcast”) | Vanavasi (Vanvasi, Vanyajati)

Human Rights Commission (posts) | www.nhrc.nic.in (Government of India)

International Day of the World’s Indigenous People

Irish Journal of Anthropology: Special issue on Adivasi identity

| “Casteism” and its effect on tribal communities

Remembering Birsa Munda: The charismatic tribal leader who shook the British Empire – Jharkhand

Scheduled Tribes | Classifications in different states

Tribal groups (Indian tribal communities)

Tribal Politics – adivasi culture, language, and religion in Encyclopedia of India

United Nations Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Towards “a life free from want and fear” for every ethnic group – United Nations

“What are the Rights of Scheduled Tribes?– Government of India (National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, NCST)