Jal Jangal Jamin Jiv.... Adivasitva

Who is to Blame for Tribal Backwardness ?

India has been home to tribals since time immemorial, and they are naturally considered the original inhabitants of India. Their rich history and culture have provided tribes such as Santhal, Munda, Bhil, Meena, Ho Gond and others a distinct identity at the national and international level. The tribal areas of Rajasthan have been home to many tribes such as Bhil, Meena, Bhil-Meena, Damor and Garasia since ancient times. The tribes of Rajasthan have a history full of splendour and valor, and are thus famous for it. The tribal kings established their own kingdoms across the Rajputana. For instance, Dungaria Bhil had Dungarpur, Bansia (Vishna) Bhil had Banswara. Kotia Bhil had Kota, Jetasi Bhil had Abu as their kingdoms, which now constitute districts along these names in modern Rajasthan. Besides, Maharana Pratap, the great Rajputana warrior, had a Bhil warrior as his commander-in-chief, who is still revered by one and all.

However, the tribal people have been victim of social, economic and religious discrimination and exploitation notwithstanding their rich history. They have been deprived of education, have been socially looked down upon and rejected, have been made to serve as bonded labour: a fact that has been time and again accepted, officially and unofficially, by politicians, social workers and scholars alike. Jansatta, a Hindi daily, in a news report headlined, “Kendra Anusuchit Jaati-Janjaati ke Liye Vishesh Tantra aur Kanoon Banane ke Paksh Mein” (Centre in Favour of Framing a Special System and Law for Scheduled Castes and Tribes), quoted Union Social Welfare and Empowerment Minister Meera Kumar as saying that more than 16 crore people in India still suffer from the scourge of untouchability. According to Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil, the scheduled castes and tribes are discriminated against even after six decades of India’s independence and affirmative action is needed to change this. In a similar vein, Union Law Minister Hansraj Bharadwaj has maintained that the victims of excesses are paid only lip service. The law minister further said that the discrimination against scheduled castes and tribes should be stemmed at the grassroots level and unless we as a nation change our thinking, these excesses will continue.

Usually, non-tribals are held responsible for the backwardness, excesses on and exploitation of tribals. There is some truth to this generalization. But then are the non-tribals only to be blamed for tribal backwardness? Actually, if anybody has to be blamed for tribal backwardness it has to be tribals only. The facts speak for themselves. Take for instance the tribal subplan area of Rajasthan. As the sarpanch, pradhan, district board chairman, all are in most of the cases tribals of this area, so are the MLA, MP and tribal minister who invariably belong to this area. This only shows that they are well represented in governing and legislative bodies, and with a population of about 35 lakh they are not few in numbers. Yet, the common tribal is still struggling to make both ends meet even after 59 years of Independence, and only the tribal politicians, leaders, officials and employees and the youth can be blamed for the backwardness of the tribal society as they together have failed to discharge their responsibility toward their own community. Here, we will explore all this one by one.

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