ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Tribes: Ethics of Research

Ethics of Research Tracing ancestries can be fascinating and even more so when the objective is to study the origins of the human race. What are the originary histories of the hundreds of primitive tribal groups scattered throughout the subcontinent and its islands? The discovering of such histories is the life work of organisations such as the Anthropological Survey of India (ASI) set up in the early decades of the last century to gather information about tribal populations and to ostensibly advise the government on how to deal with them. But over the decades, the ASI, uniquely equipped to undertake vast multifaceted research, has somewhere on the way fallen down on its job. For, the enormous fund of knowledge that it has collected on primitive groups and tribes has not made its impact on policies that directly or indirectly affect these people. Development projects, whether the huge multipurpose hydroprojects or the upcoming multicrore mining enterprises, are willy-nilly driving the already marginalised even further into isolation and ultimately extinction. Even where its advice is sought, governments and politicians do not follow its recommendations. For instance, against the advice of the ASI social contacts were initiated with the primitive Jarawas in the Andamans. These contacts began systematically in 1974 and included doctors, nurses, etc, carrying gifts of bananas and coconuts but soon deteriorated into tourist outings and publicity ventures for political leaders. One parliamentary group even suggested offering raincoats to tribes people. Eventually the initiatives petered out. But in the middle of 1990s a number of the remote tribes people began to wander into towns, often swimming long distances across the waters separating the islands apparently seeking food but more probably attracted by the civilisational offerings that had filtered through. These forays often led to incidents of robbery and violence. In sum the ill-conceived socialisation process backfired and was criticised worldwide by anthropologists.

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