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Concept of 'Tribe' in the Draft National Tribal Policy

In the last four years, two drafts of the National Tribal Policy have been released by two different central governments. This essay, begins with a comparison of the two and then carries out a critical analysis of the second version. Whilst the draft covers almost all aspects of importance that concern tribal societies, what it lacks is the "tribal voice". Throughout its length runs the "we-they" distinction - the distinction of "givers" and "receivers". We hear the voice of bureaucrats, planners, and development specialists, which constitutes the dominant discourse on tribes. The article argues that the tribal issues should come more to the centre of our discussions in contemporary India than remaining at the margins, as is the case today.

PERSPECTIVEEconomic & Political Weekly EPW December 13, 200829Concept of ‘Tribe’ in the Draft National Tribal PolicyVinay Kumar SrivastavaIn the last four years, two drafts of the National Tribal Policy have been released by two different central governments. This essay, begins with a comparison of the two and then carries out a critical analysis of the second version. Whilst the draft covers almost all aspects of importance that concern tribal societies, what it lacks is the “tribal voice”. Throughout its length runs the “we-they” distinction – the distinction of “givers” and “receivers”. We hear the voice of bureaucrats, planners, and development specialists, which constitutes the dominant discourse on tribes. The article argues that the tribal issues should come more to the centre of our discussions in contemporary India than remaining at the margins, as is the case today. The Draft National Tribal Policy (NTP) was released in February 2004, during the tenure of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government. Then, on 21 July 2006, under the direction of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) govern-ment, another draft was circulated, which was called the “Draft National Tribal Policy (a Policy for the Scheduled Tribes of India)”. 1 IntroductionImportant differences exist between the two versions of the draft, released at different points of time by different central govern-ments. The first one was considerably short and did not cover all the areas of importance to tribal societies; for instance, the forced migration of tribespersons to non-tribal areas, or violence in pockets of tribal concentration. Although, throughout the text, it submitted that its aim was to bring tribes into the mainstream of Indian society, at the end, it titled a section “assi-milation”, which, in fact, delineated the steps in which integration could be achieved. The approach of assimilation, which argued that tribes should “melt” in the “mainstream”, rather than living to-gether but separately in everlasting rela-tions of interdependence withothercom-munities, was debunked a long time back. Neither was assimilation ethically right nor empirically possible. Therefore, when anthropologists saw the draft of the policy mischievously ending with “assimilation”, they were unsurprisingly taken aback. Perhaps, the authors of the draft committed a faux pas by using the term assimilation, though they certainly did not think in terms of “dissolving” the tribal identity in that of the outsiders. 2 Definition of TribeOne of the major issues in tribal studies today, and it is clear from the draft as well, pertains to the “definition” of “tribe” (from now on, whenever the term draft is used, it refers to its second version). Many of us think that since we are concerned with communities of people classified as sched-uled tribes (STs) and there is less ambigu-ity about this term, although some com-munities classified so may not deserve the appellation of tribe, not much will be gained by getting bogged down into the ever-polemical and inconclusive issues of the definition. As per this argument, our concern is with the “scheduled tribes”, and not with “tribes”; the former category includes about 700 communities, accord-ing to the draft, which notwithstanding their inter-cultural differences share the same relation of deprivation with respect to non-tribal people. The other view is that in India, the continuities between tribes and castes are so much that it often becomes difficult to distinguish (or separate) one from the other. Not only is this the experience of contemporary students of tribal societies, but was also of the census enumerators in the late 19th century. Often, communities were arbitrarily listed as tribes (or castes), and this decision was left to the percep-tion of the local community by the individ-ual enumerator. There have been cases of communities classified as tribes in one state and as castes in another. Tribes and Castes: IdentitiesThe presence of the continuities between tribes and castes did not imply that there were no differences between them. The differences existed, and there were “real communities” that approximated (and, in same cases, were the ideal types of) the textbook definition of tribe. However, a large number of communities, classified as “tribal”, dwelt in close proximity to “caste” communities, having long-standing relations of exchange with them. These re-lations have obviously contributed towards a myriad of similarities between them, thus bringing castes and tribes closer, leading to a deviation of both the social formations from their ideal definitions. The important point, however, is that albeit these similar-ities, the tribes have tried to maintain their respective identities, and sodocastes.The conclusion from this observationisthatit Vinay Kumar Srivastava ( is with the Department of Anthropology, University of Delhi, Delhi.
PERSPECTIVEDecember 13, 2008 EPW Economic & Political Weekly30is not a worthless exercise to think in terms of the social and cultural indices that constitute a tribe in relationship to a caste. The blurring of the social categories does not imply their complete merging. Tribes and castes constituting as two types of the social formation is still a relevant point of departure to understand contem-porary India, and therefore the matter of definition should not beskirted. The draft notes that the criteria the Lokur Committee has evolved for declaring a particular community as a ST are: (i) an ensemble of primitive traits, (ii) distinc-tive culture, (iii) geographical isolation, (iv) shyness of contact with the outside world, and (v) backwardness. Immediately after delineating them, the draft notices that “even all these broad criteria are not applicable to Scheduled Tribes today” (p 2). On page 21, it says: “The criteria laid down by the Lokur Committee are hardly relevant today. For instance, very few tribes can to-day be said to possess ‘primitive traits’.” ‘Primitive Traits’Two questions emerge at this juncture: first, which of the above criteria are rele-vant today for defining a tribal community, and which of them have become defunct? Second, what is meant by “primitive traits”? Which characteristics of a commu-nity deserve to be designated as primitive? For instance, is honour killing or polyandry a primitive trait? Many of the traits that are found in the so-called primitive societies, because of which they are also called prim-itives, may also be found among the con-temporary affluent and patriarchal socie-ties. Ironically, when these characteristics are found among the latter, they are not called primitive. In the context of definition, we need to use concepts that have an opera-tional value, i e, they are given an empirical content, and with their help, we are able to classify societies as objectively as possible. The word primitive to be used for certain kinds of societies came into vogue in the latter half of the 19th century during the colonial era. The Victorian scholars were interested in finding out the stages through which human society had passed before it reached its then extent state. It was also thought that the non-western societies (of Africa, Asia, Oceania, Latin America) of that time were the “remains”, “survivals”, “social fossils”, and “vestiges” of the prehistoric ages, and their intensive study would illuminate the past of the Victorian society. The term primitive was, therefore, used in a temporal sense. One expected that the decline of evolu-tionism would also imply that the word primitive would not be used for non- west-ern, simple and preliterate societies. In the era of post-evolutionism, they would not be viewed as remnants of the past, but rather as contemporaries of the western world. The fact that they practised forag-ing, were preliterate, had a small popula-tion and a simple technology, and changed less in comparison to the wider world, was because of their isolation and the homeo-static equation they maintained with their habitats, and not because they were sur-vivals of the past ages. Using the word primitive for our contemporaries is para-doxical, and it justly deserves elimination from our vocabulary for defusing simple, preliterate societies. Alas! It did not happen. Classical evolu-tionism was debunked, but certain terms it popularised (such as primitive, savage) continued to be used for simple societies. It is unsurprising then that the Lokur Committee defined a tribe in terms of the primitive traits, without realising that the word primitive is undeservedly used for contemporary communities. Moreover, the draft also notes that: the words – such as primitive, backward, savage – used for describing tribal communities are pejora-tive. The draft, at one place, notes that the value-loaded and disparaging terms used for defining tribes “need to be replaced with terms that are not derogatory” (p 2). At another place, it notes that since the cri-teria that the Lokur Committee has put for-ward have lost their relevance today, there is a need to identify other “accurate crite-ria” (p 21). One expected that the draft would give some suggestions in this re-gard, but it leaves it to the future delibe-rations on this subject. However, in the beginning, it tries to offer a definitional perspective on tribal communities, which deserves a few comments. 3 A FrozenPictureThe draft notes that tribal communities:are known to dwell in compact areas, follow a community way of life, in harmony with nature, and have a uniqueness of culture, distinctive customs, traditions and beliefs which are simple, direct and non-acquisitive by nature (p 2).Anthropological writings, popular arti-cles, and coffee-table books on tribes rein-force certain images in which they wish to project them. These writings and pictures earnestly wish to captivate the readers’ attention, thereby promoting their sale. For serving this interest, it would be better if they succeeded in capturing the “bizarre-ness” of tribes, showing them as head-hunters, tattooed, cannibals, practising some strangest forms of marriage and with their family, cooking, disposing of their dead, wearing more of jewellery than clothes, and living in compact pock-ets, having least communication with the outside world. These are the images in which non-tribals wish to see their tribal brethren. Therefore, notwithstanding the changes of vast scale and magnitude that the tribal society is experiencing all over the world, the irony is that the writers on the tribes (and their photographers) wish to keep them “frozen”, in the repre-sentations of “oddities”, as “romantically different and bewitching” as they could be. Not only that, we have also come across cases where tribal leaders and entrepreneurs try to preserve certain as-pects of their traditional culture (calling them “pristine”), for it has a roaring mar-ketable value. Cultures are showcased for the market. The above quotation from the draft is another example of a frozen picture of tribes. Contrary to this, empirical studies point out that no more are tribal commu-nities in “compact areas”. The “community way of living” has also broken down. Tribal families are moving out of their areas in search of jobs, and sometimes they have to travel thousands of kilome-tres to reach a suitable location where their never-ending struggle for survival begins. The hold of their respective com-munities over their lives has weakened, as they are unable to protect the interests of the tribal family and they are not able to provide them a living with dignity. Tribal territories now have residents from vari-ous shades of life and strata, who not only make fun of tribal customs and prac-tices, but also take advantage of their
PERSPECTIVEEconomic & Political Weekly EPW December 13, 200831powerlessness and gullibility. For giving way to several development projects, al-most 40% of the persons permanently displaced from their native habitats are tribal, who are now dispersed in differ-ent parts of the country, painfully searchingfor opportunities to get two square meals.The draft notices that tribes are scattered “over all the States/Union Terri-tories,except Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, and the Union Territories of Pondicherry andChandigarh” (p 2). While these three states and two union territories do not have the native communities scheduled as tribes, a large number of tribespersons from other parts of the country have moved to these metropolises where they work as domestic and shop servants, rickshaw-pullers, loaders and coolies, vendors of newspapers and magazines at traffic signals, and many of them have ended on the breadline, as beggars, desti-tute, sex-workers, organ-sellers, and even petty deviants and criminals. The harrow-ing experiences of these people – of under-payment, being ridiculed, scourges of dehumanisation, the constant beatings and abuses they receive from their employers and law-enforcing agencies, the sexual exploitation their women and children undergo – have yet to be ethno-graphically captured. The tribal migrants are permanent. No economic and social resources are left in their native places to which they can hope-fully return for survival. What reigns there is poverty, but the cities to which they have migrated at least guarantees their basic survival, at least they would not die of hunger. The draft should have thought about these people, whose number in the metropolises is multiplying every year, but no census is available on them. Their na-tive areas are either being sacrificed at the altar of development or have become al-most irrevocably impoverished because of ceaseless crop failures and unfavourable ecological factors. In the name of “devel-opment for national interests”, the tribes have been the biggest – and the most muted – losers. Today, when the cities, metro-and megapolises, are swelling with the unremitting streams of enduring tribal migrants, it becomes all the more impor-tant that the interests of these people are vouchsafed forever. It would be possible when the tribal world is viewed as perpet-ually in dynamism rather than a closed, stable, and frozen entity, and special schemes and laws are devised for safe-guarding its interests. 4 UnderstandingTribalCultureTribal culture today cannot be described as unique. Half a century ago, one could still speak a little authoritatively of the culture of a tribal community, in contrast to the culture of their neighbours. The anthropological monographs produced during the first half of the 20th century were a good example of tribal exoticism, where it was clear that a tribal commu-nity could be studied without referring to the outside world. The skein of thought running through these studies was of anthropological holism – a tribal society was a “complete society”, and not “part-society with part-culture” as was a peas-ant society, and therefore, it could be studied in isolation from the wider world with which it hardly had any networks and linkages. Although this was the typical anthropo-logical practice, I am quite sceptical of the view that when anthropologists explored the tribal world, it was a complete isolate. Even then, it had relations of reciprocity, or of raiding and attack, with other communi-ties in their neighbourhood. An under-standing of their relationship, thus, was essential for an understanding of either of them. However, as these communities dwelling the same space were of the same scale and followed by and large a similar economy, the differences between them were not as pronounced as were between them and the fully settled agricultural communities or the townspeople. Changes in the ways of living were surely surfacing because of inter-neighbourly relations. Innovations made in one were being car-ried to the other, where they were modi-fied, adapted to the local reality. Cultures were always porous, but the changes were so minor, and also minutely visible, that they were almost relegated to the back-seat. Against this backdrop emerged the perspective of anthropological holism and structural-functional approach, yielding certain notions about tribes which were far from being true.Neither are tribal traditions and beliefs “simple” nor are they “direct”, as the draft says. Tribal cosmologies are highly com-plex, requiring an intensive anthropologi-cal study. So much are they embedded in the unconscious mind of their authors that they require a detailed study, uncovering each of its layers one by one till one reached the basic principles of their or-ganisation. It seems to me that those who have characterised tribal beliefs as “sim-ple” have at the back of their minds the evolutionary ideas – the tribal societies are simple and in course of time, become “complex”. They are “juveniles” of the evolving human society; hence, every-thing they have (technology, material cul-ture, ideology, beliefs and practices) is simple and direct. The stereotypes about which I spoke earlier are further rein-forced by the terms and expressions we have used for them. Value-Loaded AssumptionsOne of the greatest services we may render to a proper and realistic understanding of tribal society is by refraining from using value-loaded assumptions, irrespective of whether they are positive or negative, such as the ones the draft notes: tribal way of life is “woven around harmony with and preservation of nature” (p 3); tribes-persons have “innate skills” (p 12); they have “innate communitarianism, the ethos of caring for, and sharing with oth-ers” (p 13); they have “egalitarianism, con-cern for the environment” (p 20). What is being submitted here is that various institutions may be built on the basis of these characteristics which are innate to tribespersons; for example, the insti-tution of tribal cooperatives and the credit system may be constructed on the values of community-living, caring for others, and sharing the gains with co-villagers (p 13). Here, it may be pointed out that these traits generally attributed to the “col-lective personality” of tribals have also been given to non-tribal, peasant and rural people. How they become the diacritical characteristics of tribes-persons is stated nowhere. Do we as-cribe these properties in general terms to traditional societies, and since trib-als happen to be one of its examples,
PERSPECTIVEDecember 13, 2008 EPW Economic & Political Weekly32that they also have them? In that sense, these characteristics certainly do not become the diagnostic traits of tribal societies. Moreover, they are not more than a set of assumptions about tribes transmitted with each generation of anthropological writings. We have always thought in terms of dichotomies: what tribals have the non-tribals lack. So, if tribals (as a type of tra-ditional society) have community living, the people on the opposite pole are “indivi-dualistic”; if tribals conserve their envi-ronment, their polar opposite indulges in wanton destruction; if tribals respect their elders, the non-tribals reject them as “unwanted species”; if tribals have sub-sistence economy, the non-tribals have market-oriented economy. This mode of dualistic thinking has damaged our understanding, since it has not taken into cognisance the fact that the charac-teristics attributed to a society falling in proximity to one pole in juxtaposi-tion to the other may in fact be present in the other. Each society is a fair mix ofavariety of characteristics, of which some are accentuated at a particular time because of its habitat, available op-portunities, interaction with other socie-ties, the role of the externally situated political state, and the ideology of inte-grating societies or leaving them as they are. If tribes did not have the concept of money at one time, it was because they did not need it, and also they were not a part of the monetised economy, but once they became, they have learnt the princi-ples of its operation and value. Such con-ceptions widen the gap between “what usedtobe” and “what is”.Negative AttributesTribes had internal feuds, raids, plunder-ing, institution of slavery and public kill-ing of slaves, body mutilations, repressive laws, harsh punishments, lack of indivi-dual freedom, destruction of property, and all those practices that would make one think de novo about the image of tribal folks as “noble savages”. Neither did they lack competitive spirit nor were they egalitarian. Many spatial movements of the sections of tribes owed their gene-ses to internal differences and persisting conflicts between them. By colonising newer territories, sub-tribes of a tribe be-came autonomous tribes, with different names, although in cultural terms, they continued to share several similarities with the parent tribe. My submission is that the contemporary tribal reality is different from what the draft tries to present by taking an easy recourse to the stereotypes that anthropo-logical and popular writings have time and again reinforced. Its suggestion is that for defining the tribal society, “more accurate criteria need to be fixed”, but I think it will be possible when we think anew, transcending the popular discourse and images about tribes. I do not think that contemporary tribes want to see them in the mould in which anthropologists have depicted them from the colonial times. Unfortunately, although anthropologists have tried their best, they have not been able to dissociate the concept of tribe from the lurking of primitivism, which, as a matter of fact, is the focus of attention having great commercial and marketable potentiality. Oddities sell. If being peculiar and bizarre brings money, why should not one be? 5 StigmatisationThe draft notes the diversity of STs and their increasing number over time. That each tribe has a set of specific needs, re-quiring a specific programme for its de-velopment, is undisputed, but then, there are certain needs that all tribes have, and therefore, they must be incorporated in every programme for tribal development; for instance, the alleviation of poverty, restoration of cultivable land to them, safeguarding of their rights in forests, pro-tecting them from exploitation and oppre-ssion by usurpers of their land, money-lenders, liquor vendors, etc. However, certain tribes are victims of problems, which perhaps they do not share with other tribes, emerging out of their historically conditioned existence, leading to their stigmatisation, that require very special schemes and change in mindsets of people. We have here in mind the exam-ples of de-notified communities, and no-madic and semi-nomadic tribes. I think that most writers on tribal issues (and so does the draft) forget de-notified com-munities. Their sufferings and episodes of de-humanisation are heart-rending. Being victims of the “stigma of crimi-nality”, their community suffers as a whole for the prohibited deeds, in case committed, by one of their members, or even when the deed was not committed by any one of them. The so-called “no-madic” and “semi-nomadic” communi-ties suffer from the same stigmas. The erstwhile relations of synergism the no-madic and semi-nomadic pastoralists had with peasant and farming communi-ties have now become one of hostility V. V. Giri National Labour Institute, NOIDACourse on Quantitative Methods in Labour Research(January 5-16, 2009)V. V. Giri National Labour Institute, NOIDA invites applications from young researchers, teachers and faculty members in colleges, universities and research institutions to participate in a Course on Quantitative Methods in Labour Research during January 5-16, 2009. The objectives of the programme are to: (a) equip the participants with various quantitative research tools used in labour research; (b) orient the participants on the major sources of data on labour; (c) familiarise the participants with major statistical packages used in labour research. No programme fee will be charged and the selected candidates would be paid second-class sleeper Rail/Bus fare from their place of work to NOIDA. Minimum qualification for the applicants is a Masters Degree in Social Sciences, with some orientation on statistical and quantitative methods. The participants will be provided free boarding and lodging at the Institute’s Campus. Interested candidates may send their application with a brief C.V. at the earliest by email (not later than 23rd December) addressed to Dr. Babu P. Remesh/Mr. Anoop Kumar Satpathy, Course Directors, V. V. Giri National Labour Institute, Sector-24, NOIDA-201301, (0120-2411533-35; Ext: 205/238 Fax: 0120- 2411469, E-mail:
PERSPECTIVEEconomic & Political Weekly EPW December 13, 200833and antagonism. The agriculturists want to drive them out of their areas the moment they see them. No more are they considered useful depositors of animal manure, but a nuisance to the germinat-ing or standing fields. The result is that each year conflicts – often bloodied – take place between peregrinating pastoralists and peasants, and the intensity of these conflicts is becoming more and more seri-ous with the passage of time. The draft, under its Section 20 titled “Scheduling and De-scheduling of Tribes”, inserts two points (20.8 and 20.9) on nomadic tribes. The observation that they occupy the “lowest position” in society is not correct. In fact, they are placed at the middle levels of caste hierarchy, and in some parts of India, are quite respected for their occupation as well as demeanor. For instance, the Rabari of Gujarat are considered to be the “trustworthy confi-dants” of Rajputs (Srivastava 1997). They have the same image in Rajasthan, al-though they are not included in the list of STs. While it is true that many of them do not own or possess land rights or house titles, it is not quite right to say that they are “constantly on move” and do not have “any single place or state of domicile”. The usual pattern among them is that they return to their permanent abodes (lo-cated in one or the other states of India) after the grazing expedition, just before the onset of monsoon rains, and after the harvest, they restart it, usually after the festival of lights (Diwali). Each of these communities belongs to a village, where it has its dwellings. It may also be noted that among these communities, not every one moves: women, old, infirm, and diseased people, and children continue to live in their permanent habitations. Even when the graziers do not return to their villages with their animals, since they are too large in number to be herded back, and they continue to move around for the en-tire year in the grazing lands, their rela-tions with their villages remain intact. Herdsmen are periodically replaced; some return to villages for an errand or agri-cultural work. Furthermore, as conflicts between pastoralists and agricultural com-munities are intensifying, more and more able-bodied men are being entrustedwith the tasks of managing the migratory herds. Women are being more and more withdrawn from these migratory groups. When revised, the draft should take up the problems of the de-notified and no-madic and semi-nomadic communities in separate sections, rather than including them under a section, as it has done now, where they do not deserve to be placed. One of its main purposes should be to focus on the in-terests of the communities which are mar-ginalised among the tribes in general.6 Primitive TribalGroupsSection 12 of the draft deals with the prim-itive tribes or primitive tribal groups (PTGs), a list of 75STs, created in 1973, which are supposed to be more backward than the others. The following criteria havegenerally been used for their classi-fication, (i) pre-agricultural level; (ii)dwell-ing isolated and remote habitations; (iii)small number; and (iv) near-constant or declining population; (v) low levels of literacy; and (vi) economic and social backwardness. Regarding the criteria for their identification, the draft notes that they “suffer from lack of specificity”. Should they be redressed, and an at-tempt made to evolve specific and opera-tional criteria? With respect to this question, the draft submits that there is no need to undertake this attempt, since presently, there is no proposal to add any more communities to the list of primitive tribes. But, if tomor-row a need to identify some more primi-tive tribes comes up, then we should have with us the criteria ready for our task. Whether or not the need exists now, the concepts in currency must be properly defined, even when they first came into existence they were not defined properly or the criteria by which they were defined were remote from being specific. One of our expectations from the draft was that it would offer working definitions of the concepts used in understanding tribal communities rather than just admitting that the criteria used so far lacked specifi-city and operational value.Prejudices and NomenclaturesFurther, the draft suggests that since the word primitive has “derogatory over-tones”, it must be changed. Retaining the same acronym,PTGs, it suggests that these communities may be called “Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups”, although it also submits, for reasons not given, that this change in name “may be merely cosmetic” (p 15). Does it mean that in spite of this change in name, the same images would continue? Does it mean that nomenclature will not exorcise the prejudices forever? In a one-day seminar that the Indian Anthro-pological Association had organised on 24 April 2006, B K Roy Burman had proposed that because of the pejorative connota-tion, the term “primitive tribes” should be changed to “vulnerable tribes”. Reacting to his proposal, my submission was that vulnerability is a relativistic condition. Each community is vulnerable to internal as well as external forces, however its strength to withstand them varies. More-over, we lack universal criteria to measure the degree of vulnerability. The main idea behind the list of primi-tive tribes is that these communities de-mand special attention from the state be-cause they lag far behind the other STs in the indices of development. They are “more vulnerable to hunger, starvation, malnutrition, and ill health”. One may re-fer here to the analogical (or, rather euphemistic) distinction that Bhupinder Singh (1990) has made between two types of tribal communities: first, those that de-mand the “first-aid treatment” (which means little help); and second, those which require “hospitalisation” (i e, proper intensive care). The primitive tribes, he thinks, fall in the second category. Inci-dentally, he also proposes that they may be called the “primary tribes”. I think the idea behind the nomenclature is far more important than the name. Unfortunately, when we discard one term, we look for an alternative of an equivalent length – so, the acronym PTGs should remain, al-though the words may change, as the draft has proposed, or the term primitive tribes is replaced by primary tribes. All terms have limitations. And concepts are not vacuous, which means that each one of them projects a particular image (and also, carries a set of stereotypes). Whether we use the term “particularly vulnerable tribal groups”, or “primary tribes”, or think of any other equivalent, the images behind them remain the same.
PERSPECTIVEEconomic & Political Weekly EPW December 13, 200835Research, University Grants Commission, Indian Council of Medical Research) should give grant for working on these communities, and also promote the publi-cation of unpublished research reports on them that may be lying in libraries and re-search organisations. In addition, univer-sity anthropology departments should give priority to the study of the PTGs. Collectively we would be able to gene-rate data required for formulating plans for the survival and development of these communities. 8 ConclusionsThe goals of the tribal policy document are: to improve upon the quality of life of tribal people; to see that the benefits of development reach them and all tribes develop equally, so that there is no hierarchy among them; in spite of these massive changes taking place among them, the tribal culture should remain, so balance is obtained between development and culture; and finally, the part (the tribe) should be integrated to the whole (the mainstream, the total society). A policy should be holistic; it is a total document, covering all aspects of the lives of people. Irrespective of the social sector to which it concerns, a policy should pro-vide a road map for development and should delineate the guidelines for work. Being a model for action, it is a formal declaration of intent; that is why it must be written down so that it is a constant re-minder, and it also sanctions that one does not deviate from the goals collectively agreed upon. Embodying the values of so-ciety, although charted out by the govern-ment, it is for the other institutions (and their personnel) to implement it. They have to develop sensitivity to tribes and the work to be carried out among them. Unless the policy is translated into action, it will be nothing but a sheet of paper, an academic and literary exercise, and an end in itself. Defining Operational TermsThe draft begins with, as we noted ear-lier, a dilemma, which is to strike the right balance between protecting tribal culture, values, and identity, on the one hand, and ensuring their integration to themainstream, on the other. But which concept of the mainstream do the authors of the draft have in mind is stated no-where. It is well known that mainstream is a multi-meaning concept, and its empir-ical connotation differs from one commu-nity to another. Or, does the term main-stream mean the modern institutions, such as the educational system, healthcare system, income-generational practices, secular and democratic systems? More-over, the areas where the tribes are in ma-jority, or in tribal states, they constitute the mainstream. Mainstream is such a piv-otal concept in the entire discourse that its meaning cannot be left to the imagina-tion. Rather, it must be discussed thread-bare, so that any misconceptions that peo-ple across the country have about it may be laid to rest. The draft should clearly state what is meant by the term main-stream, and if it is difficult to define it in operational terms then it may be dropped, and we should think in terms of the insti-tutions that should be strengthened to help tribal communities, elevating them to the level of the general population. At no step should the tribes feel that certain values and practices are being imposed upon them.With respect to preserving the tribal culture, a pertinent question is: “Who is interested in preserving the culture?” Here, rather than the outsiders deciding which aspects of their culture should be preserved, and which changed, it is for the community to take decisions pertaining to these questions. People might like to dis-card some of their practices, though these might have been central to their culture at one time. People also know, and they do not need an outsider to tell them this, that over time some of their customs and ways of behaviour become anachronistic; they need to be weeded out. To assume that people are conservative and wish to cling to their past practices, or are closed to ra-tional thinking, is blatantly wrong. In fact, this assumption has grotesquely contri-buted to the paternalistic attitude the out-siders (particularly, bureaucrats) have for tribespersons. In the orientalist construc-tion, the other is frozen, unmoving, and non-rational. The orientalists (and some anthropologists) have time and again sub-scribed to this image, for it has quenched the academic romanticism of the outsiders. The other is enigmatic in this discourse. The Tribal VoiceBut, the reality is not this. Tribes have themselves done a lot for their own im-provement – they have led movements for environmental protection, saving their cultural and human rights, throwing the exploiters out of their territories, regain-ing rights over their lost land and other resources, closing liquor shops in their area, curbing practices of conspicuous consumption, and putting a full stop to all those practices that reduce their respect in the eyes of others. In other words, peo-ple are themselves capable of having a criti-cal and introspective look at their cultures, and changing it endogenously. They know that in course of time, some strands of their culture would be lost, once and forever, and they would never regret this loss. This dy-namic reality of tribal living is missing in the draft; what it lacks is the “tribal voice”; what one hears is the discourse of the bureau-crats. Throughout the text runs the “we-they” distinction; what we (the outsiders) think about what they (the tribes) want; and what we think tribes should be given. That is why the draft may not give confidence to the tribal people, notwithstanding its good intentions and suggestions. In order to improve upon it, to make it closer to the tribal heart and mind, one in which the tribes discover themselves, their images, aspirations, and soul, it is imperative that their reactions and re-sponses are sought and incorporated. The tribal issues should be made public; only then the public awareness will increase. We wish to attract private companies to invest for tribal infrastructural develop-ment, but it would only be possible if they have a sympathetic understanding of tribalsocieties. Tribal issues needtobe centred and discussed at length.ReferencesBéteille, André (2000):Chronicles of Our Time (Penguin Books).Singh, Bhupinder (1990): “Between Two Worlds, Five Ancient Tribal Groups of Andaman and Nicobar Islands” in Buddhadeb Chaudhuri (ed),Tribal Transformation in India (Volume 1: Economy and AgrarianIssues) (New Delhi: Inter-India Publications).Srivastava, Vinay Kumar (1997): Religious Renun-ciation of a Pastoral People (Delhi: Oxford Univer-sity Press).

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