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

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Who Is Concerned with Tribal Oppression?

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The recent arrests of some of the leading social activists by the Maharashtra government have been condemned by many, especially because the police has not found any evidence that the activists were collecting arms or actively helping the Maoists in waging a war against the state. Their protests against the continuing pauperisation of tribals in Central India should not be interpreted to mean support for armed struggle and violence. However, advocacy strategy against the continuing vulnerability of the tribals in Central India needs to be reviewed in a wider context. 

India’s high rate of economic growth has not benefited four groups: Muslims, Dalits, women, and tribals. Their problems are different, so is the social context of their subjugation. Of these, Muslims and Dalits face a great deal of bias and discrimination in their daily lives, such as being denied drinking water from the village well, or not being allowed to ride a horse in weddings, or Dalit children being asked to sit separately at school. The police has generally been hostile to Muslims as described by various studies and commission reports on the Hashimpura, Bhagalpur, Bhiwandi, and Gujarat riots. Their problems of discrimination, physical insecurity and loss of livelihoods have considerably increased in the last four years. However, I do not know if the government in the last 70 years has passed any law or adopted a policy which could be interpreted as discriminatory against Dalits and Muslims (except, perhaps, the provision that Dalit Muslims are not included in Scheduled Castes [SCs]), though at the micro and societal levels their problems are immense.

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