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

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The Fate of the Adivasi Collective Rights in Telangana under the Regimes of Property Rights

The Lost Ground

The Adivasis of India have a long history of collective community rights over forest resources and land. The colonial state revenue and forest regulations replaced these community collective rights with the individual property rights, which ceased Adivasi free access to resources and evicted them from their land by force. To undo the historical wrongs, the postcolonial state had intervened with a programme of “right approach” under which Adivasi rights over forest resources and land was ensured. But, this was again stalled by its institutions and legal system. Thus, we need to think about Adivasi collective rights beyond the state legal framework which can ensure them free use of resources in forests and hills.

The recent Supreme Court judgment on the Adivasi forest rights and the implementation of Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act of 2006 has to be understood from a historical perspective. How once an autonomous and self-governing community was reduced to acute poverty is a matter of concern. The recent high-level committee report on the status of “tribes” of India chaired by Virginius Xaxa has ventilated how the Adivasis have been dispossessed systematically in postcolonial India. According to this report, the Adivasis stand at the bottom in all development indicators (Xaxa 2014). The Adivasis are reduced to such acute poverty because there is a mismatch between what is taken away from the Adivasis by the State and, in turn, what is offered to them. The state had first taken away Adivasis’ land and forest rights and made them poor and now doing patch work to repair the wounds inflicted in the name of development. The fact that the modern state (the colonial state in case of India) had systematically replaced the collective community rights over land and forest resources with that of the individual property rights, made the communities vulnerable. To understand the present predicaments of the Adivasis, it is important to examine the trajectory of the dispossession of the Adivasis in history. It is in this background we examine the fate of Adivasi collective rights in the Telangana region of erstwhile Hyderabad state.

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Updated On : 9th Apr, 2020

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