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

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Restoring the Silenced Voice of the Beda Tribe in Ladakh

Several Indian tribes are now at the threshold of assimilation with the larger dominant groups neighbouring them, while many who have succeeded in preserving their tribal identity and maintaining a continuity with adapting to the values of modern culture are finding it difficult to survive as they have in the past. There are very few tribes that earn their livelihood by performing art and music, and one such tribe is the Beda of Ladakh, which is on the verge of extinction. The low-income occupation and social exclusion of the Beda tribe invite the attention of the present paper. It also tries to underline the settlement of the Bedas in Ladakh, different factors that caused the decline in their musical tradition, and the shift in their occupational orientation like intra-societal marginalisation, discrimination, extraneous cultural inroads, etc.

This paper is based on an Indian Council Social Science Research (ICSSR)-sponsored major research project submitted in December 2015.

The author would like to thank the anonymous referee who provided useful suggestions and asked for clarifications for certain arguments in the original manuscript. The author would also like to express his gratitude to Shreeya Bakshi, assistant professor in the Department of Sociology, Central University of Himachal Pradesh, Dharamshala, for providing literature on the oral tradition of the Bedas.

Tribes with distinct cultures have their own neighbourhoods on account of distant locations and remoteness. They develop socio-economic symbiotic relations with each other and remain equally prone to the external influences of more developed communities around, especially with ­regard to the issues of science, technology, market, and culture. The interactions of tribes with the new entrants make them adaptive as well as resistive in the course of their social relationships. The patterns of relationships of these groups largely depend on the nature of their societies, functional structures, and the occupational practices.

In India, tribes have been studied from different perspectives. Ethnography of primitive tribes became a major part of the investigation of scholars during the early decades of India’s independence. Religion and magic, family and kinship, eco­nomy, political institutions, law, and other institutions were also the basis of their study to strengthen the concepts, theories, and methods of anthropo-sociological enquiry (Thapar 1996). While in India, tribes have been differently classified on the bases of geography, race, language, stages of development, economic conditions, and culture, the actual state of tribes has vacillated somewhat between significant isolation to acculturation and even assimilation.

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Updated On : 23rd Jan, 2023
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