top of page
Anchor 1

Adivasis in today’s India

The term ‘Adivasi’ means ‘Indegenious People’ or original inhabitants. There are 67.7 million adivasis living in India. Most adivasis in India are now below the poverty line and have no political power. They are seen as ‘backward’, ‘savage’ and ‘conservative’, as termed by colonial anthropologists. This perspective is one-sided, though it could be true. In fact, every time a representative of the government visits them, they are looted of the very few resources that they possess.

There is extremely poor connectivity and there have been negligent attempts made to make them feel inclusive. Despite housing a majority of minerals in the country, these pristine forests lack electricity which is a necessity in the present state of living. Adivasis are deprived of education, healthcare and other luxuries that are basic necessities for the mainstream people who are not forest dwellers. Additionally, a major concern with respect to this is the government has been dealing with adivasis from the materialistic perspective of law and order and hasn’t addressed the insecurities of the adivasis as human beings.

Out of the mainstream society

There are many stereotypes surrounding this community, especially since the country has been developing since the onset of industrialization. Adivasis take great pride in the fact that they protect the natural resources of jal, jungle, jameen (water, forest, land). Over the years, adivasis have always been victims of society’s deeds. The mainstream society has been quite ignorant about adivasis and there have been many steps taken by people to ‘civilize’ people belonging to this community. Under the pretext of doing the same, the mainstream has deprived them of the resources they have been conserving for very long.

The Tribes Advisory Councils (TACs) that have been set up after a great deal of deliberation, have only transferred power from the British rulers to the upper caste population. Laws that are applicable to the rest of the state have been extended to these areas over time and the TACs have almost no power. In fact, the provision of TACs hasn’t been extended to many regions wherein adivasis have been living for years together. This is indicated by the sorrowful conditions that adivasis now live in. This is, largey, because of lack of political will as well as adivasi leaders giving in to corruption.

Article 21 of the Indian Constitution

Adivasis have been deprived of rights over their own lands since time immemorial. Despite having strived so hard to conserve the flora and fauna around, adivasis have been adversely affected by this. As the Supreme Court observed in Olga Tellis vs. Bombay Municipal Corporation, 1985, Article 21 (Right to Life) has many connotations and one of them is ‘Right to Livelihood’. This is being violated in case of adivasis.

Also, in Maneka Gandhi vs. Union of India, the Supreme Court observed that Right to Life also includes ‘Right to Live With Human Dignity’. This has been reiterated in various other cases such as the Francis Coralie Mullin as well as the Bandhua Mukti Morcha cases. And this has, unfortunately, not been applied to adivasis yet.

Article 21 has also been interpreted as the ‘Right to Healthy Environment’ by MC Mehta judgements which is being provided for by the adivasis. Every single resident of the country is losing upon this right by avoidance of expression of these issues. It is not just about adivasis being displaced but also about the environment around us.