Opinion: Tribal Exclusion and Inclusion in Indian Nation Building

The evolution from an extremely organized and established inter-ethnic, corporate rich class framework of multidimensional politics to an unstructured and homogeneous tribal politics incited by the growth of social and economic dissatisfaction and Adivasis consciousness one hand and corporate, capitalist domination on the other .the two arguments are closely related to a process of alienation and exclusion of Adivasis in Indian Politics.

By Ramdas Rupavath  Published on  13 Dec 2020 3:42 AM GMT
Opinion: Tribal Exclusion and Inclusion in Indian Nation Building
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PC: Vikas Choudhary/Down To Earth

The evolution from an extremely organized and established inter-ethnic, corporate rich class framework of multidimensional politics to an unstructured and homogeneous tribal politics incited by the growth of social and economic dissatisfaction and Adivasis consciousness one hand and corporate, capitalist domination on the other .the two arguments are closely related to a process of alienation and exclusion of Adivasis in Indian Politics. The new promises have resulted in nation-building, national unity have split the Adivasi community emphasized the processes of division, impoverishment and alienation of the majority of people.

Studies on the tribes of India have gradually increased since the post-independence. Different scholars have interpreted tribal people in different ways. Some scholars have romanticized the literature by painting an idyllic picture of a primitive and simple life of dance and song, of ritual and colour. However, prominent social science scholars have essentially provided factual or strong empirical knowledge of socio-cultural, economic, and political issues of tribal areas, highlighting different forms of exploitation, underdevelopment, poverty, and vulnerability. The problem of alienation in tribal areas, as viewed by various researchers, is not a mere "structuralist-legalist" one, but a much more deeply connected phenomenon full of contradictions relating to the existing socio-economic order. The separation of natural resources from tribal communities can be understood in a more scientific way with the assistance of theoretical formulations of the concept of alienation. Hence, in this chapter, an attempt is made to analyze the problem of tribal autonomy in the light of understanding the theoretical formulations of alienation and private property. Thus, there is a reason to examine the theoretical concept of alienation in a democratic society and its application to the problem of natural resources in tribal areas.

The political system of depending on capital, and land being in the hands of the corporate sectors and multinational companies, has resulted in structural inequities that further create social injustice. Politics in the scheduled areas are much more important. The structural inequalities that occur in the name of growth affect a large number of resources and large masses of Adivasi communities and mineral-rich forests. Globalization brought about rapid changes for the Indian marginalized groups. This led to new identity movements, including the introduction of various development and welfare programmes to counter the social movements.

Though land and forest are the only sources of their livelihood, this has become much more acute in the present stage of the economy. The tribal communities, by and large, have lost their land and forests in states like Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Telengana, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha, and also in Northeast India, which have large tribal areas. The unfortunate development is that the people migrating to tribal areas have displaced indigenous people and this displacement has taken different forms, for example through large-scale industries, dams, wildlife sanctuaries, mining, international airports, and road expansions by the capitalist class. The Adivasis have been displaced from their land, but these displaced people are given neither rehabilitation nor proper compensation. Globalization mainly concentrates on mining backed by multi-national companies, and on the other hand, results in poverty, hunger, violence, and anti-social elements in rural areas.13

The problem of the alienation of natural resources in tribal areas has not been adequately dealt with by researchers. It is not a mere structural or legal problem, but a much more deeply connected phenomenon, full of contradictions related to the existing socio-economic order. The separation of land from tribal communities can be understood in a more substantive scientific manner with the help of the theoretical formulation of the concept of alienation. As Satyadeva has pointed out, alienation is inherent in exploitative ways of production, and its nature varies. Hence, there are also differences among various societies based on slavery and serfdom.

The discussion on alienation is presented here in two parts. The first part looks at the process of the alienation of natural resources in tribal areas, and the second, at the forms and effect of this alienation. In tribal communities, this can be examined through the concept of land alienation. The landholding system, which is a network of human relationships pertaining to the control and use of the land, has always been a major factor conditioning the socio-economic and political order of the day. Land being the major source of livelihood for the vast majority of the Indian peasantry, it assumes great importance in their lives. But in an economy dominated by private property dealings, the concentration of land in the hands of a few would be the net result. This creates an artificial scarcity of land and a majority of people who are in need of land. Land at this stage becomes a commodity and also a source of exploitation, which necessarily results in the perpetuation of many kinds of inequality among the people. The level of production and ownership over the means of production and the way in which the products are distributed as a whole besides supplying them among the different classes of society for their daily and essential needs. Land concentration, particularly in the hands of a few, results in structural inequalities that further engulf the disparities concerning land. It is this context of the broader spectrum of land disparities that exist in Indian society. The structural changes regarding land which have occurred in the plain areas of India since the colonial period have invariably affected the neighboring forest regions where large masses of tribal communities reside.

The process of land alienation has manifested itself mainly in the large-scale migration of tribal communities from fertile plain areas to the neighboring forests. The structural changes occurring in the plain areas have been responsible for this shift, and they have also affected the lives of tribals living in the forest. These changes introduced rapid capital investment, irrigation facilities, railway and communication facilities, sale and purchase of lands, and the creation of certain land systems like Zamindari and ryotwari systems. These pre-independence changes were later on supplemented by changes in the post-independence period which led to the pauperization of the Indian tribes. This, in turn, led to numerous tribal revolts by different Adivasi groups and individuals for different reasons at different times. This led to the Indian state adopting a policy of enactment of various land and forest laws. In this period, various developmental institutions came into existence in the form of credit networks to counter rural debt and to reduce the role of moneylenders, such as the Small Farmers Development Agency. These and other associated changes in the post-independence period should be taken as variables of a larger agrarian scene while examining the tribal situation and the question of land alienation.

The question of natural resources is not just the result of the existing situation. Its origin may be traced to the periods of deprivation of tribal lands or to periods of withdrawal of their rights to exploit forests. It is being realized that the Tribals have always had a craving a tendency to seek access to land. It is for land that in the last few years, tribes have fought and been massacred. This is due to something more than mere possessiveness. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the more advanced groups forced the Tribals either to retreat to the nearest jungles or to become landless laborers. As land is the only source of their livelihood and their other assets are extremely meager, Tribals were deprived of their way of life. This has become much more acute in the present stage of the commoditized market economy.

Thus, the inference that may be drawn from the data shows that a majority of the scheduled tribes have small-sized landholdings. The data also reveals a gradual deterioration in levels of land ownership among the STs (scheduled tribes). According to a 2011 census of the government of India, there were 84.18 lakh cultivators and 48.32 lakh agricultural laborers among the scheduled tribe workers who constituted about nine-tenths of the total working population. And further, it was observed that in the states where there were large tribal areas, the pattern of continuing to have command over the land, on the one hand, and a high incidence of landlessness on the other could be seen across different regions. However, in many regions, with the development of communications and the intermixing of the population, the situation has further deteriorated. In some of the advanced areas, members of tribal families have been rendered completely landless, and they may not possess even 5 to 10 percent of the total land area.

The migration of non-tribal communities and their land acquisition has also led to a decrease in natural resources. This phenomenon was as dominant in the 1990s as it was in the 1960s and prior to that. After the 1960s, land alienation took a different turn, where it was accompanied by much-renewed industrial activity, which has established the contractual co-existence of industries. Thus, both the increasing industrial activity backed by foreign capital on the one hand and increasing disparities in the countryside on the other, which has progressively resulted in the impoverishment of lower-middle-class peasantry in the plains, have forced the non-Tribals to look for alternative lands. This alternative source was available in the forests in the tribal areas. This process, therefore, resulted in the de-peasant nation of the tribal communities in Andhra Pradesh, in particular, and India in general. While thought must be given, and many experiments must be made, as to how to bring about a synthesis between people's sovereignty and state sovereignty, the issues that currently affect the lives of the people in the present case, particularly the indigenous and tribal peoples, require urgent attention. After 74 years of independence, remarkable changes have occurred in the life of the Adivasis. The investment will bring meager changes due to hurdles facing the capitalist system. Despite the changes in the tribal way of life, the majority are suffering for the advantage of the minority. Unless and until the state will solve those problems faced by the Adivasi society, the capitalist economy will progress.

Conflicts over rights of land and other natural resources are arising out of changes in the context of the New Economic Policies (NEP) in India. The changes in the NEP have led to a shift in ownership and control over the resources, means, and methods and the extent of exploitation. These changes are a direct influence of the industrial sector to adopt a free-market-oriented approach. The paradigms of economic development have been removed from community needs and rights, particularly the Adivasis and the Dalits. It is true that the scheduled areas are a repository of rich natural resources. Traditional agriculture, the indigenous knowledge system, livelihoods, land, forest, and water have been brutally overridden by these capitalist forces. Experiences of all these communities have been shown to be similar in that the state has transferred control of the resources from communities and even from itself to industries and private institutions. The resources were exploited, not because there was an urgent and immediate need for their utilization, and there was no long-term plan for the utilization of these resources. Commercialization and commoditization of resources became the primary concern without ensuring that the resources were available and sustained for optional usage and for the benefit of the majority. Observations have further verified that the resources conserved for millions of years were exploited, and this has led to aggravated poverty and unemployment, while the corporate sector and the rich class have prospered enormously. This extreme exploitation has created anti-social elements, violence, and political disturbances. Some of the scheduled areas in India have been witness to such destruction, mainly where mining projects, dams, and sanctuaries were built. In the case of the Polavaram Project which is an under-construction multipurpose national project situated on the Godavari river in the West Godavari district and East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh where most of the targeted displaced people are not willing to leave their habitat. These Tribals have never moved out of their habitat before. So, they panic in such a situation. A total of 276 habitations (147 revenue villages and 129 hamlets) spread over nine mandals in three districts face displacement among the affected population of Polavaram. Among the projected displacement, 61.11 percent are from tribal populations.

Social Scientist often describes the Tribals as savage, uncivilized, primitive, or backward. The traditional description of primitive societies as being non-acquisitive, and not using money or machines, is no longer entirely accepted. Various aspects of the debate concerning class formation in society on the basis of economic determination between rich and poor have resulted in an upsurge of tribal movements. The rich class is destroying the poor class. Harmonious relations among the people have been disturbed because the state is protecting the rich corporate people. Many neo-social movements are emerging for social justice.

Anthropologists often describe the Tribals as savage, uncivilized, primitive, or backward. The traditional description of primitive societies as being non-acquisitive, and not using money or machines, is no longer entirely accepted. Various aspects of the debate concerning class formation in society on the basis of economic determination between rich and poor have resulted in an upsurge of tribal movements. The rich class is destroying the poor class. Harmonious relations among the people have been disturbed because the state is protecting the rich corporate people. Many neo-social movements are emerging for social justice. The ruling class in the Indian political process since independence has adopted a policy of development through modernization. However, the national economy is largely in favor of economic growth, profit, and surplus. Such a policy has used the Tribals for growth, not development. Once upon a time, they were the lords of their resources, but due to modernization, they have been alienated from their lands for various purposes and alienated from their resources without proper rehabilitation or compensation from the state or the corporate class.

There have been many tribal uprisings from a wide variety of starting points. For example, class-based struggles against hegemonies, new assertions from forcibly displaced communities, destruction of the environment and natural resources, tribal uprisings for safeguarding lifestyles, strident defence of cultures, regional identities, and nationalities, all constitute a broad range of popular awakenings, protests and form the social basis of democracy from the early liberal defence of institutional spaces to the more the radical assertion of civil liberties and democratic rights.

References

1.Ghosh Jayanti. (2006). The Right to Work and recent Legislation in India, Social Scientist, Vol. 34, No. ½ Jan-Feb.

2. G. Aloysius (2006) Nationalism without a Nation in India, Oxford University Press, New Delhi.

3. Marangos, John. (2012). Alternative Perspectives of a Good Society. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

4. Ramdas Rupavath (2009). Tribal Land Alienation and Political Movements: Socio-Economic Patterns from South India, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, United Kingdom, 2009.

5. Ramdas Rupavath (2015). The Persistence of Land Alienation: The Experience of Tribal People of Andhra Pradesh", Journal of Asian and African Studies, Sage, 2015, vol.50 (3) [email protected] author(s) 2014.

6. Prabhat Patnaik, Why Recovery at cost of Worker Immiserisation Won't Last long, News Click, 21st November 2020.

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