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February 2005 Newsletter

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 From the Editor

 Dr. Bipin Jojo, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai

Are We Scheduled Tribes or Adivasis?

The notion of a tribe in India is determined primarily by the political and administrative consideration of uplifting a section of the Indian people which have been remotely situated in the hills and forests and who are backward in terms of the development. Article 342(1) of India provides that the President may with respect of any state or union territory and where it is a state, after consultation with the Governor thereof, by public notification specify the tribes or tribal communities or parts of or groups within tribes or tribal communities which shall for the purpose of this constitution be deemed to be Scheduled Tribes in relation to that state or union territory, as the case may be.  However, the constitution has not laid down any criteria for specification of communities as Scheduled Tribes. The first Backward Classes Commission (Kelkar Commission) appointed by the President of India under Article 340 of the Constitution in 1953 clarifies that –  

Scheduled Tribes lead a separate exclusive existence and are not fully assimilated in the main body of the people.  Scheduled Tribe may belong to any religion.  They are listed as Scheduled Tribe because of the kind of life led by them.  

Despite the fact that the national leaders like Gandhi, Nehru and others have in the course of the freedom struggle identified the tribal people of the country with the term ‘ADIVASI’ and the tribal people identify themselves proudly with it, the term does not have constitutional recognition. The constitutional term is anusuchit janjati (Scheduled Tribe).  This is indicative of the fact that the country is not taking the matter of the Adivasi being the Adi (the earliest, first) vasi (inhabitant) of the country. The signal is clear that the status of being anusuchit i.e. scheduled is a temporary one, and that the remaining janjati makes him part of the jati i.e. caste system of the dominant society.  This is corroborated by the fact that the Adivasis are required to produce a jati pramanpatra (caste certificate) when identifying themselves in connection with applying for admission in schools/colleges and jobs.

As far as the word “Adivasi” is concerned the word is in conformity with our sentiments and we must feel proud of being identified as such. I feel degraded when I see some organisations calling us girijan (hill people) or vanvasi (forest people).

If at any moment our political masters feel like de scheduling any scheduled tribe/s, they will have no place other than falling within the caste hierarchy of Indian society. I am sure the Adivasis will never get recognized as Brahmins or Khsatriyas. They will share the social strata with the scheduled caste brethren who are still considered to be untouchables. be continued in the next issue.

Dr. Bipin Jojo (

Letters to the Editor

WRITE TO THE EDITOR Tribalzone, 704, Sachidanand, Wing A, Raheja Complex, Malad East, Mumbai - 400097 or via the internet to Include name and address. Letters may be edited for clarity and length.

Even in Delhi, I find people afraid of telling their identity that they are Adivasis. A few years back I met an Adivasi IFS officer. When I spoke to him in Sadri, he responded in Hindi only.  Perhaps speaking Sadri would have belittled him. I sincerely feel that  those in senior position should take lead in establishing our culture and language and pass it over to our future generation. - Dr. Vincent Barla, New Delhi

The editorial of January 2005 on the website was very touching, dwelling mainly on the relevance of our cultures and its sustenance.  The modern society of today wants to take away our ancestral belongings from where we originate.  We are so bogged down with the worldly life that we tend to forget our past history and move forward.  I am proud of being born in a Kharia family presently domiciled in Kolkata.  In this metro I really feel great to see so many adivasi families doing so well and at the same time keeping their cultures and tribal traditions intact. Programs are chalked out not for all the 13 festivals but some of them like Karma, Nayakhani, Sarhul, which goes without saying.  In my parish, we have Chotanagpur Welfare Fund, Dafan Sanskar Samiti, etc. which cater to the needs of our adivasi brethren.  Your article is an eye opener for those who feel ashamed to identify themselves as “ADIVASI” and even go to the extent of shortening their surnames which comes from our revered forefathers. - Joseph John Soreng, Kolkata

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WRITE TO FORUM Tribalzone, 704, Sachidanand, Wing A, Raheja Complex, Malad East, Mumbai - 400097 or via the internet to Include name and address. Letters may be edited for clarity and length.

I am concerned about the lack of reliable health information in Jharkhand. I'm not sure about other parts of Chotanagpur but Jharkhand seems to be the worst of the lot. Are there interested health professionals (govt. or NGO) working in Jharkhand to improve the situation? I'll be intersted in working on a simple lay reporting system to begin with. - Shantidani Minz, Faculty of Community Health, CMC, Vellore.
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