Vigil Human Rights Diary - August 2011

Adivasis at the cross roads:

The General Assembly of the United Nations has passed a resolution in 1994 to celebrate August 9 as the Day for the World’s Indigenous People.  The main objective is to acknowledge the significant place that indigenous cultures occupy in the world’s cultural landscape, and the important contribution they make to our rich cultural diversity.  This decade is also the second international decade for indigenous people to highlight and strengthen international cooperation to solve the problems faced by indigenous people in such areas as culture, education, human rights, the environment, and social and economic development.

In India indigenous people are known as ‘adivasis’, the people who are the original inhabitants of the land.  They constitute about 8 per cent of the Indian population – 85 million, living in 15 per cent of geographical area.  They are categorized as ‘adivasis’ or tribals.  Mostly they live in the forest regions of central, eastern and northeastern part of India.

The stock taking of the policies that affect the indigenous people India shows that rather than solving the problems faced by them, there is increased conflict over natural resources in the tribal areas.  This has led to a civil war-like situation, in which the extremists under the banner of naxalites are fighting a pitched battle with the forces of local government.

Amidst the negative policies of the government some positive initiatives stand out as proactive towards tribal communities.  In the North Eastern region, the case of Apa tani tribes in Arunachal Pradesh living in Ziro Valley is a unique example.  They have been allowed self governance with minimal interventions, and protecting them from outside exploitation.  This approach has led to flowering of independent, self-confident community who excel in many fields.  Without losing their tribal values, they have assimilated into the globalised world.

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