INDIA INDIGENOUS PEOPLES

The Indigenous Peoples in India are called by different names such as ‘Tribes’, ‘Primitive’, ‘Tribal,’ ‘Aboriginal,’ ‘Native’, ‘Adivasis’ and so on. Some say, they are “the autochthonous people of the land who are believed to be the earliest settlers in the Indian Peninsula’, prior to the invasions and foreign settlers. At that time, each Indigenous community was a homogenous and self contained unit without any hierarchical discrimination. Each tribe had a chief for its protection. Gradually, the chief assumed political and military power and was recognized as the King / Raja ruler. Thus, there emerged the republics and the monarchies. Indigenous Peoples were associated with large kingdoms. Each tribe had its own system of administration. There was decentralization of authority among the tribes. The traditional tribal institutions were vested with legislative, judicial and executive powers. The ‘Maniki’ - ‘Munda’-’Manjhi’, and ‘Munda- Pahan-Mahto’ system among the Mundas and Santhals, the ‘Padha’ or ‘Parha’ system among the Oraons, the ‘Darbar’ among the PaudiBhuinyas and in North East India, the Panch-Patels among the Bhils are examples of tribal institutions. These are headed by tribal chiefs who exercise considerable influence over social, economic and religious affairs of their respective tribes. There are different theories of tribal existence in India. According to the legendary Tribal leader and Constituency Assembly member Sir Jaipal Singh Munda, The Constituent Assembly was starting the debate on a new Constitution. The icons of the national movement: Nehru, Patel, Prasad, Ambedkar, Sarojini Naidu had spoken on democracy, on fundamental rights, on liberty. And then on December 16th, 1946, the voice of Jaipal Singh was heard for the first time.

“I rise to speak on behalf of millions of unknown hordes - yet very important - of unrecognized warriors of freedom, the original people of India who have variously been known as backward tribes, primitive tribes, criminal tribes and everything else, Sir, I am proud to be a Jungli, that is the name by which we are known in my part of the country. As a Jungli, as an Adibasi, I am not expected to understand the legal intricacies of the Resolution. You cannot teach democracy to the tribal people; you have to learn democratic ways from them. They are the most democratic people on earth.”

In his electrifying speech, Jaipal said:

“The whole history of my people is one of continuous exploitation and dispossession by the non-aboriginals of India punctuated by rebellions and disorder, and yet I take Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru at his word. I take you all at your word that now we are going to start a new chapter, a new chapter of Independent India where there is equality of opportunity, where no one would be neglected.....”

“If there is any group of Indian people that has been shabbily treated, it is my people. They have been disgracefully treated, neglected for the last 6,000 years. The history of the Indus Valley civilization, a child of which I am, shows quite clearly that it is the newcomers — most of you here are intruders as far as I am concerned — it is the new comers who have driven away my people from the Indus Valley to the jungle fastness ...The whole history of my people is one of continuous exploitation and dispossession by the non-aboriginals of India punctuated by rebellions and disorder”.