By Shivani Pachori
Adivasis, the original inhabitants who lived in the close proximity to forest comprises of more than 8% of the Indian population. It might seem less in terms of 100% but if we estimate it from a population of 133.92 crore it makes to 10.7 crore of the Indian population. There are over 500 adivasis groups in India with Odisha having the highest number of tribal communities (62). Indian states like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, and West Bengal constitutes nearly 70% of the adivasi population and are considered adivasi dominant states.
These Adivasis dominant states have somehow managed to become adivasi exploitation dominant states also. Tribals who were completely dependent on forests for their living are losing their lands and access to the forest from the emergence of new forest policies. This is leading to tribals losing their main source of livelihood and food. With the changing trends in economy, society, policies and politics, tribals are the most affected people of them all. They are being forced through these economic changes, forest policies and political forces applied by state and private players. The land with extensive resources and minerals which was once a blessing has become curse for them. The resources which they were using sustainably and sensibly are now in the hands of other authorities who are exploiting the tirbals for the exploitation of the same resources. Protectors of the resources are being used as an instrument to harness them.
Tribals are being forcefully migrated from their own land by the government and the big industrial players in the name of development and industrialization. Construction of dams, factories and mining projects for the sake of urban people is costing tribals from every aspect whether social, economical or cultural. Infamous Narmada eviction is still fresh among all the cases where 2 lakh people were cleared for the sake of construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam without being given proper and valid compensation for it.
Tribals who used to live together in a community are now scattered and it has lead to dissolution of their culture and traditions as well. The knowledge they posses about the forests and its resources is moving towards extinction.The acts that protect these indigenous people such as the Panchayat 1996, the forest rights for Schedule Caste and other traditional forest dwellers act are consciously and continuously not being implemented. Since these community are not a part of the urban crowd and are unaware of the rights given to them gets suppressed and are left unheard by any media.
Government is continuously making policies to safe guard forests from poachers and gives it to the industrialist who chops the whole forest in a single go. Government considers these tribals as a threat for forest who are one of the main reasons of why these forests were protected so far. Evicting of the tribals from the forest has leaded to the forest being unguarded and vulnerable which has bring an open invitation to the poachers.
Adivasis are insecure people and this insecuirty has become an opportunity for the capitalists who make them work or rather exploit them on their conditions. Landless uprooted tribals are forced to work at construction sites or textile in low wages leading to surplus extraction and exploitation. A bonded labour which is illegal in our country is extensively being practiced over tribals.Cases of abuse of adivasi women are suppressed and are left unreported. Malnourishment which is a major evil of our country is the one most prevailing among the tribals.
This condition is worsening generation after generation. 1st generation learners among STs face social, economic, psychological and cultural barriers to get educated.
Tribals have no choice other than to leave their land and lead unwanted life or retaliate and promote Naxalism and become Maoists which in return is creating a chaos for the government. Stats also reveal that many tribals who try to retaliate are accused of being involved with naxals and are jailed without any prove and nobody stands to speak for them.
Adivasis are being treated as if they have invaded someone’s territory but in reality it’s the industrialists and government policies that are invading the lives of the tribals. Policies are made for the welfare of every section of the society but in case of Adivasis, they have lost a lot more than what they have gained so far and their voices are yet to be empowered enough to be heard.