All communities in Bharat are its Indigenous Peoples and the question does not arise to give a special benefit to a section of society on the pretext of World Indigenous Peoples' Day. When all Indians have commonly inherited and shared their legacy, the church and missionaries are only instigating selected communities for their own nefarious agenda.
- Ramesh Babu
Janjatis of Bharat do not fit the UN’s definition of ‘Indigenous People’ as every community is part and parcel of the land
Observation of Indigenous Peoples' Day on 9th August is started world wide following its declaration by UNO in 1994. The significance of the day is to commemorate the first meeting of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Population(UNWGIP) which was held on 9th August 1982.
But, on the same date in 1610 in the history of American continent, a Powhatan tragedy was occurred where 75 indigenous people belonging to the Paspahegh community of Virginia had been butchered by British. There is nothing wrong if anyone thinks that the same day has been chosen as Indigenous Peoples Day, just to pacify the damage done to the Indigenous People. Powhatan's was not a single incident, in which the Indigenous People had to confront the brutality from colonialist forces. There were several such incidents and lakhs of indigenous Peoples have been eliminated world over. We have seen such atrocities in the continents like Africa, Asia, America and Australia and colonial forces succeeded in tightening their grip over indigenous peoples in almost all countries barring a few. Indians have thrown out the colonial regime from its soil by taking on them with both revolutionary and non-violent forms of struggle.
What the UN has proposed was a welcome step. It may bring some relief to the centuries old sufferings of indigenous communities of those countries. Surely the Indigenous People of these Nations have undergone inhuman atrocities and sufferings. They were denied a dignified life in their native lands.
UN Declaration-2007 is the most comprehensive international instrument on the rights of the Indigenous Peoples. It embodies global consensus on the rights of the Indigenous Peoples and establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for their survival, dignity and well being. It elaborates on existing human rights standards and fundamental freedom, as they apply to the specific situation of Indigenous Peoples.
But the same UN Declaration, however, failed to give appropriate definition to the term 'Indigenous Peoples'. The resolution barely claims that the identification of these peoples could be done on the basis of many historical factors. But, the identification can't be done basing on a single yardstick, as the historical experiences across the globe never remained the same.
The UN has failed to give appropriate definition to the term 'Indigenous Peoples' as identification can't be done on the basis of a single yardstick, as the historical experiences across the globe never remained the same.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) in its 169th Convention adopted an international treaty in 1989. Rights under this treaty are based on respect for the cultures and ways of life of Indigenous Peoples. It gives them their right to land and natural resources and define their own priorities for development. Convention aimed at overcoming discriminatory practices affecting these people and enabling them to participate in decision making that affects their life.
It is unfortunate that some anti-national and mischievous elements which have a proselytising agenda took IPD as a tool to achieve their objectives by bringing division in the Indian Society. They termed the day as ‘World Adivasi Day’ by manipulating the stand taken by our government about the issue.
The official stand of Bharat on the issue of Indigenous People is that everyone who lives in Bharat, whether he is a tribal or non tribal are Indigenous Peoples of this land. With a crystal clear approach, our constitution makers have thought to give equal privileges, protections and rights to all its citizens. Special privileges and provisions have been given to uplift those people who are lagging behind due to political, social and economic reasons by bringing such communities under a separate schedule in 1950, way ahead of the UN Declaration in 2007. Since all communities in Bharat are its Indigenous Peoples, the question does not arise to give a special benefit to a section of society in the pretext of World Indigenous Peoples' Day, when all Indians have commonly inherited and shared their legacy.
Here the church and missionaries are insisting the scheduled Tribe People to observe and celebrate the day as World Adivasi Day. As far as the day (9th August) is concerned the day has no relevance in the Indian context. If at all the day has to be observed, it should be observed as a day of mourning for the World Indigenous People for the reason I have mentioned in the beginning of this article. Whatever has been mentioned in the UN Declaration-2007 about the indigenous peoples is seen in the western countries. We expressed our solidarity with those who have been oppressed there and their grievances and the concerns should be addressed by the respective governments.
Numerous Janjatis and their leaders like Rani Gaidinliu, Tirot Sing, Alluri Sitarama Raju, Surendra Sai, Birsa Munda, Pazhassi raja have fought the colonial forces as Bharatiyas
But nothing from the UN Declaration in this regard is applicable to our country, as Bharat as whole is inhabited by its Indigenous Peoples. The constitution has taken all measures to protect all the rights, barring one or two articles of the UN Charter of 46 articles. Among them the ‘right to self-determination’ is the most vicious one. When our representative signs in support of the charter he has made a clear mention about the clause 'right to self-determination' as it is against the unity and integrity of our nation and it poses a threat to its sovereignty. The right to self-determination that adds itself as a culmination of these conventions stand as a misnomer in the context of India where the democratic rights of the people have safeguarded through various means. Even the elite -educated class and people in the media are not aware of these facts and they gave little notice to the matter.
There are certain agencies in India which are trying to ruin the tribal culture, identity, beliefs and values. They are engaged in proselytising activities. Stern action should be taken to curb the religious conversion. They have been trying to cultivate Aryan Invasion Theory(AIT) to attract the Janjati people that only the Janjatis are the Indigenous Peoples of this land and they have been pushed into the forest by the Aryans. Similarly it is also being argued even in the absence of evidence that the Dravidians also were chased upto the southern seashore by the Aryans. But the recent excavations in the Rakhigarhi of Harappa region has demolished the AIT that there was no trace of any invasion taking place in the region. Archaeological evidence, genetic evidence, timeline and anthropological evidence have disapproved the theory. There is nothing to say about an invasion that never was.
Janjati people were the pioneers in the struggle against the British.Numerous Janjatis and their leaders like Rani Gaidinliu, Tirot Sing, Alluri Sitarama Raju, Surendra Sai, Birsa Munda, Pazhassi raja have fought the colonial forces as Bharatiyas.
Janjati people can have a separate day that can bring pride and self respect in each and every Indian. Janjati people were the pioneers in the struggle against the British. You can see a Thalakkal Chandu along with Pazhassi Raja in his fight against East India Company. Thalakkal Chandu was hanged in 1805. There are many such examples in the length and breadth of the country. They have shown their fighting spirit against not only British, but against the Mughals too. They have fought against Mughals along with Rana Pratap and Shivaji. The story of Rani Durgavati of Jabalpur was another example of the fight of Janjati people against Mughals. You will find many names such as Tilka Majhi, Neelambar, Pitambar, Sidhu, Kanu, Alluri Sitaram Raju, Govind Guru, Veer Narayan, Shambhu Dhanu Phunglosa, Jadonong, Rani Gaidinliu, Rani Ruipuiliani, Mutmor Jomoh etc.
Birsa Munda is the most renowned and widely revered revolutionary leader who had bravely fought simultaneously against British Officers and the Missionaries engaged in religious conversion. He realised the fact that both the British officers and the Missionaries have ‘the same hat', the hat that worn by a British officer and an evangelist are the same. That means their objectives are the same. Over the years, the revolutionary spirit shown by Birsa Munda has earned him the status of an Icon of Janjati People of Bharat.
Why can't we project the birth anniversary of Birsa Munda (15 November) as a day of our pride (Gourav Divas). We can celebrate the day with much enthusiasm. And also we will have to see that the tribal rights are well protected under our constitutional framework. We have to see that the constitutional provisions and protective measures of Janjati people are implemented properly. Panchayati Raj Extension into Scheduled Areas(PESA) and Forest Right Act(2006) will prove to be the game changer in the Scheduled Areas in India in the days to come.
9th August has nothing to do with India. Whatever we could do the most on that day is just expressing solidarity with Indigenous Peoples of western countries for their fight to ensure their right.
(Author is Akhil Bharateeya Shradha Jagaran Pramukh of Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram)