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India’s Tribal Peoples

Human Rights for India's Indigenous People

India is the home to a large number of indigenous people, who are still untouched by the lifestyle of the modern world. The tribal population of the country, as per 2011 census, is 104.3 million, constituting 8.6% of the total population. 89.97% of them live in rural areas and 10.03% in urban areas.

Adivasis: "Scheduled Tribes"

Adivasis is the collective name used for the many indigenous peoples of India. The term derives from two Hindi words meaning “of earliest times” and “inhabitant.” It was coined in the 1930s out of a political movement to forge a sense of identity among the various indigenous peoples of India.

Adivasis are not a homogeneous group; there are over 200 distinct peoples speaking more than 100 languages and varying greatly in ethnicity and culture. However, there are similarities in their way of life and generally perceived oppressed position within Indian society.

As noted in the first week, the constitution of India, promulgated in 1950, listed—or scheduled— most of these groups as targets for social and economic development. Since that time the Adivasi of India have been known officially as Scheduled Tribes.

Because tribal people have always been geographically isolated, non-tribal investors have taken advantage of their distinctive culture, their weak connection to the broader community, and their vulnerable condition to exploit and suppress them for decades and still today. Tribal people continue to be displaced due to “development” activities, with grossly inadequate rehabilitation processes.

They are frequently victims of violence.

In 2015, a total of 6,275 cases of atrocities against persons belonging to Scheduled Tribes were registered in the country.


Watch and Learn
About the Rathwa Tribe in Gujarat,
served by the Missionary Dominicans of the Rosary


In addition, in part because they live in dense forests and remote areas, tribal people lack access to quality education, health care, and proper implementation of government welfare services and policies. Few are connected with all-weather roads. Furthermore, tribal people in north-east India face problems of insurgency, atrocities under cover of the Armed Forces Special Power Act, and never-ending tensions between the north-eastern states and central government.

Disadvantaged indigenous communities are being empowered to strengthen their political participation and to be accepted as integral and equal members of society. This is done through education about their rights and self-governance, assistance in accessing social protection services and legal support, the facilitation of dialogue among them, and through networking and collaborating with governmental and non­-governmental organizations.

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