Notes for Modern History (Post-Independence)
Integration of the Tribals I
- The task of integrating the tribal people into the mainstream was extremely complex, given the varied conditions under which they live in different parts of the country , and their different languages and distinct cultures.
- Residing mostly in the hills and forest areas, in colonial India they lived in relative isolation, and their traditions, habits, cultures and ways of life were markedly different from those of their non-tribal neighbours.
- The preservation of the tribal people’s rich social and cultural heritage lay at the heart of the government’s policy of tribal integration.
- There were two major approaches regarding the place to be accorded to tribals in Indian society .
- One approach was to leave the tribal people alone, uncontaminated by modern influences operating outside their world and to let them stay more or less as they were.
- The second approach was that of assimilating them completely and as quickly as possible into the Indian society all around them.
- Jawaharlal Nehru rejected both these approaches. Instead of these two approaches, Nehru favoured the policy of integrating the tribal people in Indian society , of making them an integral part of the Indian nation, even while maintaining their distinct identity and culture.
- There were two basic parameters of the Nehruvian approach: ‘the tribal areas have to progress’ and ‘they have to progress in their own way’.
- The problem was how to combine these two seemingly contradictory approaches.
- Nehru stood for economic and social development of the tribal people in multifarious ways, especially in the fields of communication, modern medical facilities, agriculture and education. In this regard, he laid down certain broad guidelines for government policy .
- First, the tribals should develop along the lines of their own genius; there should be no imposition or compulsion from outside.
- Second, tribal rights in land and forests should be respected and no outsider should be able to take possession of tribal lands.
- Third, it was necessary to encourage the tribal languages which ‘must be given all possible support and the conditions in which they can flourish must be safeguarded’.
- Fourth, for administration, reliance should be placed on the tribal people themselves, and administrators should be recruited from amongst them and trained.
- Fifth, there should be no over-administration of tribal areas. The effort should be to administer and develop the tribals’ through them own social and cultural institutions.
- Nehru’s approach was based on the nationalist policy towards tribals since the 1920s when Gandhiji set up ashrams in the tribal areas and promoted constructive work. After independence this policy was supported by Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India, and other major political leaders.