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Adivasi is the collective term for tribes of the Indian subcontinent, who are considered indigenous to places within India wherein they live, either as foragers or as tribalistic sedentary communities.


  • 'In this country, groups which correspond closely to the anthropologists' conception of tribes have lived in long association with communities of an entirely different type. Except in a few areas, it is very difficult to come across communities which retain all their pristine tribal character. In fact, most such tribal groups show in varying degrees elements of continuity with the larger society of India (...) In India hardly any of the tribes exists as a separate society and they have all been absorbed, in varying degrees, into the wider society of India. The on-going process of absorption is not recent but dates back to the most ancient times'. Prof. Béteille had found that 'ethnically speaking, most of the tribes in present-day India share their origins with the neighbouring non-tribal population. India has been a melting-pot of races and ethnic groups, and historians and anthropologists find it difficult to arrange the various distinct cultural, ethnic and linguistic groups in the chronological sequence of their appearance in the sub-continent.'
    • Prof. André Béteille, Cited in Dalit Voice, 16-4-1992. And quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • Prof. Béteille (...) contrasts the category of caste, slightly reinforced and rigidified under colonial rule but otherwise thoroughly familiar to the Indian population since millennia, with the very new concept of tribe: 'Every Hindu knew not only that he belonged to a particular caste but also that others belonged to other castes of whose respective places in a broader scheme of things he had some idea, whether vague or stereotyped. Hardly anything corresponding to this exited in the case of those we know today as tribes. The consciousness of the distinct and separate identity of all the tribes of India taken as a whole is a modem consciousness, brought into being by the colonial state and confirmed by its successor after independence.
    • André Béteille: 'Colonial construction of tribe', (column in Times of India), Chronicle of Our Time, p. 187., quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • The dividing line between Hinduism and Animism is uncertain
    • EA Gait, 1901 Census report on the Lower provinces of Bengal and their feudatories in Shourie, Arun (1994). Missionaries in India: Continuities, changes, dilemmas. New Delhi : Rupa & Co, 1994
  • In the case of all other religions there is one main underlying difficulty, namely the difficulty of saying where Hinduism begins or ends, for all these religions represent either off-shoots from Hinduism or the great outlying mass of tribal religions from which by insensible degrees converts to Hinduism are continually being recruited.... Persons who are certainly Animists join in Hindu festivals, but persons who are equally certainly Hindus and even Muhammadans join in propitiating the local spirits through aboriginal priests....
    • PC Tallents, Census of India 1921. in Shourie, Arun (1994). Missionaries in India: Continuities, changes, dilemmas. New Delhi : Rupa & Co, 1994
  • The classification 'Animist' has never been satisfactory and it would be much better if it were to disappear altogether. It is never possible to say where the Animist begins and the Hindu ends ...... It would be an advantage if this very indifferent classification ('Animists') was to vanish ... The return is too artificial to be useful....
    • CE Luard, Census of India 1921. in Shourie, Arun (1994). Missionaries in India: Continuities, changes, dilemmas. New Delhi : Rupa & Co, 1994
  • Fluctuations in the figures of earlier censuses show how much the proper classification of tribal religions has depended upon the whim of the enumerator.
    • WH Shoobert, Census of India 1931. in Shourie, Arun (1994). Missionaries in India: Continuities, changes, dilemmas. New Delhi : Rupa & Co, 1994
  • The Hinduism of the Central Provinces is largely tinctured by nature and animal worship... there are usually a number of village gods, for the worship of whom a special priest belonging to the primitive tribes called Bhumka or Baiga is supported...
    • Central Provinces Gazetteer, in WH Shoobert, Census of India 1931. in Shourie, Arun (1994). Missionaries in India: Continuities, changes, dilemmas. New Delhi : Rupa & Co, 1994
  • Again, the problem of determining how far the various religions of India are mutually exclusive and how far they overlap one another - above all, of deciding where Hinduism begins and where it ends - has always been well-nigh insoluble.... it is largely a matter of chance how the religion of these primitive and semi-primitive tribes is recorded in the census schedules, and little value can be attached to the statistics.
    • WG Lacey Census of India 1931. in Shourie, Arun (1994). Missionaries in India: Continuities, changes, dilemmas. New Delhi : Rupa & Co, 1994
  • Abhas Chatterjee, the Brahmin-born revivalist married to a lady from the Oraon tribe, writes: 'This Sanatana Dharma has any number of branches and offshoots. Within its fold, we have the Vaidika and the Tantrika, the Buddhist and the Jain; we have the Shaiva and the Vaishnava, the Shakta and the Sikh, the Arya Samaj and the Kabirpanth; we have in its fold the worshippers of Ayappa in Kerala, of Sarna in Chotanagpur and of Doni-pollo in Arunachal Pradesh. (...) through all these forms and variations flows an underlying current of shared spirituality which makes us all Hindus and gives us an intrinsic sense of harmony.'
    • Chatterjee: Hindu Nation, p.4. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • “If charity and philanthropy is not connected with any ulterior motive, they are beneficial. But charity and conversions cannot go together. Religion prospers only when charity and philanthropy are undertaken without any motive. ... The poor and illiterate may enjoy religious freedom without any fear. We have to be particularly vigilant about the Scheduled Tribes whose protection is not only guaranteed by the laws of the land but is also enshrined in the Constitution. It is our duty to preserve every aspect of their way of life along with their religion and ways of worship. No group belonging to any creed should interfere with their religion and rituals. Other organizations are also engaged in the philanthropic work... But that work can be helpful only when it is done without any ulterior motive.
    • Morarji Desai, Letter to Mother Teresa, 21 April 1979. quoted from Madhya Pradesh (India), Goel, S. R., Niyogi, M. B. (1998). Vindicated by time: The Niyogi Committee report on Christian missionary activities. ISBN 9789385485121
  • The term "aboriginal" was translated into Sanskrit as adivasi, and began its career as a brilliant disinformer, creating the false impression that there was an indigenous tradition of considering the trivals as "aborignals" and the non-tribals as invaders.
    • Elst, Koenraad, The Saffron Swastika p.561 (Vol II)
  • Adivasi, “Aboriginal”. This term was coined in the British colonial period as a pseudo-indigenous term conveying that the tribal populations are “aboriginal” – and hence the non-tribals are not. This is an utterly dishonest projection of the American situation, with Amerindian “natives” and European settlers, onto South Asia; and much beloved of Maoists and missionaries. The dreamy people attracted to human rights campaigns wouldn’t know the real agenda of those who smuggle such words into the discourse, and can safely be employed as useful idiots.
    • Koenraad Elst, On Modi Time : Merits And Flaws of Hindu Activism In Its Day Of Incumbency – 2015. Ch. 6. The Hindu Republic of Nepal?
  • We were strangers to this sort of classification – ‘animists’, ‘aborigines’, etc., - but we have learnt it from English rulers.
    • Mahatma Gandhi, The Collected Works, Volume 35, New Delhi, 1968, pp. 462-63. Quoted from Goel, S.R. History of Hindu-Christian Encounters (1996)
  • I do not know how he (Max Weber) has arrived at the conclusion that “more tribals joined the Hindu mainstream as a result of the Muslim shock than the number of Hindus who were converted to Islam”. Perhaps he had in mind the people of Assam whom Bakhtyar Khalji and a few other Muslim invaders tried to subjugate, or the hill people all over our northern borders whom Muhammad Tughlaq tried to conquer but failed, or the Gonds who fought Akbar under Maharani Durgavati, or the Bhils who fought for freedom under Maharana Pratap, or the Mavlas who joined Shivaji at a later date. But the very fact that these so-called “tribals” fought spontaneously against the Muslim marauders rather than walk over to the winning side goes to prove that they shared a common culture with the rest of the natives.
    • S.R. Goel : The Story of Islamic Imperialism in India (1994)
  • The Christian-dominated parts of India's North-East have witnessed several instances of Hindu-cleansing. Hindu organizations like the Ramakrishna Mission and the RSS have been targeted for elimination from the region through pressure or violence. In the 1990s, tens of thousands of Riang tribals who rejected conversion were expelled from Christian-dominated Mizoram. The death toll of Hindus eliminated by Christian separatists dwarfs that of the much-publicized Hindu violence against Christians, which has killed only a handful since 1947, including in the supposed “wave” of anti-Christian riots in 1998-99. The killing of Australian missionary Graham Staines... was front-page news in the whole world and remains a constant point of reference in the dominant discourse on communalism. By contrast, when shortly after that, four RSS workers were kidnapped by Christian separatists in the North-East and their mutilated bodies were subsequently found, it was hardly reported in the Indian press and not at all in the international media.(...) Indian secularism is systematically dishonest in its assessment of the religions hostile to Hinduism.
    • Koenraad Elst: Religious Cleansing of Hindus, 2004, Agni conference in The Hague, and in : The Problem with Secularism (2007) by K. Elst
  • 'These protagonists of separatism argue that these 'tribals' worship things like trees, stones and serpents. Therefore they are 'animists' and cannot be called 'Hindus'. Now this is something which only an ignoramus who does not know the ABC of Hinduism will say. (..) Do not the Hindus all over the country worship the tree? Tulasi, bilva, ashwattha are all sacred to the Hindu. (...) The worship of Nâg, the cobra, is prevalent throughout our country. (...) Then, should we term all these devotees and worshippers as 'animists' and declare them as non-Hindus?'
    • M.S. Golwalkar: Bunch of Thoughts, p.471-472. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • Given the Hindu-tribal continuity, Guru Golwalkar proposed that for the integration of tribals and untouchables, one and the same formula applies: 'They can be given yajñopavîta (...) They should be given equal rights and footings in the matter of religious rights, in temple worship, in the study of Vedas, and in general, in all our social and religious affairs. This is the only right solution for all the problems of casteism found nowadays in our Hindu society.'
    • M.S. Golwalkar: Bunch of Thoughts, p.479. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • This is sociologist Gérard Heuzé's assessment [of Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram schools in tribal areas]: 'Those cost-free tribal schools, about a hundred in 1990, cater to an undemanding population, and often the poorest section of it. (...) These children are made to live like the 'Vedic ancestors', to which the vanavasis are supposed to have remained closer. It is also in this framework of mission to the tribals that the most traditional ideals of Hindu nationalism (power of the sage, study of Sanskrit) are implemented most seriously. These RSS schools have remained lacking in influence and prestige vis-à-vis the Christian mission colleges with their infinitely larger financial support base.'
    • G. Heuzé: Où va l'Inde moderne? p. 141. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • The Lingaraja temple in Bhubaneswar, built in the eleventh century, has two classes of priests: Brahmins and a class called Badus who are ranked as Sudras and are said to be of tribal origin. Not only are Badus priests of this important temple; they also remain in the most intimate contact with the deity whose personal attendants they are. Only they are allowed to bathe the Lingaraja and adorn him and at festival time (...) only Badus may carry this movable image (...) the deity was originally under a mango tree (...) The Badus are described by the legend as tribals (sabaras) who originally inhabited the place and worshipped the linga under the tree.'
    • Girilal Jain: The Hindu Phenomenon, p. 24, with reference to Eschmann, Kulke and Tripathi, eds.: Cult of Jagannath, p.97. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • The archaic iconography of the cult images on the one hand and their highest Hindu iconology on the other as well as the existence of former tribals (daitas) and Vedic Brahmins amongst its priests are by no means an antithesis, but a splendid regional synthesis of the local and the all-Indian tradition.' (...) 'The uninterrupted tribal-Hindu continuum finds its lasting manifestation in the Jagannath cult of Puri.'
    • A. Eschmann, H. Kulke and G.C. Tripathi, eds.: The Cult of Jagannath, p.xv, quoted in Girilal Jain: The Hindu Phenomenon, p.23. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • Every person is a Hindu who regards and owns this Bharat Bhumi, this land from the Indus to the seas, as his Fatherland as well as Holyland, i.e. the land of the origin of his religion (...) Consequently the so-called aboriginal or hill tribes also are Hindus: because India is their Fatherland as well as their Holyland of whatever form of religion or worship they follow.
    • V.D. Savarkar: Hindu Rashtra Darshan. p.77. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • 'On the Indian front, [the Hindutva movement] should spearhead the revival, rejuvenation and resurgence of Hinduism, which includes not only religious, spiritual and cultural practices springing from Vedic or Sanskritic sources, but from all other Indian sources independently of these: the practices of the Andaman islanders and the (pre-Christian) Nagas are as Hindu in the territorial sense, and Sanâtana in the spiritual sense, as classical Sanskritic Hinduism. (...) A true Hindutvavâdî should feel a pang of pain, and a desire to take positive action, not only when he hears that the percentage of Hindus in the Indian population is falling (...), or that Hindus are being discriminated against in almost every respect, but also when he hears that the Andamanese races and languages are becoming extinct; that vast tracts of forests, millions of years old, are being wiped out forever (...); that innumerable forms of arts and handicrafts, architectural styles, plant and animal species, musical forms and musical instruments etc. are becoming extinct.'113
    • S. Talageri in S.R. Goel (ed.): Time for Stock-Taking, p.227-228. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • Discussion of the religious status and political rights of the tribals is rendered more difficult by the term commonly used to designate them: âdivâsî. Christian missionaries and secularists have popularized the belief that this is a hoary self-designation of the tribals (unmindful that this would prove their intimate familiarity with Sanskritic culture, as the term is a pure Sanskrit coinage), e.g.: 'These peoples are called adivasis, which means 'first inhabitants'. Like the American continent, India has its Indians... Contrary to a widespread belief, this term is not indigenous. It is not listed in the 19th-century Sanskrit dictionary of M. Monier-Williams, a zealous Christian who would gladly have obliged the missionaries if only he had been aware of the term. The Sanskrit classics attest the awareness of a separate category of forest-dwellers, but used descriptive terms for them, e.g. âtavika, from atavî, 'forest'. ...The imposition of the term adivasi during the colonial period was itself an instance of replacing facts of history with an imaginative theory.
  • The excluded ones, the non-Adivasis, all the urban and advanced agricultural communities, suddenly found themselves labelled as immigrants who had colonized India and chased the aboriginals to the most inaccessible places. The message of the colonial term Adivasi was that the urban elites who were waging a struggle for independence, could not claim to be the rightful owners of the country anymore than the British could. Likewise, it served to present Hinduism, the religion named after India, as a foreign imposition. The only non-tribals considered aboriginal were the Untouchables, supposedly the native dark-skinned proletariat in the Apartheid system imposed by the white Aryan invaders to preserve their race... This racial view of history was nothing but a projection of 19th-century racist colonial perceptions onto ancient Indian history, but it was well-entrenched and put to good colonial use. Thus, during the 1935 Parliament debates on the Government of India Act, Sir Winston Churchill opposed any policy tending towards decolonization on the following ground: 'We have as much right to be in India as anyone there, except perhaps for the Depressed Classes [= the SC/ STs], who are the native stock.'
    • Reproduced in C.H. Philips ed.: Select Documents on the History of India and Pakistan, part IV, p.315. , in Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • Many NGO activists and other well-intentioned people in the West believe that their support to separatism and other political movements of the Indian 'Aboriginals' is a bold move against oppressive intruders. In fact, most so-called liberation movements in India are gravely tainted by their origin as instruments of oppression by the latest intruder, the European coloniser: in order to weaken the national freedom movement, minorities were sought out or even created to serve as allies of the new rulers and keep the national movement down. ... The imaginary division of the Indians in 'natives' and 'invaders', though originally an innocent outgrowth of the then-fashionable race theories, was soon instrumentalized in the service of the same strategy of colonial control... Can we blame Hindus when they don't consider this nativist discourse all that innocent? The fact that Cortes used true history while the British used at best speculative history, is relatively immaterial: nurturing and exploiting a psychology of grievances against the real or imagined 'invaders' is what counted.
  • Many people use the term 'Adivasi' quite innocently, but the term is political through and through. Its great achievement is that it has firmly fixed the division of the Indians in 'natives' and 'invaders' in the collective consciousness, on a par with the division in natives or aboriginals and the immigrant population in America and Australia.... However, no conscious Hindu now accepts the ideologically weighted term Adivasi, much to the dismay of those who espouse the ideological agenda implied in the term, viz. the detachment of the tribals from Hindu society and the delegitimation of Hinduism as India's native religion.... All by itself, the neologism âdivâsî constitutes one of the most successful disinformation campaigns in modern history. ... In fact, not just 'Hindu spokespersons' but everyone who cultivates the scientific temper would reject a term which carries the load of an entirely unproven, politically motivated theory, viz. that the tribals are 'the' (i.e. the only) original inhabitants of India. Nobody is 'loath to accord to the tribal population the status of original inhabitants', certainly not the Hindu nationalists. But every objective observer would reject the effective implication of the term Adivasi, viz. that the non-tribals are not original inhabitants, on a par with the white colonisers who decimated the Native Americans.
  • Tribes from the Kafirs of Afghanistan to the Gonds of South-Central India have taken starring roles in the resistance of the native society against the Muslim onslaught. If the Bhil boy Ekalavya of Mahabharata (I.31-54) fame could seek out the princely martial arts trainer Drona as his archery teacher, even the terrible treatment he received from Drona (for reasons unrelated to Ekalavya's social origins) cannot nullify the implication that the Bhil tribe habitually interacted with the Vedic Bharata clan. Those who use the Eklavya story against Hinduism do not know or ignore the fact that Eklavya is mentioned twice (II.37.47; II.44.21) as one of the great kings who was invited and given great hospitality in Yudhisthara's Rajasusya Yajna at Indraprastha. Kautilya mentions tribal (atvî) battalions in Hindu royal armies. Rama, of course, relied on his Vânara (forest-dweller) allies to fight Ravana. The tribals may have lived on the periphery, but it was still within the horizon of Hindu society.
    • Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743, with reference to Kautilya: The Arthashastra 9:2:13-20, Penguin edition, p. 685.
  • Birsa Munda, whose Munda rebellion started with attacks on mission posts in 1899, claimed to have visions after the mode of the Biblical prophets, but told his flock to give up animal sacrifice, witchcraft and intoxication and to wear the sacred thread, all amounting to a kind of self-sanskritization. While such charismatic leaders come and go, the tradition of tribal nativism continues, and the VKA seeks to channel it towards integration into a larger Hindu activism. Gérard Heuzé ... aptly notes that the tribal rebellions of the 19th century, such as the 1830 Kol movement, the 1855 Santal Hoot and the 1899 Birsa rebellion, were incorporated by the Freedom Movement in its vision of a native tradition of struggle against foreign invaders (embodying 'the authentic spirit of the nation'), though in fact, exploitation by native (Hindu and Muslim) landlords and money-lenders had also played a role in provoking the tribals into rebellion.
    • Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743, with reference to Gérard Heuzé (Où va l'Inde moderne? p. 1 33)
  • Some tribal traditions may be transformed borrowings from the Sanskritic tradition, but in most cases they have developed in parallel with and separate from the Vedic tradition. In that sense they date back to antiquity and perhaps even to pre-Vedic times, though at that time-depth they may still have common roots with the Sanskritic mainstream.... If we go by the historical definition, the question whether tribals are Hindus is very simple to answer: they are Indians but not prophetic-monotheists, so they are Indian Pagans or Hindus. Moreover, typologically the tribal religions are similar to the Vedic religion. They have many elements in common... From a Christian or Islamic viewpoint, any such differences between tribal 'animism' and Hinduism are purely academic, since by all accounts both religions belong to the polytheistic and Pagan category. This does not nullify the practical distance between many Hindus and many tribals, a cultural gap which Hindu activists are working hard to bridge. In this effort, they are greatly helped by the natural socioeconomic evolution which is inexorably drawing the tribals into society's mainstream and hence into its predominant religion, Hinduism.
  • The British, who had a policy of transforming the border regions into a protective cordon of the empire, 'discovered' the Nagas in about 1830 but prohibited the entry in this area to anyone without offical or military capacity, which curiously did not exclude the Christian missionaries! .... One might say that it was the administrators, and in their wake the ethnographers and missionaries who, by a need of rational classification and order, invented the Naga tribes and consequently Naga nationalism. .... In a concern to protect the tea plantations of Assam (from, among other things, the Naga incursions), the British pursued a long process of pacification, administration and christianization, deeper and deeper into the hill country. The Nagas vigorously resisted this expansion; the response to their rebellions consisted of punitive expeditions and the 'civilizing' missions...
    • Helene Willemart: Les Naga, montagnards entre l'Inde et la Birmanie, quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2014). Decolonizing the Hindu mind: Ideological development of Hindu revivalism. New Delhi: Rupa. p. 291-2
  • Missionary influence has eroded much of the tribes' cultural heritage, which was inseparably linked with the traditional mythology, beliefs and rituals, and wilted when these were abandoned. Above all, the conversion of part of a community tends to destroy teh social unity of the whole tribe. ... The converts [in the Nishi tribe] seem to have been lacking in tolerance and tact ... old parents were abandoned by their converted children, who claimed that they could not stay in dwellings where 'devils' were worshipped ... the converts went a step further by abusing and physically attacking priests as they invoked the gods in the performance of traditional Nishi rituals.
    • Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf: Tribes of India, quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2001). Decolonizing the Hindu mind: Ideological development of Hindu revivalism. New Delhi: Rupa. p 531-533
  • Some so-called tribal communities were originally fully Hindu castes that sought refuge in the forest to escape the Islamic regime. The best-known example is probably the Gonds...: "Thus the Gonds, a civilized people as per medieval standards, became a low tribe under Muslim rule and have remained so since then."
    • Elst, K. quoting K.S. Lal:Growth of Scheduled Tribes. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2001). Decolonizing the Hindu mind: Ideological development of Hindu revivalism. New Delhi: Rupa. p.405
  • Representations have been made to Government from time to time that Christian Missionaries either forcibly or through fraud and temptations of monetary and other gain convert illiterate aboriginals and other backward people. ... If conversion is an individual act, one would expect deep thought and study of the particular religion one wanted to embrace. But what we have found is groups of illiterate Adivasis, with families and children getting their topknots cut and being shown as Christians. Most of them do not know even the rudiments of the new religion. ... The concentration of Missionary enterprise on the hill tribes in remote and inaccessible parts of the forest areas and their mass conversion with the aid of foreign money were interpreted as intended to prepare the ground for a separate independent State on the fines of Pakistan.” “The separatist tendency that has gripped the mind of the aboriginals under the influence of the Lutheran and Roman Catholic Missions is entirely due to the consistent policy pursued by the British Government and the Missionaries. The final segregation of the aborigines in the Census of 1931 from the main body of the Hindus considered along with the recommendations of the Simon Commission which were incorporated in the Government of India Act, 1935 apparently set the stage for the demand of a separate State of Jharkhand on the lines of Pakistan.” ... “This attempt of the Adiwasis, initiated by the Christian section thereof is a feature which is common to the developments in Burma, Assam and Indo-China among the Karens, Nagas and Amboynes. This is attributed to the spirit of religious nationalism awakened among the converted Christians as among the followers of other religions. But the idea of change of religion as bringing about change of nationality appears to have originated in the Missionary circles… Thus while the Census officer isolates certain sections of the people from the main bodies, the Missionaries by converting them give them a separate nationality so that they may demand a separate State for themselves.”
    • Madhya Pradesh Report on Christian Missionary Activities (1956), quoted from Madhya Pradesh (India), Goel, S. R., Niyogi, M. B. (1998). Vindicated by time: The Niyogi Committee report on Christian missionary activities. ISBN 9789385485121
  • At any rate, unlike the secularists, the Christian missionaries were always very clever and well-informed in religious matters, and in order to indigenize their divisive categorization of the Indian population, they invented the pseudo-indigenous Sanskrit neologism Adivasi. All by itself, this little word became one of the most brilliantly successful disinformation campaigns in modern history, falsely planting the novel notion of an aboriginal/invader antagonism into all thinking about the tribal condition. And no one is more susceptible to lapping up such false notions, provided they serve an anti-Hindu purpose, as are the secularists with their gross illiteracy in matters religious and Indian.
  • Moreover, their money and media power and their alliance with "secularist" and Islamic forces allows them to trump any reference to Christian misbehaviour with impressions of far worse sins on the Hindutva side. When over a thousand Hindus are killed and a quarter million Hindus ethnically cleansed in Kashmir, the world media doesn't even notice, but watch the worldwide hue and cry when a few local riots take place and a few missionaries are killed by unidentified tribal miscreants. Christian Naga terrorists have been killing non-Christians for decades on end, and this has never been an issue with the world media, except to bewail the "oppression" of the Nagas by "Hindu India". The clumsy Sangh people cannot hope to outdo the Christian lobby at the blame game when you consider how well-crafted the recent Christian media blitz has been, how aptly designed to satisfy the needs of the world media. The India-watchers abroad were standing shamefaced because the predicted "fascism" of the BJP government had failed to materialize, yielding instead a year of communal cease-fire with the lowest number of riot victims in decades. So they welcomed the "persecution" of Christians as a gift from heaven. ... Obviously, the Hindus do not enjoy the moral ascendancy. Destroying Hindu idols is a standard ingredient of the conversion process in tribal villages, yet it is only when a Christian church is damaged for once that the incident is even registered. There has been plenty of violence by Christian converts against their Pagan neighbours, but they have been getting away with it, their crimes go unreported and remain unpunished. Already in the 1950s, anthropologists like Verrier Elwin and Christoph von Fuehrer-Haimendorf described how conversions destroy communal life in tribal villages, yet even mentioning this widespread phenomenon is denounced as "anti‑Christian hate propaganda". Christian clerics subverting tribal culture are "rendering selfless service", Hindu sadhus encouraging tribals to stand by their own traditions are "communal hate‑mongers". Clearly, it is the missionaries who have the moral ascendancy, and consequently, it is they who will reap the moral and political harvest of any physical conflict between Hindus and Christians.
    • Elst, Koenraad. The Problem of Christian Missionaries , 7 June 1999. [1]
  • Indian literature, throughout history right from Rig Vedic times (e.g. Rig Veda book 10-hymn CXLVI) describes Aranyani, the forest dwelling Goddess, as benign and not demonic. It has regarded spirits of the forest as benign and people of the forest have been held in high esteems as fiercely independent people of nature, sometimes romanticized as more civilized and innocent than country dwelling populations of India (as in twelfth-century Vaishanava literature Thiruvaranga Kalambagam, which eulogizes and does not demonize the valour of a tribal chieftain rejecting a marriage proposal from a king).
    • Malhotra, R., Nīlakantan̲, A., & Infinity Foundation (Princeton, N.J.). (2016). Breaking India: Western interventions in Dravidian and Dalit faultlines.
  • Every stratum of Indian society is more or less saturated with Animistic conceptions….
    • Commissioner of the Census, J A Baines, in the census report Quoted in [2]
  • [Hinduism was itself] “Animism more or less transformed by philosophy”, “no sharp line of demarcation can be drawn between Hinduism and Animism”.
    • Sir Herbert Hisley, Commissioner of the Census 1901 Quoted in [3]
  • There is little to distinguish the religious attitude of the Gond or the Bhil from that of a member of one of the lower Hindu castes. Both are essentially animistic…. It is obvious, therefore, that the term Animist does not represent the communal distinction which is the essence of the census aspect of religion. ... the “Vedic religion” [is also equally] “essentially animist”.
    • J T Marten, Commissioner of the Census 1911, Quoted in [4]
  • [There is a] “difficulty of distinguishing a Hindu from an Animist”... “I have, therefore, no hesitation in saying that Animism as a religion should be entirely abandoned, and that all those hitherto classed as Animists should be grouped with Hindus in the next census”.
    • P C Tallents, Commissioner of the Census 1921, Quoted in [5]
  • The line is hard to draw between Hinduism and tribal religions.
    • J H Hutton, the Commissioner of the Census 1931, Quoted in [6]
  • The Andhra Pradesh G.O. of 2000 was aimed at promoting education in tribal areas and addressing the problem of rampant teacher absenteeism. As anyone even slightly acquainted with the problems of tribal areas knows, non-tribal teachers are often reluctant to travel to or live in remote adivasi hamlets. Another big problem is language. Many non-tribals, including lower government officials, have lived for years in tribal areas without feeling the need to learn tribal languages. At the primary level, mutual incomprehension between non-tribal teachers and tribal students hampers the basic education of children. The judges tell us that “It is an obnoxious idea that tribals only should teach the tribals” (para 133), but for far too long, the really obnoxious idea that has pervaded the educational system and is reflected in judgments like this one is that only non-tribals should teach tribals, to “uplift and mainstream” them because “their language and their primitive way of life makes them unfit to put up with the mainstream and to be governed by the ordinary laws” (para 107).
  • A standard view is that expressed by Justice S.B. Sinha in his (minority) judgment of the Andhra high court on the same issue in 2001, where non-tribal teachers are axiomatically assumed to be more efficient and meritorious (para 86); and “(f)or upliftment of the educationally backward people, it is necessary to impart education through teachers who are more informed and more meritorious regardless of their caste”(para 126). For the Supreme Court to say, “They are not supposed to be seen as a human zoo and source of enjoyment of primitive culture and for dance performances” (para 107 of Chebrolu) betrays a mentality that thinks of Scheduled Tribes precisely in those terms rather than as people with the right to define their own educational future. For far too long, education in India has been seen by the establishment as a ‘civilising’ mission designed to make adivasis and dalits into mental clones of the upper castes, even if they continue in their subordinate jobs. Merit is defined merely as efficiency in achieving this goal, rather than in terms of success in tapping indigenous ecological knowledge, preserving adivasi languages and culture and giving confidence to adivasi students by acting as role models. Even though many adivasi teachers have also internalised this idea of non-tribal superiority, having hundred per cent adivasi teachers in Scheduled areas is a small step towards reversing this condescension.
  • The Supreme Court judgment came in response to an appeal by non-tribals against the majority 2001 high court judgment, which upheld the G.O. of 2000. The Supreme Court verdict essentially replicates the minority view in the high court in favour of non-tribals. The court framed four questions for itself:
    • the first deals with the power of the governor in 5th Schedule areas to make laws, and whether this can override Part III of the constitution or fundamental rights;
    • the second, whether 100% reservation is constitutionally permissible;
    • the third, whether the GO involves a classification under Article 16 (1) dealing with equal access to state employment, rather than under 16 (4) which provides for reservation;
    • the fourth, to do with the reasonableness of the eligibility requirement for reservation, i.e. continuous residence in the area since 1950.
    In answering each of the questions, sadly, the court shows itself unmindful of the realities of the country and the history of the constitution it has inherited. [...] It is important to remember that when the law-making power of the governor under the 5th Schedule was discussed in the constituent assembly’s Sub-Committee on Excluded and Partially Excluded Areas, the concern raised was not whether s/he could or should make fresh law, but that this power should not be used undemocratically, exercised over and above the elected legislature. It is for this reason that a Tribes Advisory Council was created and the governor was required to refer matters to it. (Para 11b of the sub-committee report). In this case, the Tribes Advisory Council had concurred with the 100% rule. On the question it posed to itself – of whether the legislative powers of the governor under Section 5 of the 5th Schedule could override fundamental rights – the Supreme Court answered in the negative.

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