India has witnessed a sea change in its social structure and political culture since Independence. Despite the progressive developmental model that the country has followed, we are witness to fissiparous tendencies that is on the path of dividing the Indian masses based on religion, ethnicity and caste ladder. Unquestionably, there is a need to develop a fresh approach to dismantling the stereotypes that have enveloped the policy making of India’s tribal communities. This book does exactly that.

Edited by Vinaya Kumar Srivastava India’s Tribes: Unfolding Realities brings together critical essays on tribal communities, some most marginalized people in India. What is fascinating is each of the chapters is written by an eminent scholar who has made significant contributions to the field of Tribal Studies, research on resource appropriation, poverty, education, health, economy and the tribal situation.

Contributions in the volume include :The Scheduled Communities and Social Change (Nirmal Kumar Bose),Reflections on the Current Debate Concerning the Indigenous Peoples(K. S. Singh),Endangered Tribals of India: Booby Trap of Development(Amar Kumar Singh)Mining and Women: The Case of the Maria of Chhattisgarh(Sonali Mukherjee),From Ethnicity to Organized Complexity in Tribal Customary Laws (Prabhat K. Singh),Bringing Culture Back: Traditional Agricultural Knowledge, Food Production and Sustainable Livelihood among Chuktia Bhunjia of Orissa (Bhubaneswar Sabar),Socio-cultural Life of Trans-border Tribes: A Case Study of the Baites (Chungkhosei Baite),Indigenising Christianity: Politics of Conversion among the Sumi Naga (Avitoli G. Zhimo),Inter-generational Social Mobility: A Study of Konyak Naga Tribe (Amenla Nuken and L. Ladusingh),The Jharkhand Movement: Retrospect and Prospect (Ram Dayal Munda),Tribal Resistance Movements and the Politics of Development-induced Displacement in Contemporary Orissa (Binay Kumar Pattnaik),Development, Displacement and Labour Market Marginalization: The Case of Jharkhand Tribal Population (Tanushree Haldar and Vinoj Abraham), Indian Tribals and Search for an Indigenous Identity (Walter Fernandes).

A teacher–administrator, Srivastava was a former professor of Anthropology in the University of Delhi has to his credit many academic achievements. Currently director of Anthropological Survey of India and the Director-in-Charge of the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies. Acting Director General of the Raja Rammohun Roy Library Foundation, he is a member of the National Commission set up by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India, to sub-categorize the Other Backward Classes. He is also Chief Editor of the Journal of the Anthropological Survey of India and Editor of Social Change and was also in the editorial board of The Eastern Anthropologist.

The book – part of the series ‘Social Change in Contemporary India’ – brings together key writings published in the prestigious journal Social Change, from 1971 till present times. These works, most of which are considered canonical, address important issues in health, education, poverty and agriculture, with special focus on the disadvantaged groups of which tribals are   mostly bad off.

If India’s tribal communities face massive problems such as development-induced displacement, labor exploitation, sustainable livelihoods, and politics of religious conversion, tribal women’s issues, resistance movements and policy responses, these scholarly essays shed light on those burning realities.

Prof .Manoranjan Mohanty of Council for Social Development writes in the Foreword: ‘At a time when Adivasi awakening is a glaring phenomenon in India and the world, and there is a rising wave of assertions of rights and dignity not tribal people, and when movements for self-governance and ‘right to earth ‘are in full swing, scholars and policymakers have new questions to ponder over in a new framework.’

In the introduction, Srivastava reflects on predicaments of the tribal people in present times. His contention is that the tribes have the right to preserve their culture and language, and they should decide what is to be kept alive and what is to be weeded out. The Book argues that the tribal possessions should not be alienated against their will. He makes a case for the tribals to be heard. ‘If the land they dwell on is necessary for the development in the national interstate tribes should be taken into confidence and given a share in the gains generated.’

Besides presenting a broad perspective on the various aspects of tribal development, the dozen essays help in understanding the present- day actualities of tribals in India. The book will help in identifying key points in the history of policymaking and major discourses and debates and their impact.

India’s Tribes: Unfolding Realities 

Vinaya Kumar Srivastava

SAGE Publications India

New Delhi

Rs 1295

(The writer is a Bhubaneswar-based Journalist and Reviewer of books.)


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