TODAY -

"Tribe" in India: A term shrouded in uncertainty
- Part 1 -

Sanjoy Akoijam *



The words 'tribe' and 'tribal' have been in the news very frequently in the past few days all over India, including Manipur too. The main reason behind this is the election of Shrimati Droupadi Murmu as the 15th President of the Republic of India, the first 'tribal' to hold the highest office of the country (she is a member of the Santhal tribe, a large Scheduled Tribe that mainly inhabits parts of Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha and Bihar).

Also in the news in Manipur is a renewed push by the STDCM (Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee Manipur), urging the State Gov-ernment to take up prompt measures to enlist Meitei/Meetei in the list of Scheduled Tribes (STs) of India.

The Meitei ST Status demand movement has been a stop-start affair for the last ten years, always overshadowed by other move-ment. Most of us in Manipur and the whole of India take the terms 'tribe', 'tribal', 'ST', etc. for granted, and we all have a vague idea of what it means to be associated with the term. But there is always more than meets the eye.

So, what exactly is a 'tribe' or 'Scheduled Tribe' in India, and why is the term shrouded in uncertainty ?

A renowned Indian anthropologist, DN Majumdar (1950) defined a tribe from an anthropological perspective as " as a social group with territorial affiliation, endogamous, with no specialization of functions, ruled by tribal officers, he-reditary or otherwise, united in language or dialect, recognizing social distance with other tribes or castes, without any social obloquy attaching to them, as it does in the caste structure, followed tribal traditions, beliefs and customs, illiberal of naturalization of ideas from alien sources, above all conscious of homogeneity of ethnic and territorial integration."

The definition of tribe is not given clearly in the Constitution of India. However, the Constitution refers to `Scheduled Tribes' vaguely in Article 366 (25) as "such tribes or tribal communities or parts of or groups within such tribes or tribal communities as are deemed under Ar-ticle 342 to be Scheduled Tribes for the purposes of this Constitution".

Article 342 of the Constitution prescribes the procedure to be followed in matter of the specification of Scheduled Tribes. This article has two clauses: 1. The President of India after discussion with the Gov-ernor of respective States or a Union Territory, may specify tribal communities or tribes or groups within tribal commu-nities or parts of tribes which shall for the purposes of the Constitution of India be considered to be Scheduled Tribes

in relation to that Union Territory or State as the case may be by public notification. 2. Parliament may by law include in or exclude from the list of Scheduled Tribes specified in a notification issued under clause (1) any tribe or tribal community or part of or group within any tribe or tribal community, but save as aforesaid a notification issued under the said clause shall not be varied by any subsequent notification.

The Lokur Committee in 1965 laid down some essential characteristics to identify a community as a Scheduled Tribe. The characteristics include indications of primitive characters, geographical isolation, shyness to contact with the other communities generally, distinctive culture and backwardness. These criteria for identification are not given in the Constitution but it has become well established over the years.

It takes into consideration various reports which include the defmitions contained in Census of the year 1931, the first Backward Classes Commission reports of 1955, the Advisory Committee on Revision of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribe lists (Lokur Committee), 1965 and the Joint Committee of Parliament on the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes orders (Amendment) Bill, 1967.

In 2014, a committee was formed led by the Union Tribal Affairs Secretary Hrushikesh Panda, to review the guidelines of recommendation and recognition of a com-munity (or part of the community) in the Scheduled Tribe list of India.

The new criteria that the committee forwarded included autonomous religious practices, although practicing the Hindu way of life would not be a bar, marital relationship with another tribe (the majority in the tribe should marry within the tribe or with other tribes), distinctive culture, historical and geographical isolation, social-economic and educational backwardness and distinc-tive language.

The new recommended criteria are yet to be accepted by the Central Government. It may be mentioned that both the Lokur Committee criteria and the Panda Com-mittee criteria have been criticised by renowned social scientist Andre Beteille as being based on "political considerations rather than academic definitions."

It may be mentioned that in 1973, the Dhebar Commission created the category of Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs) as a separate category. They were judged to be less devel-oped among the tribal groups. In 1975, the Government of India initiated to identify the most vulnerable tribal groups as a separate category called PTGs and declared 52 such groups, while in 1993 an additional 23 groups were added to the category, making it a total of 75 PVTGs, spread over 18 States and one Union Territory (Andaman & Nicobar Islands) in the country (2011 census).

In 2006, the govern-ment renamed the PTGs as PVTGs (Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups). According to the 2011 Census of India, scheduled tribes constitute 8.2% of the total population of the country. There are 705 ethnic groups notified as Scheduled Tribes accord-ing to the Constitution of India. The number of tribes scheduled under the Constitution of India is quite large, and the heterogeneity is massive.

Each tribe is quite dis-tinct from the other. Since tribes are different from one another in terms of diverse aspects, it is not easy to define or classify them. For instance, the Karbi tribe of Assam, North Eastern India is completely different from the Bhil tribe of central and western India, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan or Maharashtra in terms of morphology, socio-cultural dimensions and way of life.

Though there are some similarities or common traits, tribes from differ-ent parts of India have their own distinctive cultures and features. Tribes of different regions of India are different from one another in terms of physical features, cultural and tradition, economy, polity, etc.

A majority of the tribes are in their transitional phase in terms of cultural practices, belief and world view, dietary habits, lifestyles, occupation and other socio-economic factors, though some basic dis-tinctive features like dialects, territorial distribution, customs, etc. remain constant. Many scholars have referred to the Scheduled Tribes as "indigenous people of India".

However, there are several objections regarding the same. Many tribal communities, especially those in Central and East India have been re-ferred to as the first settlers (autochthones) of the Indian sub-continent. However, there are also numerous communities in India that are indigenous to the land who are not classified as Scheduled Tribes.

Many of these non-ST in-digenous peoples are the dominant communities in their respective states. Virginias Xaxa, a renowned tribal scholar once wrote that there are tribes in India especially in the north-east whose settlement in the territories they inhabit today is an even later phenomenon than the settlement of many non-tribes in other parts of India.

So, imposition of a New World (The Americas, Oceania, etc.) perspective of dividing populations into indigenous people and colonists/ migrants may not be applicable to most of the Old World counties, including India.


(More to follow)


* Sanjoy Akoijam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on July 28 2022.



* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of e-pao.net. We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.




LATEST IN E-PAO.NET
  • Linthoi Chanambam : First Judo Gold Medalist
  • COVID-19 Status 28 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Featured Front Page Photo 2022 #4: Gallery
  • Sore Admiration :: Poem
  • Accountant Assistant @ Amber & Arthur
  • World Heart Day 2022
  • Indo-Naga Talks (2012-) :: News Timeline
  • COVID-19 : Impact in Manipur :: News Timeline
  • Plastic menace: Time over for warning
  • Promoting cycling in Imphal
  • Mera Chaorel Houba @ Kangla #1 :: Gallery
  • Tripura Fashion Week @ Agartala :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 27 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • ST status demands in India #2
  • Socio-cultural tourism in NE India
  • Investigation against CRPF Personal
  • Backache in diabetics: Never ignore it
  • 'Poison' liquor still favourite for commoners
  • What has happened to the ban on SUP ?
  • Maibi Jagoi @ Thangjing Haraoba :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 26 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Lamyanba Irabot Ningsing Tha : Plantation
  • World Pharmacists Day 2022
  • Workshop of Wildlife Crime Prevention
  • Genius is knowing when to stop !
  • Naga final pact as Nagaland polls near
  • Lifting prohibition : Talk of the day
  • Tarpon Chaklen Katpa @ Andro #1 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 25 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Lamyanba Irabot Ningsing Tha : Fingerlings
  • Tripura Fashion Week in Agartala
  • World River Day & our environment
  • Nubank : banking industry in Brazil
  • Opposition parties struggling to dent BJP
  • From High Court to Supreme Court ?
  • Lokchao Bridge @ NH 102 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 24 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • What were Phizo's last words to Khodao?
  • Priyadarshini, Priyanka: Everest Taekwondo
  • I swear :: Poem
  • Incomplete lifting of prohibition
  • Prevention of parasitism in livestock #2
  • Wakhal Eronba- Sumang Leela #1 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 23 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Arbin Tonjam: best designer - Miss Manipur
  • Lamyanba Irabot Ningsing Tha at Ithing
  • Ferry to Ganges :: Poem
  • Making public health messaging entertaining
  • Student schooling order exposes fault...
  • Discipline : The common thread
  • Camping @ Shirui Lily Fest #1 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 22 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Youth : An idea can change the world
  • Perceived class conflict triggers friction ...
  • The tale of a forgotten diary
  • Face Redness- How to get rid of it
  • CADA - Govt on collision course
  • Inching towards a final pact ?
  • Border Pillar Inspection @Kamjong :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 21 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Strange bed fellows attempting to cohabit
  • Training for entrepreneur in Food Processing
  • Recalling Alzheimer once again !
  • New Education Policy : The CUET rigmarole
  • Liquor for better health! Indigestible
  • Now focus on ST demand
  • Byron Aihara - A True Lover of Manipur
  • International Day of Peace 2022
  • Human Capital Formation, need of the hour
  • Prevention is better than cure !!
  • Prevention of parasitism in livestock #1
  • Security Conference at Tamenglong
  • Concrete action must follow 'CM Da Haisi'
  • Tag of a dry State for the last 30 years
  • Pungyam Yeiba Fest @Singjamei :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 19 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • National Bamboo Innovation Challenge
  • International Day of Peace & environment
  • Lamyanba Irabot Ningsing Tha: Social Service
  • World Bamboo Day celebrated
  • Domestic capitalists unwilling to trust & invest
  • Street food vogue boon for youth
  • Sit-ins demanding inclusion in ST list
  • Down Memory Lane: My Years with MSAD #3
  • COVID-19 Status 18 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Licypriya to attend UN General Assembly
  • Screenwriters invited to 6-month screenlab
  • An ideal civil servant
  • Tripura Fashion Week in Agartala
  • Opposition parties struggling to dent BJP
  • Taking the customer for granted
  • Miss Manipur 2022 #2 :: Gallery
  • Irabot Ningsing Tha : Jagoi Competition
  • Bringing drug users to mainstream society
  • Namo Birthday special: India matters globally
  • Criticizes village occupation in Ukhrul
  • Use of local agri wastes as substrate
  • Jiribam Keithel [15 June] #1 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 16 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Boeing University Innovation Leadership
  • ST status demands in India #1
  • Literacy enhancement as a career choice
  • Agniveer recruitment rally at Assam
  • Ignoring the perfect solution to everything
  • Eyeing to end insurgency in next 5 years
  • Laklaroi Amuk Hanna Yeningtha #1 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 15 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Manipuri Muslim (Pangal) Historical Society
  • 7th election: NE Student Org, Jalandhar
  • Macnivil releases new song: Price they'll pay
  • Youth advocating for sexual health & rights
  • Engineers : The backbone of any Nation
  • IBSD celebrated Hindi Diwas
  • Who is at fault for shrinking roads?
  • After 25 years of negotiations
  • Heikru Hidongba @Bijoy Govinda #2: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 14 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Joint Accordant by NSCN/GPRN & NNPGs
  • In search of Khubak Ishei
  • Lamyanba Irabot Ningsing Tha at Bishnupur
  • Beauty benefits of Amla
  • STDCM sets sight on bandh to draw Govt
  • The unplanned city of Imphal Concrete jungle
  • Down Memory Lane: My Years with MSAD #2
  • COVID-19 Status 13 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Constitution & flag still dogs settlement
  • Churachandpur - The chaos and mess !
  • Rice Afrika is using tech to increase rice
  • Voluntary Blood Donation: An act of solidarity
  • Nagaland desperate for solution to Naga issue
  • Final solution likely very soon: Note key word
  • Miss Manipur 2022 #1 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 12 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Is there a need for another Nupi Lan ?
  • Consultation: Development at Lairouching
  • Bullying : Losing of children's dignity
  • Social Entrepreneur, social currency they earn
  • AMSU in dire need of support of CSOs
  • Mum on the points of JCILPS, STDCM
  • 57th Hunger Marchers' Day #3 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 11 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • 1st Anniv: The Keithel Store Pune :: Gallery
  • Beyond Teachers' Day
  • On farm production of Mycorrhizae
  • Onam and the legend behind it
  • COVID-19 Status 10 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Fake voters testify official nepotism
  • From 1999 to 2022 : TSE is now 23
  • Yaoshang Thabal Competition #3 :: Gallery
  • Kholao Deben went with the Queen
  • Imaginary grudge severs human relations
  • A Phenomenally Him :: Poem
  • Bharat Jodo Yatra: Last ditch effort...
  • Special Lok Adalat for Imphal & Bishnupur
  • Pineapple Fest @Bunglon, CCpur :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 09 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Tarpon: Annual offerings to the dead by living
  • Book review: Aeromycology over Kachai lemon
  • On saying Hello
  • Himalayan Day celebrated at IBSD, Imphal
  • Get rid of strawberry legs at home
  • Manipuri driver primary source of 'Loyalty tax'
  • The 'tax-extortion' argument
  • Down Memory Lane: My Years with MSAD #1
  • COVID-19 Status 08 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • [Jobs] Biotechnology ignition grant for NE
  • 1st Anniversary of The Keithel Store Pune
  • International Literacy Day & our Environment
  • 1 Lakh Hand Sanitizer Bottles handed over
  • Pinning hope on Sangai fest to draw tourists
  • Points to study from Mizoram
  • Heikru Hidongba @Bijoy Govinda #1: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 07 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Schedule Tribe Demand, Recent cries
  • Intricacies of core issue in Naga insurgency
  • On Poiroukhongjin High School issue
  • Celebrating International Literacy Day, 2022
  • Condemn physical assault on women vendor
  • Scoundrel official undermining essence of ILP
  • Is the ban on SUP effective ?
  • Ayekpam Shyamsunder's life & works
  • Book release: 'Osman Thambal' at Imphal
  • World Sexual Health Day celebrated in NE
  • Manipur Tech Univ: top at India Hackathon
  • Insomnia :: Poem
  • Change - Inside Out!
  • Biological control in agriculture #2
  • Nearest-to-home posting of teachers policy
  • Addressing shortage of teachers
  • Ibudhou Thangjing Haraoba #6 :: Gallery
  • Ancient Manipur kingdom and Brahmanism
  • Teachers' role in multicultural North East
  • Regarding closing 34 Assam govt schools
  • mPharma is revolutioning access to medicine
  • Asking to believe as we receive
  • 10 years of TPC: Success collectively shared
  • Significance of observing Teachers' Day
  • Krishna Janma @ ISKCON :: Gallery
  • Growing support globally to end HIV medicine
  • Teachers' Day & My Rumbling Thoughts
  • Soibam Bindeshori : Indian Prime Icon Award
  • Can't public figures drink & dance
  • Climate emergency
  • Jumping ship trademark of state's politicians
  • Switching side from JD (U) to BJP
  • Sit-in for Meetei ST @ Kongba :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 03 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Humanitarian aid to Meira Paibis leaders
  • Down the memory lane :: Poem
  • A moment of introspection
  • Ganesh collection
  • Addl Director General, NCC homage at INA
  • Meira Rally against Drug Traffic #2 :: Gallery
  • September Calendar for Year 2022 : Tools
  • Haipou Jadonnang in History #2
  • Krishna, soul of Indian classical dance
  • Biological control in agriculture #1
  • Additional Director General, NCC, NE
  • Senapati farmers commit to curb poppy
  • School Fagathansi & shortage of teachers
  • 57th Hunger Marchers' Day #2 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 01 Sept : Govt of Manipur
  • Is NSCN-IM looking for a way to exit...
  • Delhi Youtuber honoured by Nagaland Govt
  • Multistoried cropping system for North East
  • Herbal remedies for sun-tan in monsoon
  • Agniveer Recruitment Rally for Manipur
  • Improve irrigation network
  • Pending final pact, ST demand, prohibition
  • Reception of Linthoi Chanambam :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 31 August : Govt of Manipur
  • Applications from sportspersons for awards
  • Faith in the Lord: The evidence of things
  • Aadhaar link with Voter ID should be optional
  • Session with Jail Officials & Inmate at Sajiwa
  • Scam related to job & educational opportunity
  • Widening list of drug dealers
  • Understanding the idea of CUET
  • Jiribam Train station [15 Jun] :: Gallery
  • Haipou Jadonang martyr day at Jiribam
  • How citizens evaluate performance of MLA
  • Daslakshan Festival
  • All you needed was a little more courage
  • National Sports Day in Tamenglong
  • Bid to promote state's largest cottage industry
  • On lending support and entrepreneurship
  • Haipou Jadonang - Martyr Day :: Gallery
  • Linthoi and Manipur Olympics
  • Linthoi Ch: gold at World Cadet Judo
  • Patriots' Day @Thangal Complex :: Gallery
  • Jhulon Festival: Nupee Pala #2 :: Gallery
  • 13 August observed by CSOs :: Gallery
  • Mirabai Chanu: gold @ Commonwealth Game
  • Rules of English Pronunciation : Download
  • Sub-Syllables in English : Book Download