Following independence, India implemented a programme of integrating tribals in areas such as education, sanitation, health, and women’s empowerment. At the same time, there was never a plan to integrate them into the mainstream, which would jeopardise or destroy their separate culture. The North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA) was established in this regard.
NEFA was originally used in the most distant districts of northeast India, which became known as Arunachal Pradesh in 1987. This approach of integration and positive isolation of tribals from the mainstream has resulted in Arunachal Pradesh becoming the country’s most tranquil state. However, this could not be done as effectively in other tribal areas as it could in Arunachal Pradesh, and the consequences can still be observed today. Other legislative initiatives enacted by the Indian government after independence under Nehru’s leadership and vision included:
Article 46 of the constitution stressed the support of indigenous peoples’ educational and economic advancement. At the same time, they were protected against exploitation. The applicability of basic rights was revised to provide the governors of states with tribal regions the authority to alter legislation to preserve tribal interests. Seats in the legislature and administration are reserved. The formation of Tribal Advisory Councils in all states. The President appoints a commissioner for scheduled tribes to assess whether the safeguards offered to indigenous people are reaching their intended recipients.
The following executive actions were taken: A significant sum was preserved in the five-year plans. Promotion of cottage and village enterprises, which aided in job creation. In several ways, integrating these indigenous regions into the mainstream proved difficult: Difficult terrain, It was difficult to assimilate them since they had been isolated even throughout the independence fight movement. Christian missionaries were instrumental in instilling anti-national sentiments among the inhabitants of the northeast. In the 1950s, the local Assam administration was formulating a bill to be imposed in Assam’s periphery to make Assamese language compulsory. The tribal leaders were outraged by this ‘Assamisation,’ and they called for an All Party Hill Leader Conference.
The Indian government eventually took several actions in their favour, including granting autonomy to the Garo, Khasi, and Jaintia hill tribes (1969). These territories were united into one and given the status of a state, ‘Meghalaya,’ in 1972. Other states, such as Manipur and Mizoram, were also declared states.
The Nagas declared themselves a separate country in 1955, with the help of external agents and under the leadership of A.Z Phizo. The Indian army, on the other hand, gained control of the situation in 1956. Although briefly suppressed by the army, the movement could not be eradicated. As a result, the Indian government took a political stance. After discussions with Dr.ImkongLobaAo, a liberal from Nagaland, discussions of Nagaland being a part of India began.
As a result, it was advocated that a new state of Nagaland be founded, with no fear of ‘Assamisation’. Nagaland’s issue was thus settled, and a new state, ‘Nagaland,’ was founded in 1963. A similar violent movement had begun in the North East throughout the 1950s and 1960s under the leadership of Lal Denga. The Indian government handled the problem delicately once more, establishing Mizoram as a distinct state in 1987, with Lal Denga as Chief Minister.
In some ways, integrating these tribal areas into the mainstream was difficult: they were economically and educationally backward in comparison to the tribals of the North East, they lived in extreme poverty, and despite being central in terms of geographical location, they were cut off in terms of delivery of goods and services.
Jaipal Singh initiated the movement for Jharkhand to be separated from Bihar. The tribals of southern Bihar in the Chota Nagpur region, such as the Munda, Ho, and Santhal, were numerous and desired their own state. As a result of this, Jaipal Singh established the Jharkhand Party in 1950. However, because they were not distinct in terms of language, and because language was the basis of state reorganisation at the time, the States Reorganisation Commission rejected their claim.
The demand was resurrected in 1970 with the founding of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) led by Shibu Soren. He bolstered the campaign by including impoverished non-tribals in the quest for independent statehood. He worked with the Maoist Communist Centre. Initially a violent movement, it cooled down with the government of India’s diplomatic position, and therefore, in the year 2000, a distinct state of Jharkhand was formed out of the state of Bihar.
Chattisgarh’s territories were the most remote, backward, and ignored by the Indian Union. It might be stated that these districts were ruled by communists until the government arrived. With the passage of time, development in certain areas did reach the area, but it did not assist the tribals in any manner. Rather, they lost their customary land rights. The wealthier castes now held this property, and the tribals were treated mercilessly. They took up weapons in response to the ideologies of Mao, Karl Marx, Lenin, and others.
Since then, this violent movement has been dubbed Naxalism. It was named after the Naxalbari district of West Bengal, where it first appeared in 1967. The territories under Naxal control are now known as the Red Corridor. The government has been attempting to combat this issue and has implemented a SalwaJudum strategy in this aim. Under this programme, some indigenous tribals were provided weapons to fight the Naxals. This policy, however, failed and was pronounced unlawful by the Supreme Court.
In 2000, the state of Chattisgarh was formed from the state of Madhya Pradesh, yet the problem of Naxalism endures. According to intellectuals and historians, the problem of Naxalism may be solved by addressing the land question, as land lies at the heart of the Naxal movement.
Poor programme and policy implementation, a schism between the federal and state governments, Funds are misused or simply do not provide a result. Tribal Advisory Councils have not been effective. Incompetent administrative workers, Ignorance of indigenous peoples understanding land laws, resulting in their easy exploitation and denial of justice Deforestation, exploitation, and land loss have resulted in unemployment and a restriction on their customary right to enter the forest. The rejection of indigenous languages in school has slowed the educational process. Tribal development has been limited to the tribal elite and so has not spread farther.
The current situation in tribal regions demonstrates the cohabitation of tribal and non-tribal populations, as well as their joint goals for economic and social growth, as well as justice. It is critical to comprehend the tribal regions’ objectives in relation to the region, since as the region grows, all aspects vital to the region eventually evolve. However, care must be taken to guarantee that the indigenous people’s peculiarity and uniqueness are not violated in the sake of progress.