The idea that Indian Constitution would include various provisions like the Fifth and Sixth Schedule to protect the rights of the Tribal indigenous people was not palatable to many non tribal members of the Constituent Assembly. The debates on the question of Tribal rights and autonomy are therefore quite fascinating to read to understand the attitudes of racial and cultural superiority that the plains dwelling Indian harboured toward the tribal people. As Rohini Kumar Chaudhuri put it, “We want to assimilate the tribal people. We were not given that opportunity so far.” But these ‘racist’ comments were eloquently challenged and dismantled by Rev. J. J. M. Nichols Roy, a Khasi and Mr. Jaipal Singh, a Munda. Their historic speeches to the Assembly need revisiting again because the attitudes they challenged and the questions they raised have not yet become history.
Tag: Tribal Autonomy
Land in Meghalaya, India, was traditionally agricultural/forest land, owned by the community. With increasing privatization and rising commercial value of land for non-agricultural use, many owners have sold the land for mining operations. So-called rat-hole coal mining has resulted in environmental degradation as well as in the loss of lives of miners, most of whom are from outside the state. The National Green Tribunal has banned coal mining until safer, more environmentally sound policies and practices are in place. Critics in Meghalaya claim that the ban encroaches on the tribal way of life and point to constitutional provisions exempting Meghalaya from the purview of national mining laws. However, the courts are clear: Meghalaya’s exemptions do not allow them to violate the constitutional right to life of all Indian citizens. The traditional institutions are not strong enough to mitigate the rising inequality among citizens following from mining and other commercial operations.