Book review Being Adivasi

“Being Adivasi” is a collection of essays that provides insight into various aspects of the lives of Tribal people. Adivasis, who are considered the original inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent, are among the most vulnerable groups of people in India. Each essay takes up a specific issue that the Adivasi people are facing and is an eye-opener for the urban and non-tribal people of India.

As non-tribal urban citizens of India, we are often unaware of the existence of tribal and forest dwellers, let alone the issues they face. One essay points out that the total population of tribal people is around 8%, yet they form 55% of the total displaced people of India. Reading through the essays, it becomes clear that Adivasi people have no home of their own. Forests that have been their home for centuries are either taken over by the government or handed over to industrialists for mining, leaving the Adivasi people homeless.

Tribal people have their own customs and traditions. However, in the name of development, a constant effort is made to assimilate them into non-tribal society. Meenakshi Natarajan argues in her essay “Tribal Heritage and People’s Right” that the belief system prevalent in non-tribal India is being imposed on tribals to include them in the “mainstream”. While reading the essays, readers will learn about the fifth and sixth schedules of the Constitution, which were meant for affirmative action but have rarely helped the Adivasis.

Very few of us know that the earliest people to revolt against the British were Adivasis. The British introduced forest laws that took away the rights of the forest dwellers on forest produce, directly impacting the tribal people. They protested and revolted against it, resulting in the British government labeling most of the tribes as criminal tribes. Although they were de-notified after independence, the stigma was always attached to them, and in many places, some tribals are not socially accepted. Readers will learn many such things through the well-compiled and well-written essays.

What I like about the book is that each essay contains so much information and knowledge that I was not previously aware of regarding Adivasis. While reading the book, one wonders how come the mineral-rich part of India is the most poor and backward despite the promise of development. The book provided me with insight into the various aspects of tribal life that were previously unknown to me. For me, it is a very informative and eye-opening book.

The book is ideal for people who enjoy reading non-fiction, especially about the social, political, and economic aspects of India. As previously mentioned, it is a collection of essays with a lot of data and information, so anyone who wants to enhance their knowledge about India and wants to learn more about what it means to be an Adivasi will enjoy this book.

About the Authors

The book is edited by Abhay Flavian Xaxa and G.N. Devy. Abhay was a fiery Adivasi intellectual and activist. He graduated in sociology and done his Phd. in sociology from JNU. From 2012 till his death in 2019, he worked as a programme coordinator with the national Campaign on Dalit Human Rights. G.N Devy is the founder of Adivasi Academy and the Denotified and Nomadic Tribes Rights Action Group.

Our Verdict

Being Adivasi is a book for someone who is interested in anthropology and sociology. The essays are inundated with data, facts and information. Someone who has keen interest to know about India and her people will surely like this book.

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