On the future of indigenous traditions: the case of Adivasis of Jharkhand, India

Report from Bineet Mundu, Master Programme in Indigenous Studies, University of Tromsø. Project 200501253-12

Financial support to the project:
“On the future of indigenous traditions : the case of Adivasis of Jharkhand, India”

In my initial plan I had three main places to visit as a part of my masters thesis in my field study. That was the Libraries and the National Archives in New Delhi, research centres, institutes and organisations working on Indigenous peoples issues in Jharkhand region and then the British Museum Library in London both for the literatures and interviews with some of the concerned persons in this field.

It was to find answer to my research question – That if the indigenous people here who have their own customary system of governance practiced for ages, why should the state (the colonial as well as independent state) though recognising it on one hand, on the other implements is own system to replacing it by bringing in the larger interests of the state? Is the past forsaken, how and for what?

Visited was made to Indian from June to August by me starting from Delhi, then to Ranchi, Chaiabasa in Jharkhand and back to Delhi again. The Nehru Memorial Library had some basic literature I was looking for and had some interviews here in Delhi. In Jharkhad it was Ranchi and then Chaibasa where the places I visited were different organisations and institutes for seeing their collection of documents and literature to be used for my thesis.

What I have been looking for was the background that led to making the three important Tenancy Laws made during the British rule, which recognised the customary law of the five major indigenous peoples in this region –Jharkhand, after fears struggle, …the background to the controversy in different understanding between the will of the indigenous peoples and the state. The special provisions on the one hand of the independent Indians constitution makes recognises the peoples institutions and in its 5th and 6th Schedule. But on the other hand the state legislations that cover these regions do not respect or in other words completely violates these clauses by bringing in new acts, thus pressuring to either ignore or amend the already existing tenancy laws, which if not fully but partly recognises indigenous peoples basic social systems which have helped them organise themselves as a people with their cultural, social and life values.

Interviews with several persons concerned in my focus area of my thesis, some of them like Mr Surin a retired senior magistrate who has in-depth understanding of how and where the customary systems are violated by the state system, Fr Stan advocating for customary system to be respected in the legal arena, lawyers like Rashmi Katyan who have reputation of having taken up outstanding cases on the ground of these tenancy laws, persons like Shivcharan Parya who hold the position of traditional leader, give rulings which technically the state legal system has to recognise and implement, the key figures to have their statements for my thesis, have also been possible to get and more concerned persons who have contributed in my interviews I hade with several times and for hours, to be contented with the subject matter.

I was able to collect a good number of relevant literature and reference materials from here as well. Some of the documents, which I was expecting to find in the British Museum Library in London pertaining to Kolhan region, interestingly I found them in Chaibasa. Since most of the information I required was found in the field visit itself I had to drop my plan to go to the British Museum Library in London.

The literatures, which I have been able to get hold of, some rare and also basic, with its help it would be possible to give an insight to the un-spelt conflict from the indigenous peoples own perspective of the on going conflict with the state can be brought out with much clarity. My thesis will give a ground to the reader the different understandings of self-actualisation and self-determination by the indigenous peoples themselves and that of the state. I would like to convey my deep gratitude to both the Centre for Sami Studies and SEMUT and also the Ford Foundation for their support enabling me to travel and stay in the field to collect the relevant literatures and conduct interviews on my area of study.

Read the thesis online – Munin

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