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Non-Scheduled Tribes

Letters

Non-Scheduled Tribes

T
he 2001 Census of India counted the size of scheduled tribes at 8.2 per cent of the total population. The scheduled tribes are but a species of the genus, namely, tribes. There are tribes, not listed in the government’s official schedule. Those non-scheduled tribes are not entitled to the benefits of official affirmative actions for tribal welfare.

The complete list of all tribes – scheduled and non-scheduled – is not accessible as public information. The Anthropological Survey of India (ASI) in its report, The Scheduled Tribes, writes: “a tribe is an administrative and political concept in India” (People of India, National Series, Volume III, Oxford University Press, 1994, p xiii). Using the data of this report, it is evident that the non-scheduled tribes constitute another 8.2 per cent of the population, thus putting the estimate of total tribal population at 16.4 per cent. If this estimate is valid, it would imply that in the government’s sight as much as one half of the tribes people are non-existent: in absolute terms it comes to 84 million people.

The analysis here is based upon two sets of data – one with respect to the genus of tribes, the other to the species, viz, the scheduled tribes. First, the ASI report (p 7), says: “The tribes have generally remained outside the varna system. Therefore, only

11.8 per cent of them recognise their place in it [varna system]. Another

31.6 per cent are only aware of the varna system.”

The varna system is the one with four varnas, each containing innumerable castes in its interstices. The concepts of varna and caste are the unique distinguishing features of Hinduism. Adding 11.8 per cent with 31.6 per cent give us 43.4

per cent, which measures the proportion of Hindus among the genus of tribes.

Second, in respect of the species, the ASI report (p 12), mentions: “The scheduled tribes are mainly the followers of Hinduism, 87.05 per cent of their total population being returned as Hindus (1981 Census)”. In other words, Hindus comprise 87.05 per cent of the scheduled tribes.

We assume that all Hindu tribes have been enunciated and scheduled. In that case, Hindus are as much as

87.05 per cent of the scheduled tribes, but merely 43.4 per cent of the genus of tribes. The difference between these two ratios indicates that the genus is substantially larger than the species – apparently about twice of it.

Now, the size of the nonscheduled tribes can be computed. Let H denote the tribal Hindus, N the non-scheduled tribes, S the scheduled tribes, and T all tribes. The above-mentioned two sets of data can be summarised thus: H = 87.05 S = 43.4 T. From which it follows that: T = 2S. Now, by definition: T = N + S. Therefore, N = S.

To conclude, the group of nonscheduled tribes is as large as that of the scheduled tribes. But, not having been recognised by the government, the former is deprived of the facilities offered by official tribal development measures such as reservation of seats in educational institutions and in government services. This unjust discrimination may be a source of a twofold tension: the one among the tribal groups, the other between the tribes and the government.

RANJIT SAU

Kolkata

(Continued on p 3620)

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Economic and Political Weekly August 19, 2006

Letters

(Continued from p 3550)

Intellectual Bankruptcy

T
his refers to G P Deshpande’s review of the book on Agarkar (August 5, 2006). I agree with Deshpande that not enough attention has been paid to 19th century Maharashtra by those who write in English. But it is hard to agree with this when it comes to writing in Marathi. I think there is a decent body of scholarly and popular literature available on the lives and work of people who left their footprints on the period. Let me give a couple of examples.

Y D Phadke has written a classic in Marathi – Shodh Balgopalancha (1977) – on the life and friendship of Tilak and Agarkar. This meticulously researched book does more than adequate justice to both these great personalities of 19th century Maharashtra. It also brings them to life, warts and all. Phadke’s other books cover the lives and work of Phule, Shahu Maharaj, Ambedkar and Bose, among others. Phadke has written quite extensively – both critical and laudatory – on Savarkar too.

The historian, late T S Shejwalkar, has written about the lives and work of a few more great personalities of the period: Acharya Jambhekar, Lokhitwadi, Nyaymurti Telang and Agarkar. It is unfortunate that most of this writing has perhaps not been translated into English. Tragically, few of the said Marathi books may be in print today and may never be printed again! Such is the intellectual bankruptcy that Maharashtra finds itself in today.

ANIRUDDHA G KULKARNI

Pune

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    Economic and Political Weekly August 19, 2006

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