ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Who in North-east India Are Indigenous?

Who in North-east India Are Indigenous?

As the struggle for gaining recognition as "indigenous peoples" gains momentum, more and more tribal communities in north-east India have begun identifying or projecting themselves as such. Although no community is officially declared indigenous, the central and state governments grant constitutional and political concessions to certain tribal communities in the north-east, recognising their claims to indigeneity. But in the region, the question of who is indigenous remains contentious. While reflecting on the implications of recognising some communities in the region as indigenous, this article focuses on the limitations of the politics of indigeneity.

It is not intellectual curiosity alone that prompts one to examine which community first settled in a particular place. An enquiry as to who in a given region or country could be considered indigenous is not just a question for scholars in the disciplines of history or anthropology. Indigeneity is now above all a political question, closely bound with claims to territory, status, identity, and political power. Although the United Nations (UN) has finally adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the fight of indigenous peoples for identity and justice is far from over. While acknowledging the continuing relevance of the discourse on indigeneity to several oppressed and marginalised native communities across the globe, it is necessary to be aware of the limitations of the politics of indigeneity. If not guided properly, there is a possibility that the ideology and politics of indigeneity could well become a tool in the hands of the indigenous elite and be an obstacle to understanding the interests of oppressed native communities and poor migrant populations. Keeping in mind the diverse trajectories of the politics of indigeneity, this article examines the increasing demands for recognition as indigenous peoples by hill communities and discusses the relevance of the politics of indigeneity in the hill areas of north-east India.

Idea of Indigenous People

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