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

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A Regressive World View on Scheduled Tribe Reservations

The Supreme Court’s setting aside of the Andhra Pradesh government’s preference scheme for Scheduled Tribes in schools in Scheduled Areas shows up a world view which believes that Adivasis need to be pushed into the “mainstream” and compelled to abandon their “backward” culture. However, this goes against the constitutional vision, as made clear in the Andhra Pradesh High Court’s majority judgment in the same case, which articulates a more nuanced and sensitive position on the rights of India’s Adivasis.

Cultural theorist D R Nagaraj, in the essay “The Tiger and the Magical Flute: Notes on Minorities,” questions the categories “ethnic minority” and “religious minority” (2012: 308). He argues that these two categories insufficiently reflect the complex reality of such communities, and offers the terms “civilisational minorities” and “societal minorities” instead. Civilisational minorities, in Nagaraj’s essay, are those who have been left out or crushed by “modern development,” placing India’s tribal peoples in this category. According to Nagaraj, the difference between tribals and non-tribals is civilisational, that they are effectively part of two civilisations: one (“mod­ernity”) seeing the other’s self-sufficiency and self-contained cultural world as being a threat to its own existence.

Nagaraj’s categories give us a useful framework in understanding the recent, controversial constitution bench judgment of the Supreme Court in Chebrolu Leela Prasad Rao v State of Andhra Pradesh (2020; C L Prasad Rao case). The Court has unanimously held the policy of “100% reservations” of teaching jobs for Scheduled Tribes (ST) in schools in Fifth Schedule Areas of Andhra Pradesh (AP) and Telangana to be unconstitutional.

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Updated On : 27th May, 2020

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