In India, we usually showcase the adivasis community in a particular way.
Adivasis are invariably portrayed in very stereotypical ways – in colourful costumes, headgear and through their dancing.
This often wrongly leads to people believing that they are exotic, primitive and backward.
Often Adivasis are blamed for their lack of advancement as they are believed to be resistant to change or new ideas.
Adivasis and Development
Forests were absolutely crucial to the developmentof all empires and settled civilisations in India.
Metal ores like iron and copper, and gold and silver, coal and diamonds, invaluable timber, most medicinal herbs and animal products (wax, lac, honey) and animals themselves (elephants, the mainstay of imperial armies), all came from the forests.
Adivasis had a deep knowledge of, access to, as well as control over most of these vast tracts at least till the middle of the nineteenth century.
This meant that they were not ruled by large states and empires. Instead, often empires heavily depended on Adivasis for the crucial access to forest resources.
This is radically contrary to our image of Adivasis today as somewhat marginal and powerless communities.
Although these remain, for the past 200 years Adivasis have been increasingly forced – through economic changes, forest policies and political force applied by the State and private industry – to migrate to lives as workers in plantations, at construction sites, in industries and as domestic workers.