Short Essay on the Tribal Movements in India

There is enough literature on tribal movements in India. We have mentioned earlier that in social anthropology tribal movements have been humped together with peasant movements. This thesis has been contested by K.S. Singh. However, there are social anthropologists and sociologists who do not agree with Singh.

For instance, Kathleen Gough and A.R. Desai argue that the tribals today have virtually be­come peasants. And, therefore, their problems and issues cannot be separated from the general peasantry. Whatever may be the argu­ments, the fact remains that the tribals have not remained silent all through the periods of history.

Their resistance has been quite active. K.S. Singh has edited two volumes on Tribal Movements in India (1982-83). He divides the movements into three phases. The first phase was between 1795 and 1860, and coincided with the rise, expansion and establishment of the British Empire.

The second phase covers the period of colonialism, “during which merchant capital penetrated into tribal economy affecting their relationship with the land and forest”. The third phase deals with the period from 1920 till the achievement of independence in 1947.

During this phase, the tribals not only began to launch the so-called separatist movement, but at the same time, par­ticipated in nationalist and agrarian movements. K.S. Singh classified the tribal movements into: (1) movements for political autonomy; (2) agrarian and forest-based movements; (3) sanskritization movement; and (4) cultural movements based on script and language.