Ramachandra Guha on Adivasis.

In Outlook

This essay was first published in the Economic and Political Weekly (August 11, 2007) under the title, “Adivasis, Naxalites, And Indian Democracy” and is republished here with the author’s permission as it – unfortunately – remains as relevant today. The essay argues that adivasis as a whole have gained least and lost most from six decades of democracy and development in India. It presents evidence that they are even more deprived than the Dalits. However, unlike the Dalits, they have been unable to effectively articulate their grievances through the democratic and electoral process. The failures of the state and of the formal political system have provided a space for Maoist revolutionaries to move into. After analysing the reasons for the rise of ‘Naxalite’ influence, the essay concludes that there is a double tragedy at work in tribal India. The first tragedy is that the state has treated its adivasi citizens with contempt and condescension. The second tragedy is that their presumed protectors, the Naxalites, offer no long term solution either.

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