Indian Catholic News

India's indigenous people urged to unite for their rights

Many government policies are anti-tribal especially those related to natural resources.

Cultural program at the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples celebration in New Delhi on August. 9. (Photo by Bijay Kumar Minj)
New Delhi: 

India's indigenous people should come together and fight for their socio-economic development, urged church leaders and activists at a gathering marking the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples in New Delhi.

The indigenous people in India have maintained separate identities but "it is the need of the hour that they unite to fight their displacement and exploitation," said Father Stanislaus Tirkey, secretary of the Indian bishops' office for tribal people, during his address to some 1,000 people at the New Delhi event Aug. 9.

"Our problem is same, we are the victims of discrimination and unless we become united, the problems will remain same," said the Jesuit priest who belongs to the Oraon tribe.

India has some 104 million indigenous people according to government figures but they belong to more than 600 groups, large and small.

Most indigenous communities have social interactions only within their own tribes and sub clans. In some places, they are also engaged in rivalry and violence for dominance.

Father Tirkey told that all indigenous people should come together to assert their socio-economic and developmental rights. They should also fight for their rights without violence and following principles of democracy, he added.

Jesuit Father Father Ranjit Tigga, who heads Department of Tribal Studies at Indian Social Institute, said the Constitution of India provides many provisions for tribal people.

"But there was lack of political will in implementing them," he said.

Some policies are anti-tribal, he said, especially those related to natural resources such as land, forest, and water.

"These resources are exploited by vested interests and the laws of the land are with those indulging in such activities," Father Tigga said.

Attending the event, Dayamani Barla, an activist from Jharkhand, said indigenous people should come out of their "ghetto mentality" of working for individual tribes and get united.

Roma Ekka, an actress from the state of West Bengal, said those who are educated should teach others about their rights. "If we want equality we have to take all people into consideration," she said.

The Jesuit-run Indian Social Institute in collaboration with indigenous youth groups in New Delhi organized the event.

Source: UCAN

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