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India’s Minister of Tribal Affairs, Kantilal Bhuria, has announced that he supports the ‘integration’ of India’s tribal communities into the ‘mainstream’ society – a policy that has been shown to be disastrous.
A report by Survival International has shown the catastrophic impacts of policies based on this approach. Last year, the MP for the Andaman Islands, Bishnu Pada Ray, caused outrage with statements that he wanted to ‘wean’ Jarawa children away from the tribe in order to ‘drastically mainstream’ them. Now India’s minister charged with looking after the nation’s nearly 90 million tribal people has said that they must be integrated with the mainstream of society.
The notion of ‘mainstreaming’ tribal people has not been viewed as an acceptable policy by the international community for decades. No government in the Americas has advocated assimilation for more than twenty years.
Earlier this year, India’s Supreme Court had noted that many tribal groups have ‘managed to preserve many of their tribal customs despite many oppressions and atrocities from other communities. … The injustice done to the tribal people of India is a shameful chapter in our country’s history.’ This ‘shameful chapter’ will not close if a policy of assimilation is pursued.
Survival’s Director, Stephen Corry said today, ‘This notion of bringing tribal peoples into the ‘mainstream’ is based on the outmoded conviction that governments know best – a colonialist attitude with the effect of taking over tribal lands and resources. This approach has destroyed many peoples and threatens many more.’