• Indigenous peoples in India

    Indigenous peoples in India


In India, there are 705 ethnic groups officially recognized as "Scheduled Tribes". In central India, the Scheduled Tribes are usually referred to as Adivasis, which literally means Indigenous Peoples.

India has several laws and constitutional provisions, such as the Fifth Schedule for Central India and the Sixth List for certain areas of northeastern India that recognize the rights of Indigenous Peoples to land and self-government, but their implementation is far from being satisfactory. India voted in favour of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on the condition that after independence all Indians are Indigenous. Therefore, it does not consider the concept of "Indigenous Peoples", and therefore the UNDRIP, applicable to India.

Indigenous Peoples in India

Indigenous Peoples in India comprise an estimated population of 104 million or 8.6% of the national population. Although there are 705 officially recognized ethnic groups, there are many more ethnic groups that would qualify for the scheduled tribe status, but which are not officially recognized. Therefore, the total number of tribal groups is undoubtedly higher than the official figure.

The largest concentrations of Indigenous Peoples are found in the seven northeastern states of India, and the so-called "central tribal belt" that stretches from Rajasthan to West Bengal.

The state government of Jharkhand declared the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples celebrated on August 9 every year worldwide as a state holiday. These are major developments in terms of the official recognition of Indigenous populations.

Main challenges for Indigenous groups in India

According to the latest report (Crime in India 2016) of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) of the Ministry of the Interior, 6,568 cases of crimes against Indigenous Peoples were reported in the country during 2016, compared to 10,914 cases in 2015, which shows a substantial decrease. However, these were only reported cases of atrocities committed by indigenous people against Indigenous People and do not include cases of human rights violations by the security forces.

In that sense, in 2017, the security forces continued to be responsible for human rights violations against Indigenous People. In areas affected by armed conflicts, Indigenous Peoples are caught between armed opposition groups (AOGs) and security forces. The cases are numerous and many are not informed.

Another struggle for Indigenous Peoples in India is their right to the land. There are a plethora of laws that prohibit the sale or transfer of tribal lands to non-Indians and the restoration of alienated lands to tribal landowners. However, these laws are still ineffective, are not invoked or are intended to weaken them. In addition, a large number of tribes that lived in the forests were denied their rights and the tribes continued to live under the threat of an eviction in the name of forest and animal conservation.

The situation of tribal women and girls in India remains very worrying, as they are clearly deprived of many of their rights. Collective and individual rights are violated in private and public spaces. Sexual violence, trafficking, killing/branding, militarization or state violence and the impact of development-induced displacement, etc., remain important issues. The NCRB in its latest report stated that 974 tribal women were raped during 2016.


Condemnation of State Sponsored Violence on Unarmed Civilians in Nagaland, India

Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) and The International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), unequivocally condemn the blatant disregard for the human rights of Indigenous Peoples in Nagaland in the recent extrajudicial killings of fourteen civilians by Indian security forces during an ‘operation’ in Oting under Tizit sub-division of Mon district in the North-Eastern state of Nagaland, India, and in clashes following the first encounter.

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The Indigenous World 2021: India

In India, 705 ethnic groups are recognised as Scheduled Tribes. In central India, the Scheduled Tribes are usually referred to as Adivasis, which literally means Indigenous Peoples.[1] With an estimated population of 104 million, they comprise 8.6% of the total population. There are, however, many more ethnic groups that would qualify for Scheduled Tribe status but which are not officially recognised; as a result estimates of the total number of tribal groups are higher than the official figure. As an example, the Supreme Court in its judgment dated 18 December 2020 held that the Bombay High Court “could not have entertained the claim or looked into the evidences to find out and decide that tribe ‘Gowari’ is part of Scheduled Tribe ‘Gond Gowari’, which is included in the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950.”[2]

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Criminalization of Pathalgari Movement

By Gladson Dungdung

Thousands of Adivasis involved in the “Pathalgari Movement” were criminalized for fighting for their collective rights to self-determination and protection of their lands, territories, and natural resources in Jharkhand State of India.

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The world's largest democracy? Criminalisation of Indigenous Peoples’ defenders in India

The world knows little of the political situation in India. With a conservative regime that considers social protest to be seditious, the Indian state is persecuting Indigenous Peoples and human rights defenders. Tribal communities are the silent victims of growth in the Indian economy. The cases of defender Soni Sori and Jesuit priest Stan Swamy.

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Bearing the Brunt: The Impact of Government Responses to COVID-19 on Indigenous Peoples in India


India’s indigenous peoples bearing the brunt of COVID recovery plans, NGOs urge Indian Government to stop use of coal for recovery

Copenhagen/New Delhi, 11 September 2020:  On the eve of auctioning of 41 coal blocks today by the government of India, the Danish-based International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs and New Delhi based National Campaign Against Torture and Indigenous Lawyers Association of India in their report, “Bearing the Brunt: The Impact of Government Responses to COVI-19 on Indigenous Peoples in India” urged the Government of India to cancel auctioning of the coal blocks as part of India’s Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan (Self-Reliant India Mission).

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IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting, protecting and defending indigenous peoples’ rights. Read more.

Indigenous World

IWGIA's global report, the Indigenous World, provides an update of the current situation for indigenous peoples worldwide. Read The Indigenous World.

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