During the two-day consultation programme “Indigenous Peoples Consultation on Dams and Natural Resources Protection in India’s North East” in Argalta, environmentalists, social organizations and pressure groups have asserted that the land, forests, rivers and all natural resources in India’s North East belong to the indigenous people of the region. The participants expressed their concern on the introduction of more than 200 mega dams and other ‘unsustainable development policies and projects’ in the region done without the consent of the indigenous peoples of the region.
In India, there are 705 ethnic groups officially recognized as "Scheduled Tribes," although there are several ethnic groups that are also considered Schedule Tribes, but are not officially recognized.
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.
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.
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The violent conflict between Muslim migrants and the indigenous Bodos in Northeast India in late July left over 70 people dead and 400,000 displaced. The killings were sparked by the murder of three Bodos, allegedly by Muslims, with Bodos attacking Muslim migrants and these retaliating in response. The conflict, however, threatens to engulf the whole Northeast regions as Muslim radicals across India vowed to stand by their Muslim brethren in seeking revenge.
No implementation The Forest Right Act of 2006 promised the forest dwellers of Jharkhand recognition of their rights over land and ecology. However six years after the law was passed the implementation of the law is not what was expected.
India: Enforced Disappearance of Anthony Shing, Head of Foreign Affairs of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland
Anthony Shing is the Head of Foreign Affairs of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM), which has been holding peace talks with the Government of India since 1997. Anthony Shing went missing on 27 September, 2010. He disappeared after he landed at Kathmandu international airport on 27th. He was on his way to India to attend the next round of peace talks scheduled to start on 29 September 2010.