A Probe into the Representation of Tribal People at Lower Political Levels
The Tribal People:
The tribal population or the “Adivasi”, “Adimjati”, “Vanyajati”, “Vanavasi”, is considered to be the indigenous inhabitants of this country. For centuries, they can be seen living their lives in simple manner in various states of India. They used to resort more upon the natural environment for and have developed cultural patterns congenial to their physical and social environment. Dr. Ghurya referred to them as “backward hindus”. They form the oldest ethnological sector of society. The great epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata have also made mentions of such tribal groups under the names like “Nishad”, “Sabarars”, “Kiratas”, and “Dasyas”.
Moreover, the advent of the British rule exposed the Tribal society to the larger scenario of economic, political and social framework. The introduction of new and uniform civil and criminal laws tacitly led to the not so willing initiation of the gradual inclusion of this section of the society. However the British, in place of lineage or community based ownership of land, imposed upon the tribes the system of private property and landlordism. This culminated into a large-scale eviction of the tribes from their own native lands and regions. Further, the British exploited them and their lands through fraud, deceit, mortgage etc. Moreover, the administrative reasons like the usage of unfair gimmicks by the local administration, manned by the non-tribes, worked hand in gloves with the British to facilitate a smooth transfer of land from tribes to non-tribes. Even the language used in the law-courts was incomprehensible for the Tribal people.
Factors Leading to A Meagre Representation:
The British rule exposed the Tribal society to the larger scenario of economic, political and social framework. The introduction of new and uniform civil and criminal laws tacitly led to the not so willing initiation of the gradual inclusion of this section of the society. However the British, in place of lineage or community based ownership of land, imposed upon the tribes the system of private property and landlordism. This culminated into a large-scale eviction of the tribes from their own native lands and regions. Their growth and development was not paid heed and n substantial measures were taken back then for their upliftment.
Moreover, the Tribal Section of society was a much marginalised part of the society. The literacy rate amongst them was negligible. The awareness regarding education was nearly non-existent in that section of the society. This, in turn naturally, corresponded into a creation of underdeveloped and discriminated strata of society. This section was so weak in educational qualifications that they were not even aware of their basic fundamental rights, let alone the participation in politics. This acted as a major barrier in the way ahead of the progress of the Tribal people in being able to represent themselves, their struggles, and their needs politically. It kept them from ventilating their grievances on a substantial platform. Further, The procedures of the Panchayats governance are very complex in nature. It becomes quite incomprehensible for the less educated people belonging to the tribal sections. Likewise even the accounting procedures are also often very complex for the tribal masses, provided their restricted knowledge and understanding. Since most of the elected tribal representatives are illiterate, such complexities act as impediments in the way ahead of the strong political representation of the tribal society at Panchayat level politics.
Furthermore, they have had led their lives in seclusion of the mainstream society for many years. They have resorted to endogamous processes in order to maintain the authentic thread within their groups and also to resist any kind of interference and domination from the outside world. Their activities have aimed at preserving their culture. However, in the process of maintaining this originality they have lied neglected for many years. And, this slowed down their rate of growth and development considerably.
The representation of the tribal section of the society at Pancahayat level election has been very dismal. This dissertation shall include an objective analysis of the representation of the Tribal Society on the grass root level of political representation. Moreover, the minimum representation of tribal women at Panchayat level raises many questions as well. The representation of such a small population of the society will show case the true reality of the democratic process of Panchayat Elections. A true democracy ensures and assures the growth and development of alls elections of society. Hence, a dismal representation of the people belonging to the tribal society will reflect upon the failure of the same. A democracy is based upon the principles of equality and justice to one and all. If any section of a democratic society is left behind in the participation in political representation. The initiatives taken by the government have, relatively, bettered the situation. However, the measures are clearly not enough as the tribal representation is not visible to its maximal extent. The principle of equality seems to fail in this case. The element of decentralisation of political powers at Panchayat level aims at achieving the equal status of all the sections of the society. A democracy fails to achieve its real objectives if one stratum of the same democracy gets neglected and is left behind.
 Derick W. Brinkerhoff: Decentralization and Community Empowerment: Does community empowerment deepen democracy and improve service delivery? Derick W. Brinkerhoff, with Omar Azfar, October 2006
Author Details: Archie Anant