Of tribals and the modern nation-state – Arko Dasgupta

It is well known that numerous tribes inhabit much of Central India and the Northeast, in addition to being scattered across other parts of the country. The Indian state has since the time of its inception faced many challenges in incorporating these tribes into its fold. While the Northeast has witnessed secessionist movements in the past led by the likes of Angami Zapu Phizo and Pu Laldenga–tribal leaders from Nagaland and Mizoram respectively–who believed that there was nothing they had in common with Indians, forces in the tribal belt comprising parts of Central, Southern and Eastern India did not care for sovereignty but rather wished to do away with the Indian state–too decadent and unjust in their eyes–and put in its place one that is admittedly egalitarian. Today, the former still smoulders and creates problems for the state from time to time but the latter’s manifestation in the form of Naxalism continues to be a security concern for India.

Naxalism, like the erstwhile Naga National Council and the Mizo National Front (in its violent avatar), draws its primary strength from disillusioned tribal folk. American anthropologist Margaret Mead believed there were many tribal societies that had never experienced warfare–“warfare is only an invention–not a biological necessity”, she once wrote. Indeed, war is a social invention and once it was invented and the first arrow shot (of course the bow and arrow as a weapon system was devised much after wars came into being), the idea of war-making spread. Once societies were exposed to organized violence, they began learning the techniques of warfare and showed dogged determination to engage in battle with rivals over valuable resources and for territorial domination. Today, many tribal societies untouched by civilization, as it were, maintain the same outlook on life. They bear testimony to the fact that humans are genetically constructed to survive; the “will-to-not-die” is in all of us. This stems from an intuitive defensive mechanism rooted in human beings.

The modern state does not employ non-violence to solve the problem of a challenging authority not only because violence is a much easier way to deal with such realities but also because it is not conditioned to. The natural response of the state, when faced with an armed adversary such as the Naxals, is to engage them in combat. When looked at purely from a consequentialist point of view, the state is not wrong in doing so. Its use of violence is hereupon looked at from the perspective of a security challenge staring it in the face. It need hardly be pointed out that the  birth  of  the  nation-state  was  made  possible  through  vicious  conflict  and  war.  The  Treaty  of  Westphalia  in 1648 recognized for  the  first  time  in  history  one  centre  of  power  in  individual  states.  Sovereignty  was  bestowed  upon  the  monarch  and  the  state  that  emerged  was,  unsurprisingly,  an  absolute  one.  It  took  at  least  another  couple  of  hundred  years  for  a  framework  of  rights  for  citizens  to  come  into  being  (the  American  Bill  of  Rights  in  its  crude  form  was  ratified  in  1791,  an  exception  to  this  rule).

The tribal belt that sustains Naxalism has been the site of a great many tragedies over the years–countless lives have been lost in battles between the state forces and the rebels, tens of thousands of people have been displaced and the environment has been irreparably damaged. It is too farfetched to say that the challenge of Naxalism is one which the state cannot counter for the greater challenge would be to instil confidence in the Indian state among the tribals living in this region–something the state has failed horribly at. It would take a lot of effort and seriousness on its part but the state can, if it wants to, conciliate its citizens in these parts of the country with the larger goal of nation-building (Mizoram is an example, albeit an imperfect one, to demonstrate how opting for a peaceful approach to solving differences can do much more for a people) but it remains to be seen as to what the Indian state does to free the very same region of the troubles that have been such a recurrent part of its story.

One comment

  1. WELL ARKO HAS TOUCHED A VERY SENSITIVE ISSUE.NONE OF THE GOVERNMENTS RIGHT FROM FREEDOM HAS GIVEN A SERIOUS THOUGHT TO SOLVE THIS PROBLEM AT THE SAME TIME IT IS A MATTER OF REGRET THAT CERTAIN POLITICIANS ARE DIRECTLY AND INDIRECTLY INVOLVED IN NOT RESOLVING THIS PROBLEM JUST FOR THIER OWN POLITICAL BENEFITS – JUST LIKE THAT “CHANDAN CHOR – VEERAPPA”. THE BEST COURSE IS TO GIVE A VERY SPECIAL PACKAGE OF FUND FOR THE BETTERMENT/UPLIFTMENT OF ALL THOSE TRIBES WHICH ARE AFFECTED BY NAXALITES – KEEPING ASIDE ALL POLITICIANS. THIS JOB SHOULD BE HANDED OVER TO ARMY OR SERVICE ORIENTED INSTITUTIONA LIKE VIVAKAND KENDRAS.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this:
Visit Us On FacebookVisit Us On TwitterVisit Us On YoutubeVisit Us On Google PlusCheck Our Feed