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Development and its Impact on Adivasis

Adivasis and the way they are portrayed today

  • Today Adivasis are portrayed as exotic, primitive and backward people.
  • Cultural shows are presented with Adivasis dances. They are represented through colourful costumes and headgears.
  • Adivasis are blamed for their lack of advancement as they are believed to be resistant to change or new ideas.

Tribal Dances at Cultural Shows

This negative portrayal of the Adivasis has led to the marginalization of this community in modern India.


Now let us see how the Adivasis lived during the pre-colonial days

As we have already studied the Adivasis were ‘forest- people’. They lived in the forests, looked after the forests and lived off the forests.

Adivasis had a deep knowledge of the forests. They also had control over these forests and had access to forest resources. This knowledge of forests made the Adivasis indispensable to the Rulers of the various Empires in India during the pre-colonial days.

So, we come to understand that the Adivasis were important people. They were traditionally hunter-gatherers and nomads and lived by shifting agriculture and also cultivating in one place.


The changing scenario in forest lands
Forests became absolutely crucial for the development of all empires and settled civilisations in India.


  • Metal ores like iron and copper, and gold and silver, coal and diamonds were mined from forest land.

  • Valuable timber was taken from the forests.

  • Medicinal herbs and animal products were got from forests.

  • Animals like elephants, which were essential for the imperial armies, were captured from the forests and tamed.

  • Forests helped in the availability of water and helped purify air and water.

  • Forest land was cleared for cultivation as the demand fro food grain increased.

  • The continuation of life depended heavily on forests.

Forest Policies were introduced by successive rulers so that they could exploit the forest wealth.


Forest policies and political force applied by the State and private industry forced the Adivasis to leave the forests and work in plantations, at construction sites, in industries and as domestic workers for a livelihood.


Soon they did not control or have much direct access to the forest territories.


Thus, development robbed the Adivasis of their natural territory and livelihood and turned them into marginal and powerless communities.

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