Introduction:-The term indigenous means sons of a particular soil, the original inhabitants of a territory, before the outsiders came and imposed their customs and political dominations.Interestingly the term indigenous came from the Latin word indigene(meaning in) and genera(which means be born).According to some basic facts, indigenous people are called first peoples. There are atleast more than 5000 indigenous groups in the world and they are made up of nearly 300 million people living in over 70 countries in this world. There is a growing awareness among the indigenous peoples who are often described as natives or tribals within most countries as is in India.
Who are indigenous peoples??
The term indigenous people applies to the descendants of the originals inhabitants of a given area or region-a region occupied by foreigners who subsequently replaced their means of governance and curtailed there democratic development. Nevertheless, indigenous people stills manifest cultural and social characteristics and practices distinct from the other nationals which surrounds them.
The indigenous people are generally excluded from decision making process, many have been marginalised, exploited, forcefully assimilated and subjected to repression, torture and murder when they speak out in defence of their rights.
According to UN, fearing persecution they often become refugee and sometimes must hide their identity, their languages and traditional customs. There are about 19 tribal groups in Tripura and looking on the present condition of the indigenous people of Tripura we are notfar behind to be marginalised looking ourself by 2020.
Major issues of the indigenous people of Tripura:-
The main issues and the demand of the indigenous people of Tripura is that of self-determination. This has a political connotation and is most problematic. It should be recognized that this topics strikes at the legitimacy of the settler regimes and will be resisted. But self determination need not be understood in terms of political independence from the nation states. Governments have taken these demands and there have been instances where formal structure has been provided for the indigenous peoples whereby they have the autonomy to govern themselves. Thus in Tripura the TTAADC has been estd just after the 80 riots.
LAND AND TERRITORY:
Land is one of the most important factors for any human development. Land means much more to the indigenous people of Tripura than what is simply implied by the words. But unfortunately, the foreign nationals have violated land rights of Borok peoples of Tripura. Indeed,due to large scale of continuous influx of refugees and immigrants from the erstwhile East Pakistan, (now Bangladesh) has adversely affected the genetic, ecological, geographical, economical, social, religious, cultural and political aspects of the Borok society. This has resulted in wide variations of the percentage of Indigenous population to the total population of the state. Because of all these reason, pressure on land was/ is very high. Consequently, land alienation has taken place in Tripura. Compensation to the indigenous people for the theft land and property by the settler is a topic of contention.
Exploitation of natural resources and traditional land
Another issue of the indigenous people of Tripura is control or exploitation of natural resources located on the traditional lands of the Tripuri people. At present most of these resources are usually claimed by the settler society, which gets profits from exploitation without regards to needs or desire of the indigenous people.
Main issues of the borok or tripuri community of Tripura are displacement due to various projects and dams etc.
*Dongor (dumbor) Hydro-electric project):
The project covers an area of about 4,547.9 acres of plain cultivable lands owned by the indigenous Boroks. In fact, it was the most fertile cultivable Iand in Tripura. But the state government led by the illegal immigrants, evicted about 20,000 indigenous Boroks by force in the year 1971 A.D. in spite of strong protests by the Borok people. The protest movement was suppressed by police and military. Thousands of Borok people who were rendered homeless due to the project were not provided with alternative rehabilitation and adequate compensation. Thus, they have been deprived of their traditional lands and resources. As a consequence, the indigenous people found it difficult to settle elsewhere which eventually led to their poverty and backwardness. The government, on the other hand, was least interested to redress their problem.
* Wild Life Sanctuary:Trishna
It covers an area of 10,000 acres of indigenous Borok lands. As a result of setting up of the sanctuary the indigenous Boroks of the area have been evicted and deprived of their traditional land and resources.
All Borok inhabited areas had been declared as Disturbed since early 90s, whereas the non-Borok areas were initially excluded from it. Gradually, the entire area of Twipra was declared as Disturbed and the Disturbed Areas Act is in operation in the State. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) 1985 has been imposed and the National Security Act (NSA) is also in operation. So, due to the imposition of Black Laws in the Indigenous Peoples inhabited areas it has adversely affected the socio-economic lives of the Indigenous Peoples. The Indigenous People by nature mostly depend upon forests and forest products as their source of livelihood .But now they cannot move freely into the forest as they are often branded as extremist or sometimes even being killed by the Security Forces. The Security Forces are also stationed in the Government School buildings and health Centres. Moreover hundreds of people mostly innocent were killed due to armed conflict and thousands are in jail and police custody. Arbitrary arrest extra judicial killing fake encounter, rape cases, arson, and enforced disappearances became very common in Tripura. It has created psychological effects on the people and particularly on the minds of the young children. And much young generation started to turn themselves into extremism.
Preservation of Cultural tradition and languages:
Preservation of Cultural tradition and languages is a high priority for many Tripuri/Borok people who are usually minority in the settler society today. As majority of the settler belong to Bengali community today the use of Boroks cultural tradition and languages in formal government activities are mere accept ion. Though there are exception where indigenous language have been accepted as official language for the use of indigenous people today many indigenous people have forgotten to speak there own mother tongue as the use of Kokborok language is mere in formal govt. activities.
Generally, the Borok people of Tripura are educationally backward. Due to various reasons, they are being deprived of their rights to educational development. Particularly, those living and studying in the interiors of the state are worst of all in this regard. In fact, the present educational system in the State is far behind the national standard. In all the govt. Schools right from the primary level to college level the medium of instruction is Bengali language only. It is also the official language of the State. But fortunately, few private English medium schools have come up. Borok language called Kokborok, which is spoken by about 85% amongst the Indigenous people of Twipra is introduced up to primary level and up to Metric (standard 10) level in one or two schools. The literacy rate of the Indigenous Peoples is about 45.37 %.( as 2001 census)
At present, some schools in the indigenous inhabited areas are remaining closed for quite a long time due to armed conflict and negligence of the Govt. In other words, almost all the Government schools situated in the remote areas are functioning half-dead and many of them have been closed down by the Government due to so-called insurgency problems. In the pretext of insecurity the teachers are not attending their school duties. Some schools have even turned into barracks for the Security Forces. As a result, the number of doped out students amongst the Indigenous People is very high, which shows more than 70% of the total numbers of Borok students. There is no denying fact that this present trend of dropout rate of students is bound to affect the future of the Borok young generation and socio-economic condition of the Borok peoples as a whole. On the other side, all good schools, mainly Government schools are concentrated in urban or semi- urban areas where Boroks are microscopic minority. The educational institutions, which have been closed down temporarily due to law and order problems should be located and effective steps should be taken up for re-opening and smooth running of those institutions in consultation with the TTAADC, local guardians or Panchayats. Educational institutions and even health centres have also been closed down for accommodating Armed Force, Police etc. So, there is no conducive environment created by Government for Borok students living in the interior.
At present, the representation and participation of Indigenous Peoples in Government services and posts is only 17.5% out of constitutionally prescribed quotas of 31% in the State. There are no consistent efforts from all concerned to enhance the representation up to the prescribed level. That means although there are plenty of vacant posts for the Indigenous Peoples, these are not being filled up by the Government. For this purpose, special Recruitment Drives should be restored to fill up all backlogs reserved vacancies for Indigenous Peoples of Twipra. As in 1994-95, there are about 8,854 post reserves, up to today it reached to 35,000 thousand vacancies for Indigenous Peoples lying vacant under Tripura Government.
Government measures and responses to indigenous movements seems to have passed through various phase. The First was the abortion phase when any indigenous efforts at protests were severely suppressed and no cognition was taken for the existence of these people. The second can be called the establishment and expansionist phase where the indigenous movement came to life mostly in the late 1980s.Today, having gain credibility, the indigenous people are demanding ancestral rights.
While the governments have undertaken steps these are not considered as adequate. To quite an extent, these initiatives have been the results of intense pressure from the central government and international awareness. The issues of the Borok community of Tripura have become international issues over the years as in recent years, global awareness has increased.
(The writer is a Final Year Student of Jamia Millia Islamia University, MA Sociology)
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