Indian social system is weird. It is not only discriminatory in its root but is paradoxically filled up with the elements of endless exploitation of the weaker sections in the name of democracy, justice and religion. There condition is no better than what it was during colonial rule. India achieved political freedom and democracy, but social freedom and social democracy remains as yet completely neglected. Rather the social democracy is foundation of political democracy. Social freedom is a ladder to walk towards individual freedom. But these are not thought to be the essential tenets of our democracy.
In India there are various tribes classified as NT/VJNT. But together they suffer from constant onslaught of the settled society and law at one hand and religion at the other. In a way they are suffering mostly from the social tyranny. Many even do not know what the freedom and free India means. No sufficient provisions of education, vocational courses, health care, no ration cards, no permanent homes hence no proper listings in voting lists are the hurdles at one side and to the other constant harassment from law and settled villagers and farmers. The traditional occupations have become outdated. Many are illegal and what legitimate occupations remains are insufficient to feed them.
The policymakers did not plan anything for the upliftment of these classes to bring them in main stream using their skills for the overall productivity. There were commissions appointed but they just consumed years after years without coming up with the proper solutions and policy guidelines. They were scrapped by the Central Govt. one after other to make space for the new Commission. Plight of NT/VJNT’s remains unending.
Population of NT/VJNT tribes is estimated to be over 25 crore. This is not a small population. Very small percentage out of this could pave way through the numerous odds to make their life successful. But most remains in the dark of illiteracy and hence superstitious and poor. Ones upon a time these tribes were prosperous in different social and economic conditions. For example Stone masons are responsible to build the huge mountain forts and castles and palaces. They are responsible to carve out wonderful caves like Ajanta and Ellora. We owe to them for many beautiful monuments and sculptures. But as economy and social needs changed they became jobless and had to depend upon petty work such as crushing the stones on rail tracks or roads or Canal or dam works. Their art died with time. They were not substituted with new occupations. They could not find on their own for the Indian tyrant social order won’t allow them to do so. Though politically free country, as yet none has tried to address their problems and guided them as to how to break these barriers.
Condition of the shepherds, other nomadic tribe, is no more different. Animal husbandry, prior to independence, was second largest business in the country. With rapid industrialization grazing lands dramatically were reduced. With dams, rehabilitation works, political leader owned private education complexes further shrank the available grazing lands. To add to the calamities forest regulations restricted shepherds to enter into the reserved areas with their sheep. It is in a way an assassination of an industry which still holds 8% of the GDP with a bleak future. This also is loss to the national economy. They too are in search of the new destiny that can make their lives better. But they remain neglected and harassed.
So where is democracy? Where is social freedom and social democracy? The hunting tribes of the past, classified by the British rule as criminal tribes, are still criminals in the eyes of the law and suffer brutalities and atrocities at the hands of law! Liberty to them may sound a funny, out of world, word not to be even trusted upon. Understanding its meaning and attempt to enjoy it in practice would be a farfetched dream to them! Politicians have neglected them because they are scattered and useless to them in vote-game.
Sure, liberty is not a thing granted by others. Liberty has to be achieved with self-efforts. But when the situation is that the educated people lack many a times understanding essence of the liberty, we just cannot hope the illiterate and deprived masses would understand how liberty can change their lives!
There we the sane people have to come forth to fight out with the law and the society that has been holding these people in the clutches of imposed slavery. Judicial system needs to abolish the tyrant laws to let them breath in the free air. Not that all doors to opportunities open with mere education. If government cannot provide agreeable substitute it has no right whatsoever to snatch their present means and leave them deprived. Illiterates given an opportunity can perform miracles. However we have failed in building such free atmosphere where people can dare to venture in new areas after having basic training in the new skills.
Much can be said on this, but to sum up, I would say that the liberty to the NT/VJNT goes through the drastic reforms in our social and judicial system. The reforms not only mean change in the laws, rather they are secondary, but main thing would be change in our overall thinking.
Liberty to NT/VJNT and other deprived sections would mean they do not remain neglected, their voice is heard, their past contribution to the economy and culture is acknowledged, their self-pride is respected and doors to sufficient opportunities are opened. This could be liberation of them from the slavery of society and government.