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Commonalities and Linkages

Virginius Xaxa

By Shashank Kela
Navayana, New Delhi, 2012, pp. 392, Rs. 595.00


The book is a study of the ways and processes in which adivasi livelihood has been affected through the colonial and postcolonial period and adivasi responses to it. It is divided into two parts. The first part entitled ‘The Tree of man’ is a study and history of Bhil society in Western Madhya Pradesh from 1818 to 1947. ‘Struggling for Hope’ is the title of the second part and is about adivasi politics from 1900 to 2000.   The first part of the study engages with issues such as Bhil society before the advent of colonialism, nature of the tribal state, political effects of colonialism and forms of Bhil resistance and rebellion. The second examines the aspects of tribal society and economy in the context of India in general and peninsular India in particular. Issues dealt with here are India’s development agenda and its impact, nature of politics and resistance. Though the two sections seem disjointed, there is an organic connection between the two. The predicament of adivasi society dealt with in the second part emanates precisely from the engagement with Bhil society and history taken up in the first part.   In the review, I confine myself to issues that have a larger canvas and on which the book throws new insights and perspectives.   A large number of tribes especially in peninsular India lived under small Princely States that enjoyed autonomy in the internal affairs of their states. And yet tribes living in those States have gone through almost the same kind of changes as those directly under British rule and administration. The change came to be characterized by the relationship of oppression by the local elites and emergence of new property regimes and new pattern of resources use that came to have a disastrous effect on tribal societies. Not much is known as to how such transformation occurred in such States. The book provides details of how such transformation took place in the context of Western Madhya Pradesh and insights into it.   The author prefers the use of the category adivasi to tribe and makes a case for its use for the period following colonial rule observing that it may not hold good for the period prior to the coming of colonial rule. He makes this argument on the ground that there is inherent difficulty in tracing tribal history back to the medieval period or beyond which makes the discussion of territorial antiquity ...

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