Indigenous people await human touch

Imagine what you feel when a friendly person or tenant requests for a short stay in your premises and you oblige him. But with passage of time he is enabled to somehow evict you from your own ancestral home?

Injustice against natural claimants – aborigines or native people and their exploitation and harassment by the dominant groups for appropriating resources is a worldwide phenomenon. The marginalised natives develop resentment, anguish and animosity against the late settlers. Incidents of the aborigines resorting to wild protests and violence are being increasingly witnessed in many regions.

Admittedly, the aborigines, numbering about 370 million in 90 countries, have the first right to the land and other resources in their respective domains. Having intuitive rapport with nature and imbued with traditional skills and know-how, they have been in their habitats through generations following a lifestyle that is far less damaging to the environment than the modern industrial economies; it is a system to take full care of their varied physical, psychological, emotional and social needs.

More crucially, they serve as custodians of cultures, representing 90 per cent of cultural diversity. In healthcare, so sound has been the aborigines’ system that 80 per cent of the population in developing countries is still dependent on traditional healing systems as their primary source of care as WHO reports. Further, 70 per cent of the plants-based prescriptive drugs have been ‘borrowed’ by pharmaceutical companies from the traditional system after scientific satisfaction with their efficacy.

However, taking the aborigines for granted, the dominant groups victimise and uproot them from their homeland, deny them fair treatment and equal opportunities. In our country, called as tribals or Adivasis (Adi means ancient, Vasi is resident), they inhabit pockets of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, North-East and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

For securing justice and fair treatment to aborigines, August 9 is commemorated as the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, this year’s theme being Post-2015 Agenda: Ensuring Indigenous Peoples’ Health and Well-being. “The interests of the indigenous peoples must be part of the new development agenda... Let us work even harder to empower them and support their aspirations,” exhorted UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

In India, National Health Mission has separate budget to support the states and Union Territories for health care of indigenous people as also the Jabalpur-based National Institute for Research in Tribal Health.

Legitimate concerns
Apart from United Nations (UNPFII), many global bodies have taken up cudgels for articulating the legitimate concerns and interests of the aborigines by furthering the 2007 Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ratified by 143 countries or otherwise. Notably, of the 7,000 prevailing languages in the world, 4,000 are alive because they are spoken by the indigenous people and by end of the century, 90 per cent of these will be lost with dwindling indigenous populations.

The many historical conflicts between original native North Americans and migrants till 1890 over natural resources drove the indigenous people to north and west. In Australia, almost every year on January 26, the national day, aborigines stage protests, calling the day as Invasion Day or Day of Mourning. Ever uncomfortable with the Australian anthem – “For those who’ve come across the seas/ We’ve boundless plains to share” – their protests also disrupted the Australia Day Parade in Melbourne this year.

With the world turning into global village and multiculturalism setting in, it is imperative to accept the natives. Else crisis is inevitable, says Victoria Tauli-Corpus, UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples Rights in the context of arrests, killings and abuses between aborigines versus late settlers: “We are seeing a human rights emergency.” Reason is simple, she explains: “Much of the world's natural capital – oil, gas, timber, minerals – lies on or beneath lands occupied by indigenous people."

Acknowledging the aborigines as stewards of the planet’s resources, what the world needs is a global multicultural ambience de facto inclusive of indigenous groups and their dignity.

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