Tribal Literature: a search for Identity

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Photo by Vineeth Vinod on Unsplash

The Indian Government has recognized the tribes under the schedule 5 of the Indian constitution and are known as schedule tribes, but the same Indian government states that they aren’t subject to any social or political discrimination, and also that they aren’t a separate indigenous group as the whole country is a collection of an indigenous group.

You must have heard of the term tribes at one point or the other and would have associated them with nomads, with weird face paintings, costumes, and a specific language living in the jungle with the animals or so. Don’t blame yourself if you have thought so because that is how they are mostly depicted in media and literature

Tribal literature is nothing but the folklores and oral stories and poems of the tribal community. Every country has rich tribal literature and in India, it is known as ‘Adivasi’ literature. The availability of the same is in two forms; oral literature and the modern written literature. They call themselves the ‘Orature’ –the literature of the oral tradition.

Every year in India more than 100 books are published in English and other major Indian languages of tribal literature. But the writing of tribal literature did not just start for expanding their stories and poems, but it is a search for identity, exposing the past and the present from the exploitation of outsiders and threats to the tribal identity and crisis. It is their form of resistance.

One may wonder about how literature is a form of all of these, tribes are indigenous groups’ cohabiting in forests with creating less to no harm. But when the Indian economy adapted liberalization, the open markets brought in manufactures which led to an abundant need for water, forest, and land, the primary source of the tribes. To state a simple example, over the last decade more than 10 lakh tribes have been displaced from Jharkhand alone. So tribal literature is not just to bring forward their songs and poems but an attempt to protect the tribal identity and existence in the face of intensified exploitation

While tribal literature is lost among the piles of un-understandable languages, the literature is being translated to major languages giving it a national form. Amidst the diversity of India with more than 800 spoken languages, tribal literature tries to find its way in-between the official 22 languages, to be seen, to be heard, and to be identified!

Contributed By- Razia K J, Content Writer @ Mitti Ke Rang

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