• Indigenous peoples in India

    Indigenous peoples in India

The Indigenous World 2022: India

In India, 705 ethnic groups are recognised as Scheduled Tribes. In central India, the Scheduled Tribes are usually referred to as Adivasis, which literally means Indigenous Peoples.[1] With an estimated population of 104 million, they comprise 8.6% of the total population. There are, however, many more ethnic groups that would qualify for Scheduled Tribe status but are not officially recognised and consequently, the total populations of the Scheduled Tribes are higher than the official figure.

The largest concentrations of Indigenous Peoples are found in the seven states of north-east India, and the so-called “central tribal belt” stretching from Rajasthan to West Bengal. India has several laws and constitutional provisions, such as the Fifth Schedule for central India and the Sixth Schedule for certain areas of north-east India, which recognise Indigenous Peoples’ rights to land and self-governance. The laws aimed at protecting Indigenous Peoples have numerous shortcomings and their implementation is far from satisfactory.

The Indian government voted in favour of the UNDRIP with a condition that, since independence, all Indians are considered Indigenous. The Government of India has increasingly been using the term “Indigenous populations” in official notifications such as the establishment of a High-Level Committee to look into the “social, economic, cultural and linguistic issues of the Indigenous population in the State of Tripura”[2] or in its justification for the Citizenship Amendment Bill. The State government of Jharkhand declared the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples celebrated on August 9 every year worldwide as a state holiday.[3]

Situation of Indigenous women

The individual and collective rights of Indigenous women and girls are regularly denied or violated in private and public spaces. Sexual violence, trafficking, killing/branding as a witch, militarisation or State violence and the impact of development-induced displacement, etc. remain major issues. In its latest report “Crime in India 2020”, published in October 2021, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) of the Government of India recorded a total of 3,676 cases of violence against tribal women and girls in 2020. Of these, 1,137 were rape cases.[4]

Indigenous women face sexual assault from both civilians and the security forces. The trend continued in 2021 with several reported cases. On 7 March, a 17-year-old Indigenous girl was gangraped in Sukinda Chromite valley area in Jajpur district of Odisha by four assailants, including a cook with the Odisha Industrial Security Force.[5] On 30 May, Chhattisgarh police personnel from the District Reserve Guards picked up an 18-year-old Indigenous girl from her home at Chingi village in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh, raped and tortured her before shooting her dead inside the forest.[6]

Other emblematic cases of systematic discrimination and violence against Indigenous women are given below:

Case 1: Discrimination against Indigenous women in Jharkhand

A dual system of statutory and customary law in India has resulted in a complex and oppressive environment for tribal women’s rights. A 2021 study entitled “‘This is not your home’ - An assessment of land rights of tribal women in Jharkhand[7] stated that Indigenous women face pervasive violence and oppression in Jharkhand due to the informal norms, customs and practices that run deep in society and undermine women’s claims to land.

The Chotanagpur Tenancy Act of 1908 and the Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act of 1949 governing the land rights of Indigenous Peoples do not recognise women as independent individuals and subsume their interests to the arbitrary action of men. The rights of a single woman, whether a widow, unmarried or a divorcee, are not defined in these two laws and are subject to the customary laws of various tribes. Ownership rights to land pass from men to men only.[8]

The inheritance matters of Indigenous women are governed by their tribe’s customary laws, which have never been codified formally. Indigenous women are not permitted to inherit land but custom requires that they receive maintenance, which primarily means food, clothing and shelter, as long as they are alive.[9]

 The study concluded that Indigenous women in Jharkhand face a vicious circle of violence – physical, emotional, verbal, sexual and economic. Social norms and practices support the idea that men are superior to women, that men have a natural right to own land; that men have a right to physically discipline women; and that women and girls should tolerate violence within a relationship. It says,

Economic vulnerability of tribal women, which gets exacerbated by the landlessness and propertylessness, plays an important role in exposing them to the risks of trafficking and forcing them to stay in abusive relationships at the same time. The laws – both statutory and customary – reinforce the norm of women’s dependence on male partners and relatives to benefit from land programmes and agricultural schemes, among other things. Surrounded by the patriarchal relations of dominations from all sides, even the slightest acts of transgressing the norms inflict increased violence on women and hold up the status quo. [10]

Case 2: Witch hunting: brutal violence against Indigenous women

Witch hunting is a wicked practice whereby women alleged of causing detrimental influences are branded as witches by Ojhas (witch doctors/tantriks) or community people and are thereafter hounded, banished, flogged, raped, paraded naked through the village, forced to eat human excreta, have their head shaved, thrashed etc. A women branded a witch is called by various names such as dayan, tonahi, beta khauki (son eater), adam khauki (man eater), bhaikhauki (brother eater), maradmuhi, kheldi (characterless), bisahin (poisonous woman), bhootni, Dakan etc. Witch hunting thus involves both physical and verbal abuse.[11]

According to the Annual Reports of the National Crime Records Bureau, the brutal practice of witch branding and witch hunting is mostly prevalent in Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Telangana, Karnataka, Assam, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Bihar etc. Over the last seven years, from 2015 to 2020, Jharkhand topped the list with 126 cases of “witchcraft”-motivated murders, followed by Madhya Pradesh with 95; Odisha with 91, Chhattisgarh with 79, Gujarat with 43 and Telangana with 32 cases.[12]

Bihar was the first state to enact a law, the Prevention of Witch (Daain) Practices Act in 1999, followed by Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Rajasthan, Assam, Maharashtra and Karnataka.[13] Nevertheless, continuing cases of witchcraft-motivated murder and torture demonstrate a lack of implementation of these laws.

Legal rights and policy developments

India continues to grab the lands of Indigenous Peoples, in clear violation of the national laws protecting land rights. In the midst of the second wave of COVID-19, the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog), the premier policy think-tank of the Government of India, continued with its Rs 750,000 million (around EUR 8,920 million) vision for the “Holistic Development of Great Nicobar Island in Andaman and Nicobar Islands.” The project has the potential to endanger the Nicobarese and the Shompen tribes.[14]

In March 2021, Aecom India Private Limited, a consulting agency, prepared a pre-feasibility report that recognises only seven revenue villages on Great Nicobar and not the Indigenous villages.[15] The project seeks to de-notify 7.73 sq. km. of the Onge Tribal Reserve[16] and, on 4 February 2021, the Directorate of Tribal Welfare of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands organised a meeting to finalise the extent of de-notification.[17] If implemented, the project will wipe out Indigenous Peoples who are listed as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups because of their declining or stagnant population, low level of literacy, pre-agricultural level of technology and economic backwardness. According to the 2011 census, there are some 101 Onge tribes.[18]

On 25 August 2021, the UN CERD Committee issued an early warning for the “Draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation 2021”, issued by the Administration of the Union Territory of Lakshadweep without duly informing or consulting the Scheduled Tribes of Lakshadweep in clear violation of the “Laccadive Islands and Minicoy Regulation I” of 1912 and the “Lakshadweep (Protection of Scheduled Tribes) Regulation” of 1964, which prohibit the alienation of tribal lands in the Union Territory of Lakshadweep.[19] If approved, the Draft Regulation in its current format will permit alienation of Indigenous/tribal lands to non-tribals as well as the settlement of outsiders. There have been massive protests within the country and the Draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation 2021 currently remains in suspended.

In October 2021, the Government of India called for public comments on the proposed amendment to the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. In its submission of 30 October, the Indigenous Lawyers Association of India (ILAI) stated that the proposed amendments to the Forest Conservation Act were nothing but a desperate attempt to:

  • override, amend or alter “non-obstante” provisions in the Forest Rights Act, 2006 and the Panchayat (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA Act) relating to forest and the powers of the Gram Sabhas over the forests under its jurisdiction;
  • free the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) from any scrutiny and accountability and allow it to be a law unto itself on the grounds that project approval “takes a lot of time”, without any attempt to address the causes of the delay; and
  • exacerbate the system wherein the forest is destroyed first and compensatory afforestation then undertaken after, which has become a scam in itself as noted by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) following an audit. The proposed amendment is being delayed as the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and many State governments objected to the amendments on the very contentions raised by the ILAI.[20]

Violations of the rights of Indigenous Peoples by the security forces

The security forces continued to be involved in human rights violations in 2021, including custodial death and torture of Indigenous persons. Those who died due to alleged torture in police custody included four Indigenous men who died at Chikhli police station in Dang district of Gujarat on 20 July; at Bistan police station in Khargone district of Madhya Pradesh on 6 September;[21] and at Vijapur Naka police station in Solapur district of Maharashtra on 3 October.[22]

            A number of Indigenous Peoples in the North-Eastern region and the Naxalite affected areas in the “tribal belt” were victims of extrajudicial killings by the security forces. The incidents included the killing of three Adivasis by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel while peacefully protesting against the establishment of a new camp by the force at Silger village in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh on 17 May.[23]

Violations of the rights of Indigenous Peoples by armed opposition groups

Armed opposition groups, in northeast and central India, continued to be responsible for gross violations of international humanitarian law, in particular killings of Indigenous persons on charges of being “police informers”, or simply for not obeying their diktats. Those killed included two tribals, one a woman, by suspected members of the Dimasa National Liberation Army at Kharnaidisha village in Karbi Anglong district of Assam on 27 January;[24] a tribal by Maoists on 5 March at G.K. Veedhi in Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh;[25] and three tribals including a child in indiscriminate firing by suspected militants on a group of people attending a condolence service at B Gamnom village in Kangpokpi district of Manipur on 12 October.[26]

Non-restoration of alienated tribal land

Loss of land remains the single biggest cause of denial of the livelihoods, lives and homelands of the Indigenous Peoples. There are a plethora of laws prohibiting the sale or transfer of Indigenous Peoples’ lands to non-indigenous persons and restoring alienated lands to Indigenous landowners. These laws remain ineffective, however, and seldom invoked to either protect Indigenous lands or restore alienated ones. Alienation of Indigenous Peoples’ lands through fraudulent means or by force continued to occur during 2021. Reports from the Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA), which governs the schedule areas spread over Srikakulam, Vizianagaram, Visakhapatnam and Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh, show that as of May 2021 only 44% of cases (12,664 out of total of 28,716 cases concluded) and covering 39% of the total area of the land (5,6921 acres) were decided in favour of Indigenous Peoples and, of these, only 90% of the land (51,253 acres) was actually successfully repossessed by Indigenous farmers. The rest is still in the illegal possession of non-tribals.[27]

Conditions of the internally-displaced Indigenous Peoples

The Government of India does not have any data on the number of Indigenous Peoples displaced by projects or armed conflicts.[28] Approximately 56,504 tribal families are already displaced or set to be displaced once the Polavaram dam project becomes operational in April 2022. On 27 March, some 72 tribal families were forcibly moved from their homes in Agraharam village, East Godavari district, to a rehabilitation colony.[29] In September, after visiting the affected areas of Polavaram Project, Ananta Nayak –a member of the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes– observed serious violations of Indigenous Peoples’ rights and expressed anguish over the delaying tactics of the government authorities and the failure to rehabilitate them.[30] Equally pathetic is the condition of the 17 tribal families displaced by the Rukuda irrigation project in Bonai sub-division of Sundergarh district, Odisha as they were displaced for a second time because of submergence of their newly-established village by the backwaters of the dam.[31] Meanwhile the process of permanent resettlement of thousands of displaced Bru (Reangs) tribals continued in Tripura amidst protests over the choice of resettlement areas. The Tripura government had selected 12 places spread over four districts in the State to permanently settle Brus who were given shelter in makeshift camps in north Tripura in 1997.[32] Displaced Indigenous women are particularly vulnerable to the risk of trafficking, physical attack and sexual violence as well as being deprived of adequate shelter, food and health services.

Repression under forest laws

A large number of forest-dwelling Indigenous Peoples (IPs) continued to be denied their rights in 2021. According to information available from the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, as of 31 August, a total of 4,264,959 claims had been filed across the country under the Forest Rights Act 2006, of which 1,783,708 (42%) were rejected.[33] An overwhelming number of applications are rejected because of the claimants’ inability to even fill in the application forms, and the subdivisional-level committees and the district-level committees are overwhelmingly dominated by government officials, especially forest department officials, who refuse to recognise rights under the Forest Rights Act. The appeals process is not accessible to the claimants and the state-level monitoring committees chaired by the chief secretary of the State are not operational.

Section 4(5) of the Forest Rights Act specifically states that no member of a forest-dwelling Scheduled Tribe or other traditional forest dweller shall be evicted or removed from the forest land under their occupation until the recognition and verification procedure has been completed. And yet the IPs were evicted despite their claims under the Forest Rights Act being under adjudication. The government continued to evict IPs even during the second wave of COVID-19, when ordinary people were struggling for basic needs such as housing, food, education, and medical facilities etc. Forcible evictions by the forest officials included the eviction of 40 tribal families belonging to the marginalised Bhil and Barela Indigenous community residing in Jamniya area of Khandwa district in Madhya Pradesh in July;[34] the eviction of over 300 tribals belonging to Chakma and Garo communities from two villages in Hojai district of Assam in November;[35] and the demolition of huts of the Kadar tribes at Theppakulamedu in Anamalai Tiger Reserve on 3 December despite being constructed in patta[36] land allotted by the government in November.[37]


The Nagas inhabit a territory known as Nagalim, which is situated between China, India and Myanmar. They occupy an area of approximately 120,000 km². The Nagas form several tribes, primarily in the north-eastern region of India and north-western Myanmar.

Indigenous Naga women - role and contribution in society

Naga women are the backbone of the family and economy, from running the household to parenting and entrepreneurship. They also act as custodians and play a crucial role in preserving culture and tradition. There are many women who have come a long way in leadership positions in various sectors.[38]

Naga women assume a pivotal role in protecting, promoting and preserving the culture and identity of the Naga people. Their cultural attire, which is one of their primary markers of identity, is woven by women. There are women’s groups from different tribes working to preserve their cultural heritage through modern/state mechanisms. Such organisations are preserving and protecting their culture and identity through documentation, patenting and the registering of Geographical Indications (GI). The Chakhesang women’s group is leading the way in this effort: 18 shawls and three sarongs/wrap-arounds have obtained the GI tag through the initiatives of the Chakhesang Women Welfare Society (CWWS). These women’s groups also monitor the various misappropriations of Naga cultural attire by the fashion industry.[39] They have taken on the role of custodianship of their cultural heritage. Watsü Mungdang, the apex women’s organisation of the Ao people, is actively checking and regulating the use or appropriation of cultural attire. The Indigenous Sisters Heirloom Heritage is also an organisation in South Nagalim that is working actively to raise awareness of the importance of cultural heritage, and it is assisting the different Naga tribes to register and patent their Indigenous textiles and designs.

Women play a huge role in the practice and propagation of Indigenous farming and agricultural practices. The traditional knowledge of cultivation has been mostly passed down through women for generations. Aside from traditional knowledge and practice, every mother in the family acts as a seed keeper for the community. Women’s groups are slowly realising this contribution and, through the initiatives of NGOs such as North East Network (NEN), community seed banks have started to develop. Eight villages in the Phek District of Nagaland currently have a community-based seed bank established.[40] The seed banks are now storing 226 varieties of seed, including 35 types of paddy and seven types of millet.

Women in governance and decision-making

Despite the progress made in their professional and personal lives, women’s participation in governance and decision-making processes remains minimal. The traditional institutions governed by Naga customary law do not permit women to be involved in village administration and governance. Naga society is patriarchal and it continues to be governed by these traditional institutions from village level through to tribe representation, composed only of men.

Although men and women are considered fairly equal in Naga society, Nagas traditionally have specific gender roles in the community.[41] There is, however, growing discourse around and advocacy for women’s representation in decision-making bodies. The movement is slow and there is stiff opposition from both men and women but some villages are beginning to induct women onto the village councils. Mention can be made of the pioneering change brought about by Chizami village in Phek District,[42] Tongou (Ringui) village[43] and Talui village in Ukhrul District, and Cheengkhu village in Chandel where women were inducted into the village council. In another landmark development, a retired woman Naga civil servant was made president of a tribal body in January 2021 in Dimapur.[44] In Wangti Village, Mon District, too, women were elected to the Village Development Board for the first time.[45] This indicates a gradual change that is happening in the area of decision-making.

Naga women continue to be denied the benefit of one-third or 33% of seats being reserved for women, as envisaged by Article 243T(3) of the Constitution of India, because the male-dominated Naga tribal bodies vehemently oppose this, despite its provision in the Nagaland Municipal and Town Council Act 2001. Nagaland witnessed violent protests against the Urban Local Bodies (ULB) elections in 2017, which provided for said 33% reservation. The protest claimed two lives, and several government properties were vandalised. Several organisations opposed the ULB elections on the grounds that they infringed the special provisions granted to Nagaland under Article 371(A) of the Constitution.[46] Due to the protest and upheaval the elections were canceled.[47]

There have been no elections to Urban Local Bodies in Nagaland for over a decade now. On 26 October, the Nagaland government formed a committee headed up by the Nagaland chief secretary to review the Municipality Act and the reservation policy.[48] Meanwhile, as a stop-gap measure, the Nagaland government decided that members would be nominated on a 70:30 (male-female) ratio to run the municipalities until such elections could be conducted.[49]

Thirteen legislative assembly elections have been held over the last 57 years, starting with the first one in 1964. However, none of the elections has returned a woman member of the legislative assembly. Nagaland is perhaps one of the exceptions in that not a single woman member has ever been elected to the highest law-making body in the state.[50]

The absence of women is thus not only within the traditional governance system but within the State system too.

The property rights of women have also been widely discussed and debated given that women traditionally have no right to inherit property, especially ancestral land. Different tribes have different practices but, over the years, women from well-off families are now beginning to inherit property. The possibility of enabling women’s access to property rights while protecting the land and identity of the Nagas has been a continuing effort and discussion among organisations such as the Naga Women’s Union (NWU).

Naga women participate in the social and political sphere through the formation of women’s leagues or unions. Every village and tribe has a women’s union that looks into women issues and other social concerns. Women raise their voices and opinions through these platforms. Naga women are noted for their significance and contribution in social movements, and in the fight against human rights violations.[51]

While Naga society is considered safer in terms of crimes against women,[52] there are growing cases of reported and unreported domestic violence. Women have little access to justice either traditional or the state legal system because of lengthy and burdensome procedural requirements. The states have set up several agencies such as “one-stop centres”, national and state-level women’s commissions, and now a mandatory provision to set up district units.

Women have come a long way from the traditional roles of balancing domestic and agricultural roles to being educated, qualified leaders in different fields. However, with rising cases of domestic violence,[53] decades of militarisation and political instability in the Naga region, together with deep patriarchy permeating decision-making bodies and agencies, Naga women still have more battles to win.

Developments in the Indo-Naga Peace Process

The Indo-Naga talks that began after the signing of the ceasefire in 1997 reached a milestone with the signing of the Framework Agreement on 3 August 2015. Thereafter, contrary to expectation, the Indian government adopted a non-committal attitude in their engagement, and also displayed rigidity in their approach to working out the finer implementation details of the agreement,[54] thereby obstructed further progress in the negotiations. This resulted in complete a impasse in the negotiations in 2021, the chief bone of contention being a Naga Flag and a Naga Constitution.

R.N. Ravi, an interlocutor since 2014, was appointed the Governor of Nagaland State in July 2019. The dual role of Ravi as head of the state and also interlocutor in the political dialogue was not clear. This duality was opposed and a demand to remove Ravi as the interlocutor was made by the NSCN (IM) and by Naga civil society, resulting in another deadlock. The Naga group also raised the manipulation of the Framework Agreement. It was alleged that R.N. Ravi had doctored and misinterpreted the document, and this compelled the NSCN (IM) to make the Framework Agreement public.[55]

On 9 September 2021, Ravi was transferred from Nagaland and was made Governor of the State of Tamil Nadu. He was concurrently released from the position of interlocutor in the Indo-Naga Peace talks. He was replaced by Akshay Kumar Mishra, former Special Director of the Intelligence Bureau who had been engaging with the NSCN (IM) unofficially since 2020.[56] The sixth interlocutor in the Indo-Naga talks, A.K. Mishra had held an advisory position to the Union Home Minister Amit Shah and was also instrumental in the signing the Karbi Accord and a ceasefire agreement with the NSCN (K) Nikki group. Although resumption of the talks with the new interlocutor is a positive step, the issue of flag and constitution continue to block the negotiations and the 24-year-long political talk continue to be suspended.

Militarisation: The Oting Massacre

The Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 that has been imposed on Naga areas empowers the armed forces to act with impunity. There are hundreds of both documented and undocumented cases of death, rape, torture and other severe forms of barbarity against the Naga people. In the latest case of brutality, 14 civilians were massacred at Oting village in Mon District of Nagaland on 4 and 5 December 2021. The incident took place at Longkhao/Yatong of Oting village when the 21st Para Special Forces opened fire at a pick-up truck carrying eight coal miners returning home from the mining site. Six of them were killed then and there, and the other two were severely injured. Eight more civilians were killed in indiscriminate firing by the army when the villagers protested at the spot. Twenty people were injured.[57]

The incident was termed as failed intelligence on the part of the security force, which mistook the group of innocent civilians for insurgents in the army’s counter-Naga insurgency operation. The Union Home Minister of India, Amit Shah, gave a statement in parliament stating that it was a case of “mistaken identity” and that the people were shot because they refused to stop. This was, however, contradicted by survivors of the incident.

There was widespread condemnation by several organisations, groups and people from various states and countries. Candlelight vigils were held in different states and people took to the street to protest the killing and demand the repeal of AFSPA and a political solution to the Naga issue.[58]

The Nagaland government announced an ex gratia payment of five lakhs of rupees to each of the families of the deceased, and also bore the medical expenditure of the injured persons. The state government also set up a Special Investigating Team, which was to furnish its report within one month. The state government also cancelled its 22nd State Festival, known as the Hornbill Festival, after many tribes called off their participation in protest, solidarity and mourning at the killing.[59]

Disturbed Area Status

Following the Oting massacre, the Nagaland Chief Minister, Neiphiu Rio called for a state cabinet meeting on 7 December and resolved to appeal to central government for an immediate repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 in the state of Nagaland.[60] Several petitions and memoranda from different civil society and human rights organisations were submitted to the Prime Minister calling for a repeal the AFSPA. However, on 30 December 2021, the Union Home Ministry declared the area to be disturbed, as per Section 3 of the Act,[61] a condition necessary to extend the Act for another six months. This is a periodic extension that has been continuing for the last 63 years in Nagaland.

Legislative developments - Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Bill, 2021

In India, the Nagas are spread across four states, i.e. Arunachal, Assam, Manipur and Nagaland. The Nagas in Arunachal were listed in serial no.10 of Part 13 of the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950[62] as “Any Naga Tribes” in the state of Arunachal. On 2 August 2021, on the recommendation of the Arunachal State government, the tribal ministry introduced a bill in the Upper House of Parliament to modify the list of tribes in Arunachal. The bill was passed and the President of India gave assent on 13 August 2021.[63] The bill, known as the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Bill, 2021, made five changes to the nomenclature and identification of tribes in Part VIII of the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950. The Naga tribes, previously grouped together as “Any Naga Tribes”, were replaced with the names of four tribes namely Nocte, Tangsa, Tutsa, and Wancho, and were given individual identity. The word Naga was removed. The Director of Arunachal Institute of Tribal Studies, Professor Jumyir Basar stated that the words “Any Naga Tribes” had been borrowed directly from the colonial records and that these tribes were in reality culturally diverse.[64] These new identities are seen by the Nagas as a step towards denying the existence of Nagas in Arunachal. The Nagas’ struggle for self-determination includes consolidation of Naga homeland, which was divided and put under the administration of two countries, India and Myanmar, and further segregated into separate states within them, thus dismantling and deconstructing the Naga identity. 

Mr Santosh Chakma is an advocate and Director of the Indigenous Lawyers Association of India (ILAI).

Ningreichon Tungshang is from the majestic foothills of Shirui Kashong, Ukhrul and she currently lives in Delhi. She is a mother of three and writes occasionally on the Naga journey, an issue close to her heart. She works with the Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights.

Chingri Vashum is a legal research scholar and a member of the Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights.


This article is part of the 36th edition of The Indigenous World, a yearly overview produced by IWGIA that serves to document and report on the developments Indigenous Peoples have experienced. Find The Indigenous World 2022 in full here


Notes and references

[1] Since the Scheduled Tribes or “tribals” are considered India’s Indigenous Peoples, these terms are used interchangeably in this text.

[2] Government of India. Ministry of Home Affairs. North East Division. 11011/53/2012-NE-V. Dated 27 September, 2018.  https://mha.gov.in/sites/default/files/filefield_paths/HLC_Tripura.PDF

[3] ASRP Mukesh. “World Indigenous People’s Day: Jharkhand CM declares public holiday, Congress plans grand celebration,.” The Times of India, August 9, 2020. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ranchi/world-indigenous-peoples-day-cm-declares-public-holiday-cong-plans-grand-celebrations/articleshow/77438738.cms

[4] National Crime Records Bureau. Ministry of Home Affairs. Crime in India 2020. Statistics Volume-II. P. (New Delhi: National Crime Records Bureau. Ministry of Home Affairs, 2021). 199 & 203https://ncrb.gov.in/sites/default/files/CII%202020%20Volume%202.pdf

[5] Outlook Web Bureau. “17-Year-Old Tribal Girl Gang-Raped In Odisha, 4 Held.” Outlook India Magazine Online, , March 10, 2021. https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/india-news-17-year-old-tribal-girl-gang-raped-in-odisha-4-held/376721/

[6] Tiwari, Vishnukant. “Bastar Tribals Allege Rape, Murder of 18-Yr-Old by Security Forces,.” The Quint,  June 8, 2021. https://www.thequint.com/news/india/chhattisgarh-bastar-girl-killed-by-drg-not-a-maoist-say-family

[7] Deo, Shipra,  Landesa and Samuel Hahnemann Associates & Research Centre (SHARC). ’This is not your home’ - An assessment of land rights of tribal women in Jharkhand. Washington D.C.: Landesa,  2021. https://cdn.landesa.org/wp-content/uploads/This-is-not-your-home-10-August-2021-Jharkhand.pdf#page=8&zoom=100,92,96

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Bajaj, Nidhi.  “Atrocious Witch Hunting Attacks in India: Need for Central Legislation.” iPleaders Blog, January 29, 2020. https://blog.ipleaders.in/witch-hunting-attacks-in-india/

[12]National Crime Records Bureau. Ministry of Home Affairs. “Crime in India.” https://ncrb.gov.in/en/crime-india

[13] Grover, Astha Madan and Sushovan Patnaik. “State anti-superstition laws not enough. India needs a central law, focus on victim not crime.”, The Print, December 9, 2020. https://theprint.in/opinion/state-anti-superstition-laws-not-enough-india-needs-a-central-law-focus-on-victim-not-crime/563439/

[14] Kapoor, Meenakshi. “Indian government wants to strip even the Andaman Islands of their environmental protection.” Scroll.in, April 9, 2021. https://scroll.in/article/991827/indian-government-wants-to-strip-even-the-andaman-islands-of-their-environmental-protection

[15] Pardikar, Rishika. “NITI Aayog’s Vision for Great Nicobar Is at Great Odds With Islanders’ Reality.” The Wire, May 29, 2021. https://science.thewire.in/environment/niti-aayogs-vision-for-great-nicobar-is-at-great-odds-with-islanders-reality/

[16] Kapoor, Meenakshi. “Indian government wants to strip even the Andaman Islands of their environmental protection,.” Scroll.in, April 9, 2021. https://scroll.in/article/991827/indian-government-wants-to-strip-even-the-andaman-islands-of-their-environmental-protection

[17] Ibid.

[18] Government of India (Ministry of Tribal Affairs). Lok Sabha. Unstarred Question No 2096 to be answered on 02.12.2019. National Policy for PVTG.

[19] United Nations. OHCHR. Reference: CERD/EWUAP/104th session/2021/CS/ks. August 25, 2021.


[20] Nandi, Jayashree. “Changes to forest conservation act delayed after new objections,.” The Hindustan Times, January 9, 2022. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/changes-to-forest-conservation-act-delayed-after-new-objections-101641749843786.html

[21] Express News Service. “Madhya Pradesh: Under-trial tribal man dies in judicial custody, villagers attack police station.” The New Indian Express, September 7, 2021. https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2021/sep/07/madhya-pradesh-undertrial-tribal-man-dies-in-judicial-custody-villagers-attack-police-station-2355643.html

[22] Sharma, Diwakar. “Maharashtra: Man from Phase Pardhi tribe dies in police custody in Solapur, torture alleged.” Mid-Day, October 9, 2021. https://www.mid-day.com/mumbai/mumbai-news/article/maharashtra-man-from-phase-pardhi-tribe-dies-in-police-custody-in-solapur-torture-alleged-23195815

[23] Pal, Sumedha. “Chhattisgarh: Security Forces Open Fire on Tribal Protesters, Activists Stopped From Visiting Site.” NewsClick, May 20, 2021. https://www.newsclick.in/chhattisgarh-security-forces-open-fire-tribal-protesters-activists-stopped-visiting-site

[24] The Assam Tribune. “Suspected Ultras Kill Two Persons, Injure One In Assam Village.” The Assam Tribune, January 28, 2021. https://assamtribune.com/suspected-ultras-kill-two-persons-injure-one-in-assam-village/

[25] The Hindu. “Tribals stage protest against murder of former militia member.” The Hindu, March 7, 2021. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Visakhapatnam/tribals-stage-protest-against-murder-of-former-militia-member/article34013486.ece

[26] Team EastMojo. “Manipur: Four, including 8-year-old killed by militants in Kangpokpi.” EastMojo, October 13, 2021. https://www.eastmojo.com/manipur/2021/10/13/manipur-four-including-8-year-old-killed-by-militants-in-kangpokpi/

[27] Rao, Dr Palla Trinadha. “Andhra tribals “victims” of displacement, land alienation, natural resource exploitation.”Counterview,  July 2, 2021. https://www.counterview.net/2021/07/andhra-tribals-victims-of-displacement.html

[28] Response of the Minister of Tribal Affairs, Government of India to Unstarred Question No. 71 in the Lok Sabha on September 14, 2020 relating to “Displacement of Tribals”.

[29] Shagun. “Polavaram — displaced and nowhere to go: Tribal families robbed of rights, livelihood in resettlement colonies.” Down To Earth, December 8, 2021. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/governance/polavaram-displaced-and-nowhere-to-go-tribal-families-robbed-of-rights-livelihood-in-resettlement-colonies-80604

[30] Express News Service. “Polavaram project: Panel sees violation of tribal rights.” The New Indian Express,  September 19, 2021. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/andhra-pradesh/2021/sep/19/panel-sees-violation-of-tribal-rights-2360761.html

[31] Express News Service. “Rukuda irrigation project: Forced out of home years ago, Odisha tribals await rehab.” The New Indian Express, November 12, 2021. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/odisha/2021/nov/12/rukuda-irrigation-project-forced-out-of-home-years-ago-odisha-tribals-await-rehab-2382626.html

[32] Syed Sajjad Ali. “Tripura villagers block road over Bru settlement.” The Hindu, August 25, 2021. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/tripura-villagers-block-road-over-bru-settlement/article36090343.ece

[33] Monthly update on status of implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 for the period ending 31 August 2021. Ministry of Tribal Affairs. https://tribal.nic.in/downloads/FRA/MPR/2021/(A)%20MPR%20Aug%202021.pdf

[34] Pal, Sumedha. “MP: Barela Tribals Rendered Homeless as Forest Department ‘Attacks’ Fields and Homes.” The Leaflet, July 14, 2021. https://theleaflet.in/mp-barela-tribals-rendered-homeless-as-forest-department-attacks-fields-and-homes/

[35] Sentinel Digital Desk. “Section of Lumding Forest Encroachers Remain Defiant, Says We Will Not Leave Our Place.” The Sentinel, November 11, 2021. https://www.sentinelassam.com/north-east-india-news/assam-news/section-of-lumding-forest-encroachers-remain-defiant-says-we-will-not-leave-our-place-562741

[36] Patta land means the land for which land deed issued by the government to an individual or organisation.

[37]Express News Service. “Forest dept tears down Kadar huts in ATR.” The New Indian Express, December 4, 2021. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil-nadu/2021/dec/04/forest-dept-tears-down-kadar-huts-in-atr-2391702.html

38 Naga Women’s Union (NWU), International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs IWGIA), Henry MartynInstitute (HMI): International Centre for Research, Interfaith Relations and Reconciliation. The Place of Women in Naga Society. Guwahati: Christian Literature Centre, Guwahati, 2018.  https://www.iwgia.org/en/resources/publications/305-books/3337-the-place-of-women-in-naga-society.html

[39] Lal, Surabhi and Devanshi Saxena., “Can the Geographical Indication Acts Provide Relief to Nagaland’s Chakesang Women?” The Wire, October 20, 2020. https://thewire.in/rights/geographical-indications-act-nagalands-chakhesang-women

[40] Moitra, Aheli. “Nagaland: Seed keepers build future safe vault - Community Seed Banks could pave way to collective sharing & securing of knowledge” The Morung Express, March 28, 2018. https://aperipheraltwist.blogspot.com/2018/03/nagaland-seed-keepers-build-future-safe.html

[41] Supra note 1.

[42] Krocha, Vishü Rita. “Chizami enables women’s participation in decision making.” The Morung Express, March 7, 2021. https://morungexpress.com/chizami-enables-womens-participation-in-decision-making

[43] The Sangai Express.  “Tongou village sets benchmark towards gender equality.” E-Pao, January 14, 2015, available at http://e-pao.net/GP.asp?src=14..150115.jan15

[44] Hazarika, Myithili. “Retired Nagaland officer becomes first woman elected head of tribal clan.” The Print,  February 6, 2021. https://theprint.in/neye/retired-nagaland-officer-becomes-first-woman-elected-head-of-tribal-clan/600023/

[45] Krocha,Vishü Rita. “First woman VDB Secretary in Mon.” The Morung Express, June 6, 2021. https://morungexpress.com/first-woman-vdb-secretary-in-mon

[46] Ambrocia, Medolenuo. ”Nagaland: 33% women reservation in Urban Local Bodies elections likely.” EastMojo, October 28, 2021. https://www.eastmojo.com/nagaland/2021/10/28/nagaland-33-women-reservation-in-urban-local-bodies-elections-likely/

[47] PTI. “Nagaland Governor PB Acharya declares ULB polls null and void.” The Indian Express, February 9, 2017. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/nagaland-governor-pb-acharya-declares-ulb-polls-null-and-void-4516160/

[48] Nagaland Post. “Nominations not elections to ULBs.” Nagaland Post, October 26, 2021.  https://www.nagalandpost.com/index.php/nominations-not-elections-to-ulbs/

[49] Ambrocia, Medolenuo. “Nagaland: 33% women reservation in Urban Local Bodies elections likely.” EastMojo, October 28, 2021. https://www.eastmojo.com/nagaland/2021/10/28/nagaland-33-women-reservation-in-urban-local-bodies-elections-likely/

[50] Bhalla, Abhishek. “No female representation in Nagaland Assembly, yet again.” DNA, March 4, 2018. https://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-no-female-representation-in-nagaland-assembly-yet-again-2590467

[51] Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP). HerStory

of Empowerment, Leadership and Justice. A collection of personal essays by indigenous women. Chiang Mai: Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP), 2013. https://aippnet.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/HerStory-For-website.pdf

[52] Latest data compilation (2016-2018) of National Crime Records Bureau, Government of India shows almost zero percentage of crime against women in the state of Nagaland and other states of India where Nagas are found.  National Crime Records Bureau. Ministry of Home Affairs. “Table 3A.1. Crime against Women (IPC + SLL) - 2016-2018.” https://ncrb.gov.in/sites/default/files/crime_in_india_table_additional_table_chapter_reports/Table%203A.1_0.pdf

[53] Gogoi, Bhadra. “Domestic violence on the rise in Nagaland, says women's panel.” The Times of India, October 28, 2021. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kohima/domestic-violence-on-the-rise-in-nagaland-says-womens-panel/articleshow/87330757.cms

[54] Singh, Bikash. “NSCN(IM) seeks PM Modi's intervention to take peace talks to logical conclusion.” The Economic Times, August 3, 2021. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/india/nscnim-seeks-pm-modis-intervention-to-take-peace-talks-to-logical-conclusion/articleshow/84987171.cms?from=mdr

[55] Pisharoty, Sangeeta Barooah. “Four Reasons Why the NSCN(I-M) Released the Confidential Nagaland Framework Agreement.” The Wire,  August 17, 2020. https://thewire.in/politics/nagaland-framework-agreement-nscn-im

[56] TNN. “RN Ravi quits as Naga talks interlocutor, ex-IB official takes over.” The Times of India, September 23, 2021.  https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/guwahati/rn-ravi-quits-as-naga-talks-interlocutor-ex-ib-official-takes-over/articleshow/86448908.cms

[57] Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) and The International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA). “Condemnation of State Sponsored Violence on Unarmed Civilians in Nagaland, India.” IWGIA, December 13, 2021.  https://www.iwgia.org/en/news/4582-condemnation-of-state-sponsored-violence-on-unarmed-civilians-in-nagaland,-india.html 

[58] Ningreichon, T.  “Looking Beyond AFSPA.” The Morung Express, December 14, 2021. https://morungexpress.com/looking-beyond-afspa

[59] Akummeren, IA.  “Press Briefing on Embergency Cabinet Meeting Held.” Government of Nagaland. Department of Information & Public Relations. December 7, 2021. https://ipr.nagaland.gov.in/press-briefing-emergency-cabinet-meeting-held

[60] Ibid.

[61] Government of India. Ministry of Home Affairs. “The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958.” Section 3.  https://www.mha.gov.in/sites/default/files/armed_forces_special_powers_act1958.pdf

[62] Government of India. Ministry of Law and Justice. Legislative Department. “The Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950.” Part XIII.


[63] PRS Legislative Research. “The Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Bill, 2021.”


[64] Agarwala, Tora. “Explained: How revising Arunachal Pradesh ST list helps self-identification.” The Indian Express, August 20, 2021. https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-how-revising-arunachal-pradesh-st-list-helps-self-identification-7452825/



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