Anil Verma

Tribals in Uttar Pradesh: Issues of Identity and Political Representation

Tribal society in Uttar Pradesh, as in India, was an autonomous society existing side by side the Hindu society though it borrowed many practices from the latter. After independence in 1947 and the making of a new constitution in 1950, tribals were divided into two categories – the scheduled tribes (STs) and the non-scheduled tribes (NSTs). The Census of India did not recognise NSTs and dumped them into lowest echelons of Hindu social hierarchy. Thus, a very large number of tribals lost their identity and were forcibly made Hindus either as dalits or backwards.

In discussing ‘Tribal Identity and Political Representation in Uttar Pradesh’, I will be raising fundamental issues about how the Constitution of India denied Uttar Pradesh tribals their identity, and how that resulted in their non-representation in state legislative assembly and Lok Sabha (LS). The entire issue of non-representation of tribals is based on the erroneous census
data that there are not enough Schedule Tribes (STs) in UP. The Constitution of India provides STs reservation in parliament and state assemblies in proportion to their population. But the Constitution does not define who is an ST. In view of that, only a handful of tribal communities were arbitrarily identified as STs whereas most of them were excluded.

Unfortunately, the non-scheduled tribes were not only denied identity but forced placed into lowest echelons of the Hindu social hierarchy. They had to wage a long battle, and after 52 years, only some of them, placed wrongly into scheduled castes (SC) category, were transferred to the ST category in 2002. Even these newly recognised communities were recognised as STs only in
13 districts of eastern UP. In 62/75 districts they were not given ST status. We argue that the process of scheduling tribes was very arbitrary, used faulty parameters, divided the tribal society, resulting in denying them identity and political representations. Since the ST count is done by the Census of India, it counted only the five ST communities- bhotia, buksa, jaunsari, raji and tharu
– who were identified as STs in the 1950 Presidential Notification.

The Delimitation Commission, which is responsible for allocating constituencies reserved for STs, obviously goes by the census figures. The net outcome is that not a single seat is reserved for STs in Uttar Pradesh in state assembly and parliament. The point we wish to make is that if this is corrected, and most of the tribes presently excluded from the purview of STs accorded ST
status, then the ST population in UP will be close to the ST population at the national level i.e. 8%. That would not only terminate their identity crisis but also provide them their due political representation in parliament and UP assembly. This issue is politically sensitive and may turn out to be a game changer in the politics of Uttar Pradesh in the days to come.