What were the main arguments on either side of the debate about
how to relate to tribal communities?
The main arguments, on either side of the debate about relating
to tribal communities, were led by the British
administrator-anthropologists and the nationalists.
According to the British, the tribes of India were primitive
people and had a different culture from the Hindus. They believed
that the simple tribal people would suffer exploitation and
cultural degradation at the hands of Hindu people who wanted the
assimilation of tribal people with them. Thus, they needed to be
protected by the state in order to safeguard their interests.
On the other hand, the nationalists, of whom G.S Ghurye was the
most famous exponent, argued that the tribes of India were not
backward, but had been interacting with the rest of Hindu society
over a long period. The process of assimilation had been
experienced by all the communities in India and the tribes were
only a step behind in this process. According to nationalists,
attempts to preserve tribal culture only contributed to their
backwardness. They believed tribal society needed as much reform
as Hindu society.
Thus, the main difference in both viewpoints was the perception
about the impact of mainstream culture on tribes.
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