Undue Glorification of tribal culture…a Neo-liberal agenda

It was a year back. My friend had accompanied me to my village. It was festival time in my village and everyone in the village was dressed in their best and also the youth were dancing to the tunes of the drums and folk songs. She was so impressed that she opined “Your culture is so beautiful, wish I was a part of it”. I quietly replied that this beautiful culture has become the reason for our underdevelopment. She did not understand.
The tribal culture has always been glorified by everyone from all angles. Such has been the extent of praise showered to tribal culture that gargantuan steps have been taken to preserve this culture. Culture has become like a litmus test for the tribes today as if to be called a tribe you have to have to beautiful culture, at least one that is recognised as beautiful by the outsiders. The academic intellectuals feel that this beautiful culture, if to be preserved, should be isolated. This cultural isolation has turned out to be the reason behind the underdevelopment of the tribes. Such is the obsession with the beauty that it is given ‘the other’ status and any contact with the so called ‘Mainstream’ is to be avoided. Thus any efforts for creating infrastructure and also carrying out development initiatives in these areas should be necessarily avoided as any contact with the outsider might have the potential of corrupting the ‘pure tribal culture’.
Globalisation has been able to at least improve the economical status of other exploited communities like the Dalits but it has proved to be a curse for the tribals. The tribals today are pushed towards more and more marginalization with their lands being forcefully acquired from them in the name of ‘national development’ as if they are outside the Nation. The government takes a hypocritical stance when it comes to tribal culture and tribal development. On one side, it relates tribals as synonymous with jungle and forests but one the other side it removes all the conventional right of the tribals towards the forests but allows the contractors and other merchants to fell trees indiscriminately.
Culture to be seen simply, is the sum total of how you dress, how you eat and basically the way of living. The tribals, though have been living in forests and had a nomadic existence today want to match steps with the ‘modern civilization’ and wants to break the stereotypical image given to it necessarily because this labelling has served as an impediment to the development of the tribes.
Once I was in my classroom and the teacher was relating how beautiful the tribal culture is and also he was relating how tribes lives in jungle and how they are the best protectors of the forests. I stood up and told him that “the tribes no more wants to be the protectors of forests, they want to come out of the forests, get education and wear the modern dress and move around in cars etc.”
He remained quiet……!!!