Why Dr.Ambedkar substituted the word “scheduled” for the word “aboriginal”.

Jaipal Singh’s questions on the substitution of the ‘scheduled’ word for the word ‘aboriginal’ and Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar’s explanation.

Constituent Assembly Debates On 2 December, 1948 Part 1


Shri Jaipal Singh (Bihar: General): Mr. Vice-President,Sir. So far as I am concerned, this particular article in no way frightens me, although the various fundamental rights have been hedged in by so many exceptions. To me it is obvious that whatever we put into the Constitution, its value, its use to us will depend upon the way we work all these things. But there are one or two things on which I would like Dr. Ambedkar to enlighten me. The first point on which I would like his clarification is in regard to the amendment which he has moved, amendment No. 491, where in he seeks to substitute the word “aboriginal” by the word “scheduled”. Sir, I am always at a disadvantage whenever anything affecting aboriginals has to be discussed at this stage for the obvious reason that the two reports of the Tribal sub-committees have not been fully discussed on the floor of this House, with the result that the House has not been able to obtain its collective view point or arrive at a collective decision as has been the case with all the other articles, that is to say, articles which affect the non-tribals of our country.

Take the question of this word ‘tribal’. As far as I know neither of the sub-committees had gone into the work of scheduling. I know it for a fact that the sub-committee of which I was a member did nothing of the sort and, in fact,bodily the Drafting Committee has just put into the Draft Constitution whatever obtained in the Government of India Act. Now, look at the list.

My second point that I want to have clarified is whether the advisory councils or the regional councils,which are envisaged in the recommendations of the two sub-committees, will operate outside the so-called scheduled areas. If they do not, then I want to know from Dr. Ambedkar what is going to happen to the Adibasis, who are in millions, outside those scheduled areas. As far as I can understand the language of the Constitution, the regional councils and the advisory councils are to advise the Governor to participate as it were in the legislation of the State only in regard to the scheduled areas. Well, once it is accepted that the regional councils and the advisory councils may operate also outside the scheduled areas then my point is met.

Take the case of West Bengal. In West Bengal, according to what is proposed, there shall be no scheduled areas; in West Bengal there are 16 lakhs of Adibasis. I want to know what is going to happen to them. There is no regional council; there will be no advisory council there. Who is going to advise the Governor in regard to their welfare, in regard to whatever should be done or should not be done,what act may operate for them or against them? I think that is a point that has to be clarified.

Sir, the Tribes inventory that is in this Draft Constitution is most unsatisfactory. I will exemplify one or two cases. Sir, you yourself come from West Bengal. Bengal has been carved into three provinces, Bengal united, now West Bengal, Bihar and then Orissa. The British had their own arguments for their territorial boundaries. At the present moment, you know it only too well that none of these three provinces seems to be satisfied with the boundary alignment. West Bengal wants something of Bihar; Bihar also wants something of West Bengal. Orissa also is clamouring for some more territory from Bihar. That is the present political situation, but, how does it affect the Adibasis ? Now the Tribal Sub-Committee in a way has been outmoded to this extent that lakhs and lakhs of States people have been integrated into provinces. Take the question of Orissa. When the Tribal Sub-Committee went to Orissa it had to deal only with those areas that were excluded or partially excluded.The present position is that about 24 States have been integrated into Orissa and several others into the Central Provinces. Most of these States are overwhelmingly populated by Adibasis. What happens in regard to them? Whatever scheduled areas the Sub-Committee has recommended is really insignificant. It does not cover the whole Adibasis population, particularly of the two provinces of the Central Provinces and Orissa.

I would like Dr. Ambedkar, therefore, to tell me quite clearly that whatever provisions, whatever little concessions that he desires this Constitution should have,will apply also to those areas that are not particularly specified within the scheduled areas.

Then I come to article 13 (1) (b), namely, to “assemble peaceably and without arms”. I have to point out that this matter of the Arms Act has been very mischievously applied against the Adibasis. Certain political parties have gone to extremes to point out that because Adibasis carry bows and arrows, lathis or axes, which they do daily as a normal part of their life, which they have done for generations and generations, and what they are doing today they have done before, that they are preparing for trouble.

Let me give you the instance of the Oraons. We have in this Assembly only one Oraon member. Now the Oraon group of Adibasis constitutes the fourth largest block of Adibasis in India. Just about now, they have what we call Jatras or Melas. These are annual occasions for their cultural activities. They have a certain ceremony in which the head of the Oraon village will carry the flag and the rest of them carry lathis with them and proceed into the various akhadas or villages. It is a festival for the people; they have done it in a harmless way for generations and generations and, now we have been told last year and the year before last that we should not carry weapons. I do not mind pointing out there are several Members here from Bihar who will never be able to get back to their homes unless they are escorted with people and with arms. In my own part,we live in the jungles and every one, even women, may I point out, carry what might be designated arms, but they are not arms in that sense. Whenever we have to hold meetings,if people come with their own usual things, I want to know whether it is going to be interpreted that we are assembling unpeaceably and carrying arms for an unlawful purpose. These are the only points, Sir, that I want to have clarified.

I will give one more instance. Every seven years, it is the custom in Chota Nagpur to have what they call. EraSendra, Janishikar. Every seven years, the women dress as men and hunt in the jungles–dressed as men, mind you. That is the occasion when naturally women like to show masculine prowess. They arm themselves like men with bows and arrows,lathis, belas and so forth. Now, Sir, according to this particular article in the Constitution, the Government might interpret that women every seven years were getting together for a dangerous purpose. I urge the House to do nothing that is going to upset the simple folk. They have been among the most peaceful citizens in our country and we should be very very cautious in doing anything which might be misunderstood by them and lead to trouble.

Sir, I have, as I have said, no difficulty in accepting this particular article, but I thought I should seek clarification from Dr. Ambedkar on these two particular points.


Constituent Assembly Debates On 2 December, 1948 Part 2


The Honourable Dr. B. R. Ambedkar:……..

Now, Sir, my friend, Mr. Jaipal Singh asked me certain questions about the Adibasis. I thought that was a question which could have been very properly raised when we were discussing the Fifth and the Sixth Schedules, but as he has raised them and as he has asked me particularly to give him some explanation of the difficulties that he had found, I am dealing with the matter at this stage. The House will realize what is the position we have laid down in the Draft Constitution with regard to the Adibasis. We have two categories of areas,–scheduled areas and tribal areas. The tribal areas are areas which relate only to the province of Assam, while the scheduled areas are areas which are scattered in provinces other than Assam. They are really a different name for what we used in the Government of India Act as `partially excluded areas’. There is nothing beyond that. Now the scheduled tribes live in both, that is, in the scheduled areas as well as in the tribal areas and the difference between the position of the scheduled tribes in scheduled areas and scheduled tribes in tribal areas is this: In the case of the scheduled tribes in the scheduled areas, they are governed by the provisions contained in paragraph V of the Fifth Schedule. According to that Schedule, the ordinary law passed by Parliament or by the local Legislature applies automatically unless the Governor declares that that law or part of that law shall not apply.In the case of the scheduled tribes in tribal areas, the position is a little different. There the law made by Parliament or the law made by the local legislature of Assam shall not apply unless the Governor extends that law to the tribal area. In the one case it applies unless excluded and in the other case, it does not apply unless extended. That is the position.

Now, coming to the question of the scheduled tribes and as to why I substituted the word “scheduled” for the word”aboriginal”, the explanation is this. As I said, the word”scheduled tribe” has a fixed meaning, because it enumerates the tribes, as you will see in the two Schedules. Well, the word “Adibasi” is really a general term which has no specific legal de jure connotation, something like the Untouchables. It is a general term. Anybody may include anybody in the term `untouchable’. It has no definite legal connotation. That is why in the Government of India Act of 1935, it was felt necessary to give the word `untouchable’ some legal connotation and the only way it was found feasible to do it was to enumerate the communities which indifferent parts and in different parts and in different areas were regarded by the local people as satisfying the test of untouchability. The same question may arise with regard to Adibasis. Who are the Adibasis. Who are the Adibasis? And the question will be relevant, because by this Constitution, we are conferring certain privileges, certain rights on these Adibasis. In order that, if the matter was taken to a court of law there should be a precise definitionas to who are these Adibasis, it was decided to invent, so to say, another category or another term to be called `Scheduled tribes’ and to enumerate the Adibasis under that head. Now I think my friend, Mr. Jaipal singh, if he were to take the several communities which are now generally described as Adibasis and compare the communities which are listed under the head of scheduled tribes, he will find that there is hardly a case where a community which is generally recognised as Adibasis is not included in the Schedule. I think, here and there, a mistake might have occurred and a community which is not an Adibasi community may have been included. It may be that a community which is really an Adibasi community has not been included, but if there is a case where a community which has hitherto been treated as an Adibasi Community is not included in the list of scheduled tribes, we have added, as may be seen in the draft Constitution, an amendment whereby it will be permissible for the local government by notification to add any particular community to the list of scheduled tribes which have not been so far included. I think that ought to satisfy my friend, Mr. Jaipal Singh.

He asked me another question and it was this. Supposing a member of a scheduled tribe living in a scheduled area or a member of a scheduled tribe living in a tribal area migrates to another part of the territory of India, which is outside both the scheduled area and the tribal area, will he be able to claim from the local government, within whose jurisdiction he may be residing, the same privileges which he would be entitled to when he is residing within the scheduled area or within the tribal area? It is a difficult question for me to answer. If that matter is agitated in quarters where a decision on a matter like this would lie, we would certainly be able to give some answer to the question in the form of some clause in this Constitution.But, so far as the present Constitution stands, a member of a scheduled tribe going outside the scheduled area would certainly not be entitled to carry with him the privileges that he is entitled to when he is residing in a scheduled area or a tribal area. So far as I can see, it will be practically impossible to enforce the provisions that apply to tribal areas or scheduled areas, in areas other than those which are covered by them.

Sir, I hope I have met all the points that were raised by the various speakers when they spoke upon the amendments to this clause, and I believe that my explanation will give them satisfaction that all their points have been met. I hope that the article as amended will be accepted by the House.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s