Anthropology · The Hindu

Jawaharlal Nehru’s Tribal Panchsheel

Past experiences of policies of isolation and assimilation of Ghurye and their results forced the social thinkers and administrators to follow a balanced-midway (i.e. neither too rigid nor too flexible). This led to the adoption of an integrated approach towards the development and welfare of tribals. This integrated approach was a modified form of Verrier Elwin’s “A philosophy of NEFA (1957)”

Tribal Panchsheel was given by Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru [1889–1964], the first Prime Minister of India in the year 1958.

“Indeed, I hope that this broad approach will be applied outside the NEFA also to other tribes in India” – Jawaharlal Nehru

These are 5 fundamental principles for the tribal upliftment, as an integrational approach which was later confirmed by anthropologists.

Following are five principles for the policy to be pursued vis-a-vis the tribals:

  1. People should develop along the lines of their own genius, and the imposition of alien values should be avoided. Try to encourage in every way their own traditional arts and culture.
  2. The tribal rights in land and forest should be respected.
  3. Train and build up a team of their own people to do the work of administration and development. Try to avoid introducing too many outsiders into tribal territory.
  4. We should not over administer tribal areas or overwhelmed with a multiplicity of schemes. Administrate in accordance with their own social and cultural institutions.
  5. We should judge the result, not by statistics or the amount of money spent, but by the human character that is evolved.

Significance of Tribal Panchsheel:

  1. It shaped the tribal policy of India in the 1950s.
  2. It avoided the extreme of two standpoints (i.e. anthropological approach – which treated tribals as ‘museum specimens’ to kept apart, for their study and observations and other approachers – which sought to destroy their individuality, development process and culture that was imposed being alien).
  3. Even Scheduled Tribes Commission (1961) endorsed it and made recommendations within the framework of Panchsheel like rights over land, forest, rehabilitation, etc.

Lessons learned so far from working of Tribal Panchsheel:

  1. Tribal people should not be forced to do things which is alien in nature.
  2. Integrating them with neighboring people helps in saving tribals from exploitation.
  3. Tribal officers may work in the area with some local bias.
  4. Need for the simple tribal programmes.
  5. One needs to serve the tribals in a dedicated spirit.

The relevance of Tribal Panchsheel Today:
In Nov 2018, John Allen Chau – a 26-year-old evangelical missionary – was killed by the isolated tribe he was attempting to convert the tribals of Sentilese Island in the Indian Ocean to Christianity.
There are several attempts by various religions in imposing their culture and practices the tribals who have their unique culture, God, etc. (Is Tripura aiding the Hinduisation of tribals by letting ISKCON run state schools?)
Thus, Nehru’s tribal Panchsheel should be followed and implemented properly so as to save the unique way of living of the tribals. Nehru’s Tribal Panchsheel can be called sustainable development of tribals.

  1. Tribal Culture Of India by L P Vidyarthi and Binay Kumar Rai
  4. Is Tripura aiding the Hinduisation of tribals by letting ISKCON run state schools?
  5. Image source: Google – Sentinelese Tribes of Sentinelese Island

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