The Supreme Court of India had broken the myth that the Dravidians from the Southern Indian states are the original inhabitants of India. The judgment delivered in 2011 by the Bench comprising of Justice Markandey Katju and Justice Gyan Sudha Mishra surprised most of the people who used to discuss the theory of Aryas Vesus Dravidians. This historical disquisition in Criminal Appeal No.11 of 2011, arising out of Special Leave Petition No.10367 of 2010 in Kailas & Others versus State of Maharashtra TR. Taluka P.S. The appeal was filed against a judgment and order passed by the Aurangabad Bench of Bombay High Court of Maharashtra. The Supreme Court Bench saw in the appeal a typical instance of how many Indians treat the Scheduled Tribes, or Adivasis.
The case related to Nandabai, 25, belonging to the Bhil tribe, a Scheduled Tribe in Maharashtra. She was beaten, kicked and stripped, and then paraded naked on the village road, over an alleged illicit relationship with a man from an upper caste. The four accused were convicted by the Additional Sessions Judge, Ahmednagar, under different Sections of the Indian Penal Code and sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for six months, one year and three months in three instances and to pay a fine in each. They were convicted under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for one year and a fine. But the High Court acquitted them of the charges under the SC/ST Act, while confirming the convictions under the IPC provisions. Each was directed to pay Rs. 5,000 to the victim.
Justice Katju is a grandson of Kailash Nath Katju, 3rd Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh and a Union Minister in Nehru Cabinet. He retired as the Judge of the Supreme Court of India in September 2011. He was also the Chief Justice of the Madras as well as Delhi High Court. Between October 2011 and October 2014, Katju was the Chairman of the Press Council of India. Justice Mishra who was the Chief Justice of the Jharkhand High Court retired as the Judge of the Supreme Court in April 2014. Their judgment became a trend-setter even for the historians in India and abroad. The judgment established with the historical studies and research that India is largely a country of old immigrants and that pre-Dravidian aborigines, ancestors of the present Adivasis, rather than Dravidians, were the original inhabitants of India.
The judgment not only makes an interesting reading but even Justice Katju has been delivering lectures on “What is India?” in Indian and western universities: If North America is predominantly made up of new immigrants, India is largely a country of old immigrants, which explains its tremendous diversity. It follows that tolerance and equal respect for all communities and sects are an absolute imperative if we wish to keep India united. If it was believed at one time that Dravidians were the original inhabitants of India, that view has since been considerably modified. The Bhils are probably the descendants of some of the original inhabitants of India known as the ‘aborigines' or Scheduled Tribes (Adivasis), who now comprise only about eight per cent of the population of India. The rest, 92 per cent, consists of descendants of immigrants. Thus India is broadly a country of immigrants, like North America.
While North America (USA and Canada) has new immigrants who came mainly from Europe over the last four or five centuries, India is a country of old immigrants in which people have been coming in over the last ten thousand years or so. Probably about 92 per cent of the people living in India today are descendants of immigrants, who came mainly from the North-West, and to a lesser extent from the North-East. Since this is a point of great importance for the understanding of our country, it is necessary to go into it in some detail. Calling Pakistan a "fake country", Katju says India's troubled neighbour resulted from a bogus "two-nation theory that Hindus and Muslims have two separate nations". He Like Sardar Patel believes that one day India and Pakistan would be a united country.
The judgment elaborates: People migrate from uncomfortable areas to comfortable areas. This is natural because everyone wants to live in comfort. Before the coming of modern industry, there were agricultural societies everywhere, and India was a paradise for these because agriculture requires level land, fertile soil, plenty of water for irrigation and so on, which were in abundance in India. Why should anybody living in India migrate to, say, Afghanistan, which has a harsh terrain, rocky and mountainous and covered with snow for several months in a year when one cannot grow any crop?
Hence, almost all immigrations and invasions came from outside into India (except those Indians who were sent out during British rule as indentured labour, and the recent migration of a few million Indians to the developed countries for job opportunities). There is perhaps not a single instance of an invasion from India to outside India. India was a veritable paradise for pastoral and agricultural societies because it has level and fertile land, with hundreds of rivers, forests, etc., and is rich in natural resources. Hence for thousands of years people kept pouring into India because they found a comfortable life here in a country which was gifted by nature. Thus, the generally accepted view now is that the original inhabitants of India were not the Dravidians but the pre-Dravidian Munda aborigines.
The Supreme Court judgment has recorded an excellent message with humanity while summing it up: “The bravery of the Bhils was accepted by that great Indian warrior Rana Pratap, who held a high opinion of Bhils as part of his army. Despite the horrible oppression on them, the tribals of India have generally (though not invariably) retained a higher level of ethics than the non-tribals in our country. They normally do not cheat, tell lies, and do other misdeeds which many non-tribals do. They are generally superior in character to the non-tribals. It is time now to undo the historical injustice to them.”
“Hence, it is the duty of all people who love our country to see that no harm is done to the Scheduled Tribes and that they are given all help to bring them up in their economic and social status, since they have been victimized for thousands of years by terrible oppression and atrocities. The mentality of our countrymen towards these tribals must change, and they must be given the respect they deserve as the original inhabitants of India.”
Next Column: The Dream of India by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar
(The writer is a Socio-political Historian. E-mail: [email protected] )