August 9 is celebrated as World’s Indigenous Peoples Day. Collectively knowns as Adivasis, over 104 million tribals as part of more than 600 unique tribes live in India – forming one of the largest indigenous populations in the world.
Known for their distinctive culture and beliefs, Adivasis in India have faced innumerable hardships since the days of the British colonisers, and have been displaced, exploited and discriminated for centuries.
Today, they face a whole host of issues like forced displacement in the guise of conservation, poverty, illiteracy, their lands were taken away for mining and much more. Without proper access to healthcare and nutrition, malnutrition has become prevalent in the tribal groups – 42% of India’s tribal children are malnourished and 65% of tribal women are anaemic.
In ‘First Citizens’, we explore the tribal belt of Central India and look at the historical injustices done towards the tribes. The current state and lack of support systems for good hygiene and health education have resulted in the most vulnerable tribes going back to superstitions and bringing ancient tribes on the brink of extinction. While we celebrate the true inheritors of this land, it is important to acknowledge the injustices being done to Adivasis all over the country.
‘First Citizens’ is part of the ‘Endangered Species: Malnutrition Stalks India’s Children’ project by photojournalist Sudharak Olwe. Part I of this series can be watched here.