Each year August 9, is celebrated as International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. In the year 2016, it was reported that about 2680 indigenous languages were in danger and on the verge of extinction. In view of this, UN selected 2019 (that is last year) as the International Year of Indigenous Languages to persuade, convince and create awareness to people about the indigenous languages which was undoubtedly a praiseworthy move. Protection of indigenous people and their rights are sine qua non as we Indians know suffering of Ekalavya who was indigenous. Ekalavya was very talented and humble and that is why he smilingly offered his best asset (required for archery), his right thumb as Guru Dakshina to Dronacharya.
It is pertinent to mention that there are around 476 million indigenous people in 90 countries and they constitute little more than 6 percent of the global population and 15 percent are in extreme poverty. Their territories are home to 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity. Still indigenous people are not advanced like other communities. In this regard, few points collected from un.org/en/observances/indigenous-day are presented for the benefit of readers.
- More than 86% of indigenous peoples globally work in the informal economy, compared to 66% for their non-indigenous counterparts
- Indigenous peoples are nearly three times as likely to be living in extreme poverty compared to their non-indigenous counterparts.
- Globally, 47% of all indigenous peoples in employment have no education, compared to 17% of their non-indigenous counterparts. This gap is even wider for women.
This year International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples theme is COVID-19 and indigenous peoples’ resilience. The virtual commemoration will feature an interactive panel discussion on the innovative ways indigenous peoples continue demonstrating resilience and strength in the face of the pandemic while confronting grave threats to their survival. The aim is to highlight how the preservation and promotion of indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge and practices can be leveraged more fully during this pandemic. Panellists (Monday, 10 August 9 AM to 11 AM) will share good practices with the audience through an interactive virtual event that will focus on building back stronger.
As academician and researcher, I have the opportunity to visit across India and interacted many indigenous persons in the different states of north eastern region, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and West Bengal. The names of some communities are Boro, Dimasa, Chutia, Karbi, Sonowal, Tiwa, Garo, Rabha, Hajong, Tripuri, Deori, Naga, Chakma, Jamatia, Noatia, Adi (Abor), Aka, Apatani, Tagin, Galo and others. Also in West Bengal I have interacted with Rabha and Santhal and in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana Chenchus, observed all indigenous persons were rational, erudite about local and traditional things and very careful to preserve nature. Not a single indigenous person will cut a tree for making money that is out of greed.
On this International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, I salute to all indigenous Peoples.
The following websites have been consulted while writing the article.
Dr. Shankar Chatterjee
Former Professor& Head (CPME)
NIRD &PR (Govt. of India),