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Indigenous constitutional recognition and representation is a cause of célèbre in Australia. The Australian government is in the footstep to include the Indigenous or Aboriginal people at all levels of government. This recognition is essential to achieving justice and equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. It is an acknowledgment of the unique history, culture, and identity of Indigenous Australians, and a recognition of their rights to self-determination. This move was also emphasized, by others due to the fact that Indigenous Australians have been largely excluded from the Constitution for many years and this has resulted in a lack of representation in government. In the past, other countries had also included the Indigenous people in their constitutions and at all different levels.


The world’s largest indigenous population is found in India. There are 80 million Indigenous people living in different parts of the country. However, the Indian constitution does not define the term “indigenous.” Rather, those identified as belonging to “Scheduled Tribes” under administrative terms (STs). When we discussed the population of STs they constitute 8.6% of the total population of India[1].


Scheduled Tribes” have been defined Under Article 366 (25) of the Constitution of India. The Scheduled Tribes are those tribes, tribal communities, or portions of or groups within those tribes and tribal communities that have been designated as such by the President of India through a public notification, according to Clause 1 of Article 342 of the Indian Constitution[2].


According to estimates from 2001, the ST population makes up 84,326,240 people, or 8.2%, of the nation’s overall population. As a result, more indigenous peoples live in India than any other nation, accounting for approximately 25% of all indigenous peoples worldwide. 13 Except for Punjab, Chandigarh, Haryana, Delhi, and Pondicherry, STs are reported in all of the 28 states and seven Union Territories (UTs), albeit their distribution among the remaining states is not uniform. In India, there are 5,653 different communities, and about 700 of them are recognized as ST. Odisha holds the distinction of having the most ST communities that are officially recognized among the states[3].


Primarily, when we discussed their occupations, we found that they were primarily farmers, laborers, small-business owners, landless poor forest dwellers and shifting cultivators, small farmers, pastoral and nomadic herders, etc. Many STs who live below the poverty line lack land, productive assets, and access to minimum-wage jobs as well as sustainable work. Women who belong to these groups suffer even more as a result of the additional setback of not receiving equal or minimum salaries.

They also suffer from poverty, illiteracy, lack of access to basic amenities like Health care, education, and employment opportunities, caste discrimination, etc which is one of the reasons for their low growth in society.


In our society, Scheduled Tribes experience a lot of discrimination. They have received various insults and are still denigrated. They have also been subjected to human right violation for instance widespread abuses of social, economic, and political rights, including mass migration and other forms of social discrimination, as well as violent crimes and unlawful detentions.

The militarization of society and governmental repression, land alienation and forced migration, infringement of rights to forests and natural resources, and atrocities and discrimination are some of the major areas of rights abuses against Scheduled tribes.


Due to many social and discriminatory practices against scheduled tribes happening in many social spheres, their representation of them is marginally low. Even at the parliamentary level, they have limited voices. Out of 543 members elected to the 17th Lok Sabha, 138- or 25.4%-belong to SC/ST communities[4].


For the protection of the Scheduled tribe from the atrocities committed against them, numerous provisions and laws have been made.

  • Article 46: relating to the advancement of the economic and educational goals of the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, and other weaker groups.
  • Article 335: allegations made by scheduled castes and scheduled tribes regarding services and positions.
  • The preservation of civil rights act, which was passed in 1955, sets out punishments for “Untouchability” preaching and practices, as well as provisions for any resulting disabilities and related issues.
  • The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes ( Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 popularly known as The SC/ST Act, was enacted to prevent the atrocities and hate crimes against the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.
  • Article 243: Reservation of seats in Panchayats.
  • Article 29: Protection of interests of Minorities (Which includes STs).


 Drawing an analogy of Australia’s Aboriginal people with the case study of Indian Indigenous people, the state of India’s indigenous peoples is difficult to characterize as anything but hopeless. According to one historian, “It is Adivasis who have profited least and suffered most from six decades of democratic democracy.”[5] Destitution, brutality, repression, and injustice characterize their existence throughout the majority of the country. The protections of international law seem like a far-off dream when tens of millions of Adivasis have been driven from their homes by civil war, security operations, industrial projects, dams, mines, and land grabbing, and when millions more have been reduced to a level of extreme poverty where their survival is on the line.

Author’s Name: Pratiksha Mishra (Army Institute of Law, Mohali)

 [1] Sources: Census 2011, Office of the Registrar General, India, The Ministry of Tribal Affairs, ,accessed on 25 March 2023

[2] National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, ,accessed on 25 March 2023

[3] National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, ,accessed on 25 March 2023 

[5] Guha, Ramachandra. Ambedkar’s Desiderata, Outlook, February 1, 2010, accessed on 25 March 2023

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