Need of tribal code in religion column of census 2021

Dr. Joram Yalam Nabam


The conversion to any religion means conversion to another culture, as slowly we have to leave our culture in the influence of that adopted religion. The Adivasi/Tribal is not a religion; it’s a civilization, and it’s a culture that is totally based on nature. One cannot say that people who do not follow any organized religion does not know anything about spirituality

tribal-code-census-2021The Indigenous Tribal in the world are the highest oppressed and suppressed people during the various phases of human civilization on this earth. This continues to date. The Tribal are also the most innocent and gullible flock of people who are easily manipulated by others for their socio-religious and economic expansion. The Tribal way of life and belief system is in consonance with nature. They live with nature. They have their own culture, religion and way of life, which is heavily eroding with the passage of time and under influence of other religious and spiritual philosophies. 

What is Tribal philosophy?

 The Tribal sees spirit/soul in all living, non -living things in nature. Tribal co-exist and associates with nature as a family, for example; the Tani Tribe in Arunachal Pradesh accepts the sun as a mother, the moon as a father, the Earth also as a mother, likewise the stone as our elder brother, the animals and birds are also relatives. These are our past, present and future ancestors. There cannot be a statue or concrete house of worship as we are relatives of nature.

 The characteristics of nature are democratic, freedom is the scripture, diversity is its colour, and we are a part of it. We cannot go against nature. Going against nature will be like going against the very existence. This is the truth, and this is the core philosophy of the Tribal way of life. To make things clearer, we can see these examples: – In

Tani Philosophy, Jimi Jama (Nothingness) is the Centre of the creation. Nothingness is everything. We cannot choose a single entity and worship it; for example if we choose to worship the only the river then we are denying the other entities in nature, if we worship only the mountain/paddy etc then we are denying the others. In Tani philosophy, nature is one. We can see/feel and touch everything, but we cannot hold on to any single entity and begin to worship it by saying that this is God.

 There have been numerous studies/researches on Tribal, but the Tribal philosophy was never correctly understood by the world; rather the words like Adivasi or junglee is used to abuse the Tribal. The people of other religion and culture has entered from the back door and convinced many tribal to have inferior feeling on own philosophy and existence saying that your language/dialect is poor, you don’t have religion, you don’t have God, you are backward, you are uncivilized; we are here to civilize you, to help you. And they gave their God to Tribal people. They gave their religion and culture. Slowly we started cultural suicide, unknowingly, we started forgetting our own ancestors. We lost ourselves. They have taught us to see nature in their way. We started losing the tribal religion of conversation and coexistence with nature. Now we are standing at a crossroad with a confused mind.

 There can be religion without any written scriptures like Bible, Gita, Quran etc. You can be religious without following any organized religion. Nature cannot be organized by a human being, rather it organizes us. The knowledge of tuning with nature is our religion. We have many rituals to converse with nature. Nature is our scripture, our law. We are directly disciplined by it. We have many means and ways to listen, read and understand nature’s known/unknown/silent languages. Nature is mysterious in character, so many rituals have been created to connect with the various forms of nature.


Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar says, “Those who do not know their own History can never create History.” The people who are devoid of their root, own language, festivals, ancestral memories, such people can never save their own culture. The Tribal philosophy is hidden in culture. The mere wearing of traditional dress/ornaments/ singing/dancing will not save our culture. We have to understand the core philosophy of tribalism, which is even beyond rituals. Because rituals are the outer circle/layer of the core philosophy. It is born out of it. If we don’t know our history/philosophy then someone else will write about us in their own way and for their benefits. Slowly our civilization is destroyed in this way. The chain of mental imprisonment is created. When we realize, it is too late. Our roots are already forgotten. We start to fight back, trying to break the chain of this imprisonment. And then another history begins but the new generation suffers and struggles to rewrite the history. So, we cannot commit the crime of dispelling the cultural and ancestral memories of our Tribe. 

For example, we all know; how we had to struggle for deletion of words like “Abor” and “Dafla” (which means uncivilized/criminal) from the constitution of India. These names were given to us by some outsiders, although we are Adi and Nyishi since time immemorial. Now we are fighting for the word “TRIBAL”. This is why we need to know and be aware of our own history, cultural heritage and traditions, which has to be protected and written by ourselves. 

The conversion to any religion means conversion to another culture, as slowly we have to leave our culture in the influence of that adopted religion. The Adivasi/Tribal is not a religion; it’s a civilization, and it’s a culture that is totally based on nature. One cannot say that people who do not follow any organized religion does not know anything about spirituality. In Tani language, the seen and unseen force/spirit/soul of nature is called “WYU.” This wyu is the source of life – like the paddy gives life, water gives life, sun rays give life, the mountains, trees all give life. Whatever we see and eats are wyus. We accept the priest/Nyubu as the link/bridge between nature and human beings, as they understand the silent language of nature. We cannot worship any single thing in nature and cannot make any statue. How we can make a statue of rivers, Paddy, mountain, clouds etc? The statues are made out of the mud but how we can make a statue of the mud itself? How can we bind the boundless by creating a statue? These are the various form of wyu or Jimi-Jama. In Nyishi tribe we call this oneness out of nothingness as ‘Nyokum’. This is our festival, given by our ancestors. We celebrate diversity/freedom/Democracy in our own way. We are existing in a big temple. This is why we don’t create temples, statues. This is our own way of understanding the spirituality; taught by our ancestors. 

Likewise, Hindu, Christian, Buddhism, Jainism etc also are not only religion. It’s a civilization. They have their own cultural and traditional systems. Hinduism is a vast civilization and way of life. They have their own great philosophy and social segregation of the human population into caste system- Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudras. Any individual accepting Hindu religion has to come under one of the castes as mentioned herein. We will start another way of worshipping. Then our own Tribal philosophy and tribal way of life will be forgotten, our way of protecting nature is forgotten, our way of conversation or connecting with nature is forgotten. When we convert into Christians – we even change our name, which means we are leaving our own language also. The church never talks about our ancestors, our culture, traditions and social systems. We start denying our own festivals…and many more. Spirituality is nothing to do with all these changes. 

Why we need ‘Tribal/indigenous/ Adivasi’ word in Census of India under the Religion column? 

As explained above; the Tribal word itself is not only a symbol of religion but it also identifies culture, traditional and social system which is distinct and different from any other religion and culture. Tribalism is a civilization and way of life. In India every state has some Tribal Population, more than 750 different and distinct tribes are there. 

As per 2011 census – 

Hindus – 79.80%, Islam – 14.23%, Tribal – 8.6%


# Total Tribal population is 104 million. This shows that tribals are the third-largest group of people in India.

 Christianity – 2.3%, Sikhism – 1.72%, Buddhism – 0.7%, Jainism – 0.37%

 Tribal being a distinct group, we have no tribal religion column in the Form of the census of India since 1951. Whereas the tribal word was mentioned in the census Form from 1851 to 1941. As per available records the Tribal were recorded in the census as:- 

1871 : ABORGINES 1881 : ABORIGIONAL 1891 : ABAORIGINAL 1901 : ANIMIST 1911 : ANIMIST 1921 : ANIMIST 1931 : TRIBAL RELIGION (This was given by Mr. J H Hattan a British officer) 1941 : TRIBES 1951 : OTHERS

The mention of the tribal word was removed after independence and we were just known as Scheduled Tribe for official purpose. The Tribal are the aboriginals, who were dwelling in their respective places, since time immemorial. As we can see, how the word tribal was removed from the census Form from the year 1951 under the then Congress Government in Independent India. Now the word “TRIBAL” itself is in danger and on verge of erased from the history of civilization. 

The Tribal word is not just a word, but it is our Philosophy, culture, religion, Tradition, Language, Literature and symbol of the democratic ancestral system.

 The provision under ST is reviewed and extended every ten years and this can be abolished/scrapped at any time. The ST status does not comply with our Tribal philosophy, culture, tradition and tribal way of life. We are just Tribal, whether scheduled or non-scheduled. The ST status symbolizes the backwardness of certain group of people in the modern governance system, like the SCs /OBCs are Hindus but underprivileged at a point in time. Whereas we Tribal are a democratic and independent group of people living in its own way since time immemorial. And we do not have any caste system among the tribes. Whenever we accept Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Islam etc; we are no more tribal. 

Religion should not be a component in census calculation rather a community of an individual could be taken. But if at all religion has to be included in the census then Tribal also should get this right. Exclusion of tribal from census seems to be unconstitutional and a systematic design to assimilate Tribal into a larger religious group. This goes against the United Nation declaration on the rights of indigenous people. The UN declaration clearly recognizes the indigenous peoples Right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of culture. By not allowing the Tribal to identify with their religious beliefs, the state violated both the commitments – To secularism enshrined in the constitution and equality proclaimed in the United Nation declaration on indigenous rights.


The constitution of India guarantees freedom of religion under Article 25 to 28, but the census does not allow many Adivasi/Tribal groups the freedom to identify themselves with their own religious practice and beliefs. Exclusion of tribal in the religion column of census form has created confusion and forced many Tribal groups to opt for one of the organized religion. This demand is for recognition and inclusion of that “Tribal code” practiced by millions in the official Government documents in future. 

The Adivasi/Tribal are the aboriginal of this country, so we have the same right to protect our identity, culture, language and moral values with the word Adivasi /Tribal, like any other communities/Religious groups in the country. The word religion is not only a matter of spirituality but the whole system like culture, tradition, language is engulfed in it.


JUST LIKE THERE IS MENTION OF HINDU, CHRISTIAN, MUSLIM, BUDDHIST, JAIN, PARSI ETC. We request the state government (Arubnachal Pradesh) to implore the census of India to accept our demand.



* Dr. Joram Yalam Nabam is an author and is serving as the Assistant Professor, Department of Hindi in Rajiv Gandhi University, Arunachal Pradesh.

*Dr. Joram Yalam Nabam may be contacted at