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Source: DTE

 Context: India’s representative at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) faced criticism from Adivasi rights activists for stating that the concept of ‘indigenous people’ was not applicable in the Indian context.

The Term “Indigenous People”The Term “Tribals”
Refers to those groups who are regarded as native or original inhabitants of a particular region or geographic area, and who have a historical, cultural, and spiritual relationship with the land.


However, there is no singularly authoritative definition of indigenous peoples under international law and policy

Refers to the communities in India who have historically lived in forests and hilly regions and have their distinct cultural practices and languages.
Recognized as distinct groups with their own language, culture, and traditions, and who have suffered historical injustices such as colonization, forced displacement, and discrimination.Recognized by the Constitution of India as Scheduled Tribes (STs) and provided with certain protections and privileges.
Indian government argues that “all Indians are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent”, the concept of indigenous people is not applicable in the Indian context.Critics argue that STs in India can be considered indigenous people as they have a distinct culture and tradition, and have faced historical injustices.

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which India has ratified, recognizes the rights of Indigenous people, including their right to self-determination, and the government’s position goes against this international declaration. Also, every year, on 9 August, the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is marked.



The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (est. 2000; HQ: New York) is the UN’s central coordinating body for matters relating to the concerns and rights of the world’s indigenous peoples.
MandateTo deal with indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights
FunctionsTo promote the integration and coordination of activities relating to Indigenous Peoples’ issues within the UN system, and promote respect for and full application of the provisions of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and follow up on its effectiveness
Other Mandated UN BodiesThe Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of indigenous peoples