9th August is mostly recognised as the International Day of The World’s Indigenous people or simply, Indigenous People Day. Countries throughout the world celebrate this day by recognising and honouring their “indigenous people”. The Scandinavian countries celebrate their Viking/Pagan culture which has amalgamated into Christianity now. The UK and its neighbouring countries honour the Gypsies/Romani people. The US and neighbouring countries honour the various Native American Tribes. The Australians celebrate the Aboriginals. New Zealand honours the Maoris. India too celebrates this day by celebrating the culture and diversity of its tribal communities.
Though this might be a noble cause, India doesn’t have to celebrate this day by honouring its Tribal communities. India doesn’t need to ape the West for this. Such a way of thinking will get you labelled as Anti-tribal or Racist even in India, but there is a strong reason for India to reject its colonial imposition.
If we examine the countries that have reason to celebrate this Indigenous People Day, the one common factor is that all of these countries have a history of colonisation. These countries have at some point been colonised or are still colonised. The lines start to blur when you try to define what is a colonised country and what is a “free” one.
If we take the example of the US, sure, it is the “land of the free” and the “epitome of democracy and equality” and whatnot, but fundamentally, The US has always been an Anglo-Saxon colony. The English-speaking countries, which are the UK, US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia are nothing but a continuation of the British Colonial Empire. The only thing that has changed is that the capital of this empire changed from London to Washington DC. These countries have committed horrors and atrocities against the Natives of the lands that they invaded. The Native Americans, Aboriginals, and the Maoris were genocided in the millions during the colonial era. Men or women, old or young were used as slaves to extract resources out of their lands so that the plunder could be shipped back to their Kings and Nobles. Their native cultures were wiped out to near extinction.
One could infer that these sins of their ancestors give these countries a certain amount of collective guilt or an obligation for them to honour the descendants of the people that their ancestors once slaughtered. The Indigenous People Day could be the product of this guilt or obligation. Another way of interpreting this is that in this ever-changing world with ever-changing opinions, it has become difficult for the people in power to exploit the Indigenous People openly. They need to play nice in front of the world to look noble and virtuous. The Indigenous People’s day might just be a way of telling the world that “look, we care!”, while they continue to exploit these people behind a false veil of virtue.
This exploitation of the Indigenous People still continues in a much subtler form. They barely have any of their culture left. They have been stripped of their honour and pride and ghettoised in slums and cities. The genocide in flesh seems to have stopped but the cultural genocide still continues. The plunder and wealth used to reach Kings and Nobles at one time but now it reaches Politicians and Industrialists. Not much has changed it seems.
That said, what is the point of India celebrating Indigenous People Day? As far as India is concerned, all Indians are indigenous to this land. All Indians are native to this land. The colonisers have fortunately failed to wipe us out and we still remain. Then why should we celebrate the Tribals of our country alone? If India wants to honour its Tribes, it should celebrate ‘National Tribals Day’ on a different date. Why should we follow suit of the west? Our people never massacred millions of people in any country. Our people do not carry any such sins of the ancestors. It was our people that got massacred and plundered by the West and the Islamic Invaders.
The West and its agents might try to argue that India is not one people but a mix of “Aryans” and “Dravidians” and whatever new terms they come up with. They will nurture the debate on the Aryan invasion theory and cause divisions within this country. But the truth has never changed that in the end all of the people living in India have had ancestors in India for several millennia and are hence native to India. Time and again the west has tried to create rifts and we have proved them wrong every time. All Indians Are Native. We have no reason to imitate the west in such a pointless venture and celebrate Indigenous People Day.
Instead of that, we should be celebrating Kranti Diwas as 9th August was the day that the Quit India Movement began. This movement was fundamental in driving out the colonisers from our country. Let us not waste our energies on a cause that has no meaning to us by celebrating Indigenous People Day. Let us remember 9th August as the day of the millions of Indians that got massacred fighting for their freedom. Let us not forget their noble sacrifice that is the reason we are where we are today.