The image of law depends on the way in which its agents behave, carry out their duties or perform their role. An important but neglected area of concern is the way India’s tribal population perceives the state and its legal mechanisms and structures.
Filling this gap, this important book studies the relationship between tribes and the state with reference to the Indian legal structure. It focuses on three tribes of India—the Bhils in Maharashtra, and the Santals, and Pahadiyas in Jharkhand, which was earlier a part of Bihar. The author traces the historical roots of their dispossession in the ancient and medieval periods, their engagement with and subjugation by the British, and how their ordeal of disempowerment continues even after Independence. Dr Dhagamwar looks at the historical relationship of these tribes with settled societies and also at some of their internal legal structures. She ends with a brief examination of indigenous people colonized elsewhere by Europeans.
The author concludes that independence has no real meaning for the tribes of India since they are still lead by outsiders. In their opinion, the legal system is oppressive and exploitative, serving only the rich. Still, the author retains a deep faith in the rule of law and believes that its own stated goals compel it to serve the cause of justice.
The book offers new research data from the legal field in India and especially from the unpublished records of the East India Company. Bringing together insights from anthropology, history and law, it draws political conclusions that are deeply relevant in today’s world. It will be invaluable to students and scholars of tribal studies, law, social work, anthropology, history and public administration.