Indigenous people at risk

The endeavors of indigenous people for survival and realization of basic needs and fundamental rights has been complicated by compelling circumstances and exceptional challenges created by the homogenizing and hegemonizing nature of State. While state-formation has raised questions of legitimacy and democratic principles of consent, it continues to pursue its rule by pushing indigenous people to the margin of society. Though numerous governments have created numerous ‘special privileges and reservations’ for indigenous people; not only are they far from being implemented in the spirit of respect, but continued hostile approaches towards issues of basic human needs raises questionable doubts of intent and purpose. 

In situations where various ethnicities and nationalities co-exist, the State has on one hand drawn physical boundaries that coincide and complement cultural values of its inhabitants to assert ‘internal pacification’ and ‘unity in diversity;’ whereas in cases concerning issues of ‘territorial security’ and ‘national interests’ arbitrary boundaries are created to negate the organic relationship of land as identity. The organization of territorial space and people by the State has forced situations of dependency that limits the growth of indigenous people. 

It relishes on a pre-eminent position that enables her to define and establish parameters of state-indigenous relationship. For instance, the state has the capability of diverting a state-people conflict to a conflict between and amongst indigenous peoples. Such conflicts simultaneously deprive them the practical means of communicating effectively with each other independently of the state. Furthermore, the State always claims and projects itself as a ‘neutral’ and ‘impartial’ arbitrator expressing the necessity of self-auditing by instituting enquiry commissions. 

The State lives on the basis of what it does and what it promises to do and projects itself as sensitive with self-reflection through auditing mechanisms. This stance enables it to strengthen the credibility and legitimacy to its present existence. The unwillingness to acknowledge existing conflicts of interests and aspirations between state and indigenous people poses a problem in the framing of contentious issues itself. This is depriving possible and available options in dealing with the situation. 

Lack of any credible negotiating forum, failed peace accords and continued attempts by the State to use negotiating opportunities to dominate rather than foster understanding has created distrust amongst indigenous peoples. This causes a perception that they will be forced to accept unwanted compromises in the face of vast power imbalances. Almost all peace accords have resulted in disintegration of not only the resistance but the respective communities and societies involved in them. The agenda of the State to legitimize its hegemonic claim over indigenous peoples in a given space by way of ‘domination through negotiation’ has created an environment of suspicion that does not allow the existence of conducive space that is required for peaceful democratic settlement between state and peoples.