Stories From Home:<br>Indigenous Issues Ignored in India

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Indigenous Activists Tell Cultural Survival What The Decade Meant To Them

Ellen Lutz interviewed Ana Pinto, of the Center for Organization Research and Education in Manipur, India, during July’s session of the U.N. Working Group on Indigenous Populations.


What is your view of the International Decade?

As far as I am concerned, the International Decade has been a good ritual but has not produced the results it could have.


Is this true in India?

The Decade has come and gone without touching the Indian government, or the general community. Even the activist community in India has not been aware of it. Indigenous issues are completely isolated from everything else. I have had to fight for space, indeed for every word, with other human rights non-governmental organizations, including women’s rights groups and children’s rights groups that I thought would have been interested in indigenous women’s and children’s rights.


What about Indian environmental NGOs?

Environmental NGOs have been compelled to take notice because the cutting edge of all environmental issues is the impact of environmental destruction on indigenous peoples. But even environmental NGOs do not embrace the issue. In general, I find a kind of unconscious resistance to acknowledging that indigenous peoples have been the victims of one of the oldest and gravest injustices in the world.


Why do you think that is?

If we actually look at the level of engagement of non-indigenous activism, it reflects racist, universal discrimination by the entire world—not just whites—against indigenous peoples. I think part of the reason for this is the historical guilt people and states feel, that they have never acknowledged. In addition, the indigenous peoples movement fundamentally questions the concept of the state as it exists today. It suggests that better governance structures are possible. By “better,” I don’t mean qualitatively better, but that there are many diverse options to today’s homogenous state culture. Indeed, this is the only time in history that the world has had only one kind of government structure. In my view, we have created a world that is so monochromatic that it is intolerable to human beings.


But you brave onwards. What motivates you?

I am here to fight for my right to diversity at every level and in everything.

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