The Unwritten History Of Genocides
By KK Abdul Raoof
09 February, 2010
The latest reports of Survival International apparently serve as death knells for the original inhabitants in several parts of the world. Modern man’s selfish deeds have resulted in their near-extinction. Leading a life in harmony with nature, these exploited lots now stand to be wiped out of their own land for good.
The Great Andaman Trunk Road has spelt doom for Jarwas, the tribe that inhabits central islands of Andaman. Adding to their miseries are, widespread encroachments on their land and illegal poaching. The case of the Onge and Sentinelese tribes are no different while the Jangil tribe of Rutland Island has already been part of history. Onges, who used to number more than 650 in 1900, are less than 100 today whereas Jarwas number less than 300. Despite a Supreme Court order and the growing protests by human rights activists, the work of the Trunk road continued, of course, in connivance with the local politicians. What the indigenous people got in return were some hitherto-unheard –of diseases.
For over a century between 1870 and 1970, over 150,000 native Indian children in Canada were taken away from their families and put in church-run residential schools. These government-funded schools were ostensibly set up to educate them. But their hidden motive was to Christianize and assimilate them into the European population. Uprooted from their families and put in an alien environment, these children were subjected to all sorts of emotional, physical and sexual abuse. They were treated like dogs and subjected to physical torture if they spoke their native languages.
Subjected to inhuman treatment, many took to drugs and alcohol. While thousands never went back to their parents half of them were estimated to have succumbed to deadly diseases in unhygienic school conditions. Though the Canadian government spends billions of dollars for them annually, they fare very badly on human development indices. Early-age deaths, suicides and alcoholism are common among them.
The state-funded Human Rights Commission says Australia's original inhabitants, whose cultures date several thousands of years back, aborigines would be deeply affected by the impact of global warming,. Blood-borne tropical diseases such as malaria and dengue fever would increase and food security of indigenous populations would be threatened. They have much higher rates of infant mortality, health problems and suicide than other Australians, with many living in squalid camps rife with unemployment, alcoholism and lawlessness. They are jailed five times more often than black males who were imprisoned in South Africa under apartheid. They are twice as likely as their non-Indigenous peers to be a victim of violent aggression, with 24 per cent of them reported as being victims of violence in every year and also11 times more likely to be in prison. At the time of white settlement in 1788 aborigines were believed to number more than one million, but now account for just 2.5 per cent of the population, with an estimated 517,000 people. A quarter of these lived in remote outback and coastal areas, with up to 80 per cent of adults in these communities relying on the natural environment for livelihood. They controlled, used, managed or had access to about 20 per cent of the Australian continent. Now they are considered uncivilized and have reached the disastrous stage where their language, culture and even their very survival are threatened.
In Botswana, the indigenous people of southern Africa known as The Bushmen of the Kalahari are on the verge of losing their ancestral homeland. The government forced out virtually all the Bushmen from their land in 1997, 2002 and 2005. Their homes were dismantled, their school and health post closed down, water supply destroyed and finally the people were trucked away. Although the Bushmen won a legal battle to go back to their land in 2006, the government did everything it could to make their return impossible. It banned them from using their water borehole, and refused to issue a single permit to hunt on their land, the state police arrested more than 50 Bushmen for hunting to feed their families, and also banned them from taking their small herds of goats back to the reserve. Survival International report says, “They now live in resettlement camps outside the reserve. Rarely able to hunt, and arrested and beaten when they do, they are dependent on government handouts. They are now gripped by alcoholism, boredom, depression, and illnesses such as TB and HIV/AIDS. Unless they can return to their ancestral lands, their unique societies and way of life will be destroyed, and many of them will die.’’
Before Portuguese invaders set their foot on the Brazilian land there were more than 50, 00000 original inhabitants. The atrocious exploitation and genocide reduced their count to 3, 50000. The current law of Brazil denies them the right to land and considers them as ‘minors’. In 1986, 4000 gold excavators encroached the land and granted them a new disease, malaria, which left 20 per cent of them dead.
In India, we are going to witness another cataclysmic act against the original inhabitants or Adivasis of the Naxal-affected area. Under the pretext of eradicating Naxals, the state government declared the war against its own tribal people. There is every reason to doubt that ‘Operation Green Hunt’ aims at the tribal people of the Naxal belt gifted with abundant treasures of minerals. The war within the nation is not for its people, but for the corporate giants who are lured into the huge collections of boxite, iron ore, silica, silver ore, and other minerals in Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, etc. The corporates like, Mittal, Tata, Posco , Vedanta and A star have only one obstacle: the tribal people who tirelessly quarrel with the government against the move to hand over the land to these companies.
Which established tradition or segment in history speaks about the survival of the indigenous people? Don’t they have right to live on their on land and preserve their age-old culture? Terminating indigenous people from their own land is, perhaps, what ‘the civilized” mean by being modern and trendy.
The history of holocaust was well-documented and is often reminded of in the present times, but these genocides remain shrouded in negligence in history, albeit those who lost their lives in them are hundred times more than those killed in the holocaust.
KK Abdul Raoof
Dep Of History