INDIGENOUS PEOPLES AND INDIGENEITY

The Daily Guardian

In the last piece where I started a conversation on a civilizational approach to “blasphemy” in the context of Section 295A of the IPC, I had ended the piece with the following questions:

“How does one determine the indigeneity of thought? Does this translate to recognition of the concept of terroir of a certain thought i.e. the territory in which a certain position holds sway owing to the nexus between civilization and territory of its origin? Such a question is often erroneously conflated and confused with nexus between ethnicity and territory which, I dare say, is a colonial, superficial and hence skin-deep approach, pun intended. The questions that must engage us are- how is the nexus between a thought and territory established? Is it through conquest or conversion or does it need to be more organic? Or do all three modes have a role to play in carving out a territory or a sphere of influence for a certain worldview?”

Before addressing the scholarly literature on these questions, I think it is important to understand the current legal lay of the land on “indigenous peoples” and “indigeneity”. The Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations concerns itself with issues relating to Indigenous Peoples and a Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) was established by it in 2000. In September 2007, the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was adopted by the General Assembly, which appears to be the most current international instrument that captures some form of a global consensus on who constitute indigenous peoples and what their rights are. The Declaration has been adopted by 148 countries with 11 abstentions (Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, Kenya, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Samoa and Ukraine). According to the official website of the UN:

“Today the Declaration is the most comprehensive international instrument on the rights of indigenous peoples. It establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world and it elaborates on existing human rights standards and fundamental freedoms as they apply to the specific situation of indigenous peoples.”

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