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Tribal Territorial Rights and Their Various Dimensions(Andhra Pradesh)

This article is written by Dr Chitra Rajora from Jawaharlal Nehru University. She had an informal collaboration with SAKTI NGO in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh during which she assisted them in various field studies and other documentation as well as translation works also gives her the confidence to work in any domain including Tribal, Anthropological and Linguistic domains as well.

This article is co-authored by M Navyoda Kanth, MA in Applied Linguistics, Hyderabad University.

The Map of Andhra Pradesh


Instances of suppression of the rights of tribals in violation of constitutional provisions and specific laws/rules made by state governments are also there in other states. The Indian state as envisaged by the Constitution should not be blamed for this the individuals and political parties who took the reins of governance in India and its states. The Scheduled Tribes are not victims of stigmatized untouchability, but they have been marginalized and exploited in other ways. It is said that the Indian state has been the biggest violator of tribal rights since the colonial period. Indeed, scheduled tribes (STs) have not largely been victims of untouchability, but in some areas of India, outside their area of residence, STs also suffer from untouchability. Most of the STs live in tribal areas, where they form a majority. In contrast, SCs everywhere constitute a minority in the population but the majority of those do manual labour. Given the distribution of the ST population, no other community can carry out mass attacks on them, as has been and is happening in the case of SCs.

There are other reasons for ST deprivation, including

  1. depriving them of their land.

  2. the infiltration of other communities into their territory pushes them into deeper forests and threatens the majority of their population.

  3. the deprivation of their rights over the forests by the laws of the colonial era.

  4. the environmental degradation of their traditional areas of residence is attributed to the commercial use of forests and mountains that has continued since colonial times.

  5. due to the non-availability of health and education infrastructure in the areas of their residence, because of which the neonatal, infant, child and maternal mortality rate remains at the highest level.

  6. Unrecognized land property, (patta with land, without patta land, and government land).

  7. Lack of authentic data (government and tribals)

As far as atrocities on them are concerned, they are not perpetrated by dominant communities but by misuse of government machinery of the forest, police and revenue departments as happened in Vanchati in Tamil Nadu in 1992. The deprivation and plight of STs are not only in the colonial period. They were subjected to atrocities even before the colonial period. During the colonial period, the pace of exploitation of the natural resources of the country increased rapidly and due to this the tribals became more miserable. Unfortunately, this process continues even after independence. Following tribal revolts such as the Santhal rebellion and the Fituri revolt in the Rampa region of Andhra Pradesh (then part of the Madras Presidency), the colonial government enacted several laws that prohibited the transfer of tribal lands to non-tribals. But these rules and laws were not implemented honestly and the reason for this is that the people who encroached and occupied tribal lands after independence were from the dominant communities whose members were chief ministers and ministers.

This article deals with multiple objectives for instance:

  1. What are the benefits of the GeoTechnical, Legal and Cognitive dimensional skills and why teach tribals about these aspects and GIS skills?

  2. How it will help tribes for their land rights (especially, Andhra Pradesh)?

  3. How we will implement the technique?

  4. How all these techniques will be effective in reaching out to the government about the problems related to their land by the tribals and will it be helpful for both the tribe and the government?

  5. To discuss the role of (NGOs) SAKTI and its prospects.

Information on the landscape and tribal economy of the area

The Tribes

The existence of different tribes in Indian society is our cultural heritage. The discovery of the modern era is based on consumerism. But studying the primitive tribes in the context of primitive history is also a necessity of modern society. These primitive tribes live in the forests, the forests are their life and are far away from the glare of modernity. Sometimes it seems that this tribe is made to live a life in its wild environment. This primitive tribe, which has been backward for centuries, is very far from the race of modernity today. Along with the economic and social development of these tribes, political development has become necessary. Many constitutional provisions have also been made to politically connect these tribes with modern society.

The English word 'tribe' is called 'tribu' in French. The English word comes from the Latin 'tribes' and the equivalent in Greek is 'phule'. The word thus designates Indo-European institutions of great antiquity. The significance of the terms related to the tribe was empirical and therefore, they have taken different meanings in different societies. The tribe has its own identity in the Indian context. They live in geographically fixed terrain, forests, mountains and caves etc.

The tribe has its own identity in the Indian context. These geographically fixed land parts live in forests, mountains and caves etc. The sociologist addresses them by the disadvantaged class, group, or community. In the context of the tribe, an idea is also given that after the arrival of the Aryans, the tribes were forced to make their groups live in the forests. Ethnic analysis of Indian society shows that Dravidians are the original race of India. Possibly these groups of slaves and demon species must have gone into the dense forests to keep themselves safe. The study of the tribes in the country was first started in 1890 by Sir Herbert Risley. His book "The People of India" was published in 1915, in which he considered the Dravidians to be the native species here. Similarly, J. H. Hutton noted three ethnic elements mainly among the tribes of India: Negrito, Proto-Australian, and Mongoloid.

In the Constitution of India, Indian tribes have been listed for the system of reservation and since then only these listed tribes have been called Schedule Tribes. The word scheduled is the Hindi translation of the English language, which means list, that is, the word scheduled means to list. In 1950, tribes were called Scheduled Tribes because of their listing based on the Indian Constitution. But if we look at the data of 1950, at that time the schedule of 212 tribes was prepared and implemented in the Scheduled Tribes Order-1950, the same schedule is working even today, on this basis the members of these tribes are developing after getting constitutional protection. Article 366 (25) of the Constitution of India mentions Scheduled Tribes as those communities (“such tribes or tribal communities or part of or groups within such tribes or tribal communities as are deemed under Article 342 to the Scheduled Tribes (STs) for this Constitution”) which are scheduled according to Article 342 of the Constitution.

Tribes of Andhra Pradesh

There are 32 Scheduled Tribes in the State of Telangana as per the A.P. Reorganization Act, 2014. The Tribal population accounts for 9% of the total population in the State. ST population in ITDA districts is 52.96 % of the total ST population in the State and the remaining 47.04 % of Tribals inhabit the plain areas.

The main communities of Tribals in the State are





KOYA: They are the numerically largest Adivasi Community of Telangana with a population of 3.81 lakhs spread across Bhadradri Kothagudem, Jayashanker Bhupalpally, Mulugu & Mahabubabad districts. Their main occupation is agriculture and livestock rearing. Their Samakka Saralamma Jatara(Medaram Jatara) is now the largest Tribal fair in Asia.

KOLAMS: Largest PvTG Community with 0.44 lakhs population, spread across Adilabad, Asifabad and Mancheriyal districts. Their main occupation is Basketry and Bamboo craft. Their traditional festivals are Bheemanna Jatara and Laxmidevara Jatara.

LAMBADA: They are the largest Tribal Community of Telangana with a population of 20.44 lakhs spread across the State. They speak the Banjara language. Their main occupation is agriculture. Their colourful native dress and intricate needlework are distinct. Their main festivals are Santh Sevalal Jayanthi and Teej.

GONDS: The Gonds of Telangana State have a population of 2.97 lakhs and reside in Adilabad, Asifabad and Mancheriyal districts. Their main occupation is agriculture. Their traditional festivals are Nagoba Jatara and Dandari festivals.

CHENCHUS: PvTG Community in Nallamalla Forests, with a population of 0.16 lakhs. Their main occupation is foraging, Honey gathering, Hunting and fishing. Their traditional festivals include Saleshwaram and Bhourapur Jataras.

YERUKALA: These Tribes inhabit the plain areas of Telangana with a population of 1.44 lakhs, concentrated around Hyderabad, and Rangareddy Districts. They speak yerukalabasha. Their main occupation includes piggery and Basket weaving. Their traditional culture includes Sooth Saying by women. Their main festival is Nancharamma Jatara.

PARDHAN: Pardhan community is spread across Adilabad, Asifabad and Mancheriyal districts with a population of 0.24 lakhs. Their traditional occupation is Singing and storytelling as Bards of Gonds.

THOTI: PvTG Community in Adilabad Tract with a population of 0.04 lakhs. They are a dependent community on Gonds. Their traditional occupation is Barding, Body art / Tattooing.

ANDH: Andh community is spread across Adilabad and Asifabad districts with a population of 0.13 lakhs. Their main occupation is agriculture. They have a vast knowledge of medicinal herbs and plants. Their main festival is Siral.

KONDA REDDIS: PvTG Community with a population of 0.02 lakhs. Their main occupation is a bamboo craft. Their important festivals are Mamidi Kothapanduga.

Tribal societies all over the world are some of the most underprivileged societies Over a while they have become more and more marginalized. The question of land rights is one of crucial importance within the tribal context. The land is their livelihood, their history and their identity. The land is considered sacred and usually, the tribal communities have a spiritual rapport with it.

The Mandal-wise distribution indicates that the disputed lands were from the four Mandals of Addatigala, Gangavaram, Rajavommangi and Y.Ramavaram. Hence land dispossession has been a process by which tribal societies lose their rights on land which culminates with the loss of legal entitlements to their lands.

Land Struggles in Tribal Areas of Andhra Pradesh

  • Early Rebellions

  1. Gudem and Rampa Rebellions: The several rebellions of the tribals of the Gudem-Rampa regions analysing the early figures of 1839-1862, the more widespread phases of the figures running from 1879-1916, culminating in Rama Raju figures of 1922-1924. In the Rampa figures between 1839-48, 1857-58, and 1861-62, Muttadars rose in revolt against the ruling family.

  2. Rama Raju's Rebellions- 1922-24

  3. Rebellions in Adilabad Region

  4. The Naxalite Involvement

  • The excessive exploitative conditions induced by external interventions increased pressures on tax payments as part of the revenue policy of the British; the increasing power of the Muttadars and zamindars who were deputed to collect tax; the increasing role of traders cum moneylenders in these areas.

  • The ineffectiveness of the government response after independence.

  • The ineffectiveness of legislation.

Why do we need an Indian land map?

It is known earlier than 60 per cent of the population is dependent on the land for their livelihood. Land, forest and forest land are the most important economic resources for tribal communities. It would also have been the centre of individual and community identity, history and culture, which the tribals cherish. Worryingly, land conflict is ubiquitous in India today and tribal, non-tribal, government sanctions, Naxalite intervention, and the spread of industrial causes have forced the tribals to secede from their lands. At the same time, its economic development and its social and political stability are being threatened. The largest set of cases is pending in the courts and in judicial absolutes to resolve this conflict. Conflicts between laws, and the failure of the individual and the government to obey the rule of law, create legal disputes. Nevertheless, the number and extent of land laws in India are no one's guess, as there is no publicly available comprehensive database of land laws. This in turn restricts citizens' access to laws that govern one of the most important aspects of their lives, thereby hindering the realization of the constitutional promise of participatory democracy. Nevertheless, the number and extent of land laws in India are no one's guess, as there is no publicly available comprehensive database of land laws. This in turn restricts citizens' access to laws that govern one of the most important aspects of their lives, thereby hindering the realization of the constitutional promise of participatory democracy. Government and non-government organizations need to impart basic technical knowledge to the tribal people to solve the land-related problem. The initiative in this direction has also mainly been taken by SAKTI.


Why geotechnical, cognitive mapping is necessary for land mapping?

In 1985 Dr Sivarama Krishna, a researcher of the Land Rights Initiative formed SAKTI, and compiled a database of central and state laws of the Andhra Pradesh region, all originally enacted centrally by the SAKTI team from a geographically representative sample of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. and have collected officially certified copies of state land laws. Whose number is very high. Appeals have been made by SAKTI in the courts to solve the problem related to land rights and land acquisition of tribals. SAKTI, a non-government organization Initiated to give technical knowledge to tribals to streamline land mapping. (QGIS, Google Maps, filling online forms, giving knowledge of their land and lease, and registering their land through an online medium with Govt. to provide the information of their land etc.)

Who is SAKTI and what are its objectives?

A brief case study by Dr P. Sivaramakrishna who is associated with a voluntary social action group, Sakti (Society for Action, Knowledge and Tribal Initiative) on what is happening to his field area in the East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh. We can only hope for a steady multiplication of struggles and such case studies documenting destruction and resistance. It is only this that can correct the distorted perceptions regarding who is responsible for the destruction of our forests and the continuing degradation of local and national ecosystems.

Sakti has been working with the tribes of Godavari Valley (east, west and Khamam District) and Nallamala forest (Praksam, Mahaboobnagar, Kurnool, Guntur and Nalgonda District).

SAKTI and tribal rights in Andhra Pradesh

The history of the scheduled area and tribal rights in Andhra Pradesh is the history of SAKTI all through these years in the fields of Gender justice, conservation of forest, tribal land and water rights, and recognition of forest rights rehabilitation for the displaced. Besides, SAKTI’s other activities are Disaster preparedness, Renovation of irrigation tanks and water technology development (wheel pumps, Iron removal plants, spring boxes) systems. In Nallamala forest SAKTI is working with Primitive Group Chenchus for over a decade with the support of Acton Aid. During this period Chenchus were enumerated as voters in Panchayat Raj elections, securing fishing rights in the tanks along with following mainstream programmes such as food rights, and NREGA. The second round in the process of Recognition of forest rights is going on. The strong step is to realize this objective SAKTI is documenting the tribal knowledge associated with wildlife and training the teachers to present it in the format in the form of a school curriculum.

SAKTI helped the tribals in their struggle for land. The problem goes back to 1995 when the NGO, Sakti, studied the land records and made public the fact that a huge extent of tribal land was under illegal occupation of non-tribal land. The government subsequently confirmed that 31,000 acres of land in 101 villages of West Godavari agency were under illegal occupation by non-tribals. Most of the cases were allowed in favour of non-tribals in the lower courts. The government did not take up measures to pursue the cases by filing appeals in the majority of cases and there was also a delay in evicting the non-tribals and distributing the land to the tribals. Tribals then demanded that the land that belonged to their forefathers and which had been alienated to non-tribals either without their knowledge/through deceit, with wilful support of the then administrators and in gross violation of the law of the land and land under the illegal occupation of Non-tribals should be distributed to them.

Discussions on the land rights

Legal approaches

General information about the major tribes and primitive castes of India is given. The relation of tribals with forests and the development of tribals with forest areas have been considered. In the present time, the same concept of forest development can be acceptable in which the interests of the tribals are protected. By National Forest Policy-1894 and 1952, considering the tribals as opponents of forests, their rights were curtailed. This affected the interests of the tribals and they became emotional against the forests and forest workers. Given the problems of forest dwellers and other scheduled tribes, the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act-2006 has been passed by the Government of India. It gives wide recognition of the rights of forest dwellers. Through this act, an effective step has been taken again in the direction of developing the traditional relationship between the forests and the tribals. SAKTI’s strength has been a thorough understanding of administrative and legal procedures, which it has used to ensure that tribals derive due and effectual benefits from the law. In 1987 officials allowed SAKTI to copy the land records. In 1997 officials agreed to distribute the land records to tribals. In 1997 High Court allowed locus standi of SAKTI in court adjudicating land rights. In 2001 SERP (Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty) engaged SAKTI to train the poor in understanding the land records and identifying their problems.

Cognitive approach

Piaget's cognitive development theory: It is one of the important theories of various types of psychology. According to Piaget's theory of cognitive development, our thoughts and reasoning are parts of the movement. Cognitive development occurs in a sequence of stages. The sensory-motivational stage is based on mental representations of imitation memories. It is an area of study in neuroscience and psychology that helps tribes focus on information processing, technical language learning, and other aspects of brain development. Cognitive maps are mental maps which are not cartographic or precise but are vague mental maps which help people remember landmarks and important routes, a small area or even a whole city depending on the needs to travel or for living. Similarly, Tribals who have been living on their lands and territories over many generations do not have exact cartographic maps but rather mental maps which we now term Cognitive maps.

This study will make it easier to investigate illegal lands by getting information from a community. Because the tribals do not have the documents related to their land. Nor is there any information available from the government regarding this. Currently, not much information about that place has been given in Google Maps.

  1. Oral History and Folklore

  2. Local place names & their semantic meaning

  3. Local taxonomy

  4. Local traditions & customs (related to places like temples & ritual sites, etc)

  5. Traditional Minor Forest produce, and its derivatives.

  6. Customary Boundary

These help in generations of Traditional customary maps which became the basis for claims under the Forest Rights Act 2006, for claiming their rights which fall under revenue as well as forest jurisdiction. SAKTI has been implementing methods to get land for the landless poor; the following details should be collected.

1. Those who do not have land titles should be given titles,

2. Those who have not handed over land without titles,

3. Land disputes in various courts and,

4. Benami veterans should be identified (and then removed).

According to SAKTI’s director Dr P. Sivaramakrishan the tools for Land Survey Training (Naksha), Field Measurement Book (Tippan), Resettlement Register, and Adangal. Tools for Land Survey Training Revenue Grampatam (Naksha), Field Measurement Book (Tippan), Resettlement Register (Khasra), Adangal (Pahani) and he has been forced to the tribes' communities to get this record because it is the right of the public to obtain and copy these from the revenue authorities. Learn to identify survey numbers on a village map. Bring to the attention of the authorities the differences between the facts you have collected - the village map and the records and Pressurize the authorities to satisfy your suspicions. "Identify the land you want. Don't sleep till you get land - Don't sleep.

To build up the capacities of the tribals, SAKTI staff got hold of the revenue records from government offices, as old as 1933, and trained the members in understanding the loopholes in the land transfers. This legal knowledge gave the community members the confidence to argue the then-cases. The youth were taught surveying techniques and trained in reading the revenue records such as RSR(resettlement register), Aadangal and Enjoyment Survey Register(ESR). Information from these three records enabled them to locate the person who was enjoying the land illegally. Once the plot was identified on the ground, matching the survey numbers, the concerned person was ordered to hand over the plot to the rightful owner. A Land Transfer (LTR) case was then filed with the local Tehsildar. According to the law, it is the responsibility of a non-tribal to prove his/ her land ownership in the agency area. After a long period of struggle, the members proudly claim that they have got 300 acres of land back from the landlords in Darbagudam and Laxmipuram and another 500 acres of land is pending under land transfer cases. The acquired land was shared between the rightful owners. Single, widowed and destitute women were given priority to cultivate the lands acquired. The new registrations of the land acquired were held in the name of women.

Geotechnical Discourse

Geotechnical aspects include the geospatial aspects like latitude, longitude and altitudinal information as well as the geological aspects like soil, minerals and hydrology of the location, along with vegetation etc. SAKTI has been working in this aspect also to safeguard tribal rights to land while taking help from the latest technical knowledge related to land. The latest example of such work has been the ‘bauxite’ case where SAKTI has used all the GeoTechnical information in support of the land rights of tribals as well as environmental aspects.

Various tools used for geospatial surveys include the following

  1. Old Manual Survey

  2. Compass bearing from an established reference point

  3. Chain survey

  4. Other types of survey

  5. Modern GPS

  6. Satellite Maps

  7. Aerial Maps

  8. GPS location

  9. Aim - To get accurate Geo Coordinates (Latitude, Longitude)

These have helped map customary boundary maps into precise Cartographic GIS Maps. These are also helpful in mapping them on BHUVAN, a GIS portal of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). Also, portals like MeeSeva and Dharani have helped many including Tribals get their lands registered, securing these inheritances not only for them but also for their future generations.


Legal provisions under the Forest Rights Act, which secures the rights of Tribals based on their historical cognitive maps (Customary boundary and Traditional Maps) which then is mapped onto the latest GIS portals like BHUVAN have been used by SAKTI to safeguard the Territorial Rights of Tribal.


  1. Arnold, David. (1982). "Rebellious Hillmen: The Gudem Rampa Risings 1839-1924" by Ranjit Guha (Ed.) Subaltern Studies I. Delhi: Oxford University Press.

  2. ITDA (1992-93). Action Plan, Rampachodavaram, East Godavari District. Mimeograph.

  3. Ranjan, Jayesh and Trinadh Rao, P. (1997). Tribals and Forest Policies: A critique paper presented at National Seminar 'Perspectives and Strategies for Sustainable Tnbal Development beyond 2000 AD', held in Andhra University, Visakhapatnam. Mimeograph.

  4. Yorke, M. (1988). "The Situation of the Gonds of Asifabad and Lakshetipet Taluks, Adilabad District '' in von. C Purer, Haimendorf, Tribes of India: Struggle for Survival. Delhi: Oxford University Press.

  5. P.Sivaramakrishna,(1987)FightingForTheForest: A Godavari Experience, Accessed on 28 August 2022 URL:

  6. P.Sivaramakrishna,(1991), A.P.Cabinet Sub-Committee Report on Left Wing Extremists, accessed on 29 August 2022 URL:

  7. P.Sivaramakrishna (1991), The People's Commission On Environment And Development India, Accessed on 31 August 2022.

  8. Census of India 2011 accessed on 2 August 2022 URL:

  9. Patrik Oskarsson (2010). The law of the land contested: Bauxite mining in tribal, central India in an age of economic reform URL:

  10. Hurand, F. A. (1979). Cognitive mapping: a tool in land use planning. The Pennsylvania State University.

  11. Muehrcke, P. C. (1978). [Review of Maps in Minds: Reflections on Cognitive Mapping., by R. M. Downs & D. Stea]. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 68(2), 290–294.


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