Reference in the Constitution:
Though the Indian Constitution has not defined clearly the term ‘ tribe’, Article 336 (25) of the Constitution says that Scheduled Tribes are the tribes or tribal communities or parts of or groups within such tribes or tribal communities which the Indian President may specify by public notification under Article 342(1).
However, the term ‘tribe’ has been defined by various thinkers and writers in different ways. One or two definitions may be cited here.
1. Dr. D.N. Majumdar:
A Scheduled Tribe refers to “a collection of families or groups of families, bearing a common name, members which occupy the same territory, speak the same language and observe certain taboos regarding marriage, profession or occupation and have developed as well as assessed system of reciprocity and mutuality of obligations”.
2. Imperial Gazetteer of India:
A tribe is a collection of families bearing a common name, speaking a common dialect, occupying or professing to occupy a common territory and is not usually endogamous, though originally it might have been so”.
3. Gillin and Gillin:
“A tribe is a group of local communities which lives in a common area, speaks a common dialect and follows a common culture”.
The Distribution of the Tribes:
The tribal population is divided into three zones, namely; North-Eastern Zone, the Central Zone and the Southern Zone.
1. North-Eastern Zone:
This zone consists of the sub-Himalayan region and the hills and mountain ranges of North-Eastern frontiers of India. The tribals of this zone mostly belong to the Mongoloid race and speak languages belonging to the Tibeto-Chinese family. This zone is inhabited by tribes such as—Gurung, Limbu, Lepcha, Aka, Mishmi, Mikir, Rabha, Kachari, Garo, Khasi, Chakma, Naga, Angami, Sema, Pham, Chang and so on.
2. The Central Zone:
The tribal groups of this zone are scattered all over the mountain-belt between the rivers Narmada and Godawari. The main tribes of this area are the Gonds, Munda, Kandh, Baiga, Bhil, Bhuiyan, Bhumji, Koli, Savara, Kharia, Oraon, Ho, Santal, Juong, and so on.
3. The Southern Zone:
This zone falls south of the river Krishna. The tribals of this zone are regarded as the most ancient inhabitants now living in India.