Development of Tribal/ Nomad Populations in India and Tibet

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Thesis Table of Contents:

Part I- Introduction

Part II- History of Arunachal Pradesh Tribals

Part III- History of Tibetan Nomads

Part IV- Early Development of Arunachal    Pradesh Tribals

Part V- Recent Developments in Arunachal Pradesh

Part VI- Early Development of Tibetan Nomads

Part VII- Recent Developments in Tibet

Part VIII- Conclusion

Part IX- Bibliography



Development of Tribal/ Nomad Populations in India and Tibet

Wade P. Shepard

Friends World Program, Long Island University

Adviser: Joann Halpern

Senior Thesis

Bringing Up the Rear: An investigation of development strategies of tribal/ nomadic populations.


To compare and contrast the radically different approaches made by the Chinese and Indian governments to develop selected elements of their minority populations from 1949 to present. The two focus groups for this study are the Tibetan Nomads of the Tibetan Autonomous zone, Yunnan, Sichuan, and Qinghai provinces and the tribal groups of Arunachal Pradesh in northeastern India. The purpose of this investigation is to analyze the very different developmental patterns that the Indian and Chinese governments imposed upon these tribal/ nomadic populations through the lens of 50 years of hindsight, with the intention assessing the success/ mishap ratio to help develop a plan for future governmental interaction with similar populations.

Written and researched by Wade Shepard of
Senior Thesis, Friends World Program, Long Island University
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Thesis Contents: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9


That the protective initiatives the Indian government shown towards the tribals of Arunachal Pradesh is a far more peaceful and productive mode of development than the militaristically, economically, and culturally coercive methods of China in Tibet.


In the midsts of the turbulence of the mid- 20th century two new Asian states came to power that would forever change the face of the region. India claimed independence from England in 1947 and the Maoist uprising in China booted out the republican government two years later in October of 1949. Soon after claiming power, the new governments of both states sought to delineate the boundaries of their realms and solidify control of their borderlands. A problem was thus presented about what to do with the nomadic and tribal populations that inhabited the border regions of both countries? India choose to take the soft route and attempted to develop working relationships with the tribal populations of its Arunachal Pradesh border zone, while China forcibly seized complete control of the Tibetan areas that stood at the breaches of their realm.

Now, looking back through the lens of more than 50 years of adaptation, struggle, and change, I intend to analyze the expansionist methods of both the Indian and Chinese governments in order to decipher what happens when a larger, stronger, and technologically modern population attempts to apply control and developmental policies over the tribal/ nomadic populations within their realms. The purpose of this investigation is to probe deeply into the annexes of this history and sift out the errors from the successes in order to lay the groundwork for future developmental schemes of indigenous, tribal, or nomadic populations.

The axiom of this study is based around the fact that two different nation-states developed plans for the political/ economic inclusion of very similar tribal/ nomadic communities in a proximal location very differently to very different ends. In the case of the Arunachal Pradesh tribes, who are mostly of Tibetan stock, both culturally, geographically, and biologically, the Indian government initiated an “inner line policy,” which meant that outsiders were not permitted to intrude upon the development of the tribes so that they could bring themselves into pace with the modern world on their own terms. The Arunachal Pradesh tribes responded well, and developed their own economy without exploitation and competition from outside sources. As a University School for Oriental and African Studies project description declares, “We will argue that tribal cultures in Arunachal Pradesh change as much through creative innovation as through passive adaptation.” In point, the Arunachal Pradesh “Tibetans” were able to take charge of themselves and to develop in accordance to their natural intentions. The Chinese took a much different approach as they attempted to develop the Tibetans within their bounds by force: they build work camps and forcibly relocated nomadic communities, they sought to intentionally change the economic strategies of the Tibetans, used schooling and education as a re-socializing tool, and infiltrated Tibet with Han Chinese settlers, who not only competed with the “reformed” Tibetan communities for jobs and basic sustenance but also diluted the Tibetness of the region. Taken all together, the Indian and the Chinese ways of developing very similar tribal/ nomadic were in stark contrast to each other. These policies were initiated at roughly the same time, the early 1950's, and still continue to this day. This investigation is about comparing these differences in administration of tribal/ nomadic communities to bring to light a standard by which majority governments can create culturally relative development strategies for minority communities.


The research for this thesis was carried out through the year 2006 in the Peoples Republic of China and India, and then substantial supplemental research, updates, and an analysis completed the study in the autumn of 2008. During the China portion of this study I was based in Hangzhou, on the eastern seaboard of the country, from which I was able to make excursions to the Amdo Tibetan region in what is today known as Qinghai province. During my studies in India I was based in Bangalore, and was able to work closely with resident anthropologists as well as communicate via email with specialists working in Arunachal Pradesh. The assembly and organizing portion of this thesis was completed in Brooklyn, New York, in which I was able to harness the resources of well-stocked libraries and more deeply delve into the literature surrounding tribal/ nomad relations in India and China.

Thesis Contents: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Development of Tribal/ Nomad Populations in India and Tibet
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