This article critiques law’s lack of imagination and inability to capture the complex dynamics of social relationships in tribal communities, in a context of their massive dispossession from tribal lands.
Saumya Uma, Professor, Jindal Global Law School, O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana, India.
In recognition of their distinct culture and identity, tribal communities in India enjoy constitutionally guaranteed autonomy and self-governance, which extend to customary laws for marriage, matrimonial rights and inheritance. In contexts where the tribal customary law has denied women inheritance rights, some women have approached the courts of law.
The Hindu law on inheritance specifically excludes tribal communities from its application; yet, courts have found a way to apply it by reasoning that the parties to the case were ‘sufficiently Hinduised’. This article examines Indian judicial responses to this issue, and the ramifications for the inheritance rights of tribal women.
The article critiques law’s lack of imagination and inability to capture the complex dynamics of social relationships in tribal communities, in a context of their massive dispossession from tribal lands.
While highlighting the distinct relationship of property, community and family in tribal communities, it examines how law could ensure that tribal women retain their tribal identity and yet secure equal inheritance rights, rather than force a trade-off between tribal identity and securing inheritance rights on grounds of ‘sufficient Hinduisation’.
Published in: Indian Journal of Gender Studies
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