Located in India, in the state of West Bengal and very close to the border with the state of Orissa, Borotalpada is a tribal Santhal village. According to the census carried out in 2015 by the five moroles (responsible for the community in Santhali), Borotalpada had at that time 481 inhabitants spread over 77 houses.
The Santhals are one of the Ādivāsī groups (in Sanskrit आदिवासी, roots ādi, “origin”, and vās, “dwell”, “inhabit” – that is, “first inhabitants”) or aborigines of India. Living mostly in remote areas, the Ādivāsī have remained outside the mainstream of the Indo-European civilization that has shaped the Indian subcontinent since the second millennium BC. They were largely ignored by other Indians until the British colony and more systematic explorations of the territory. Today, 60 years after independence, the Ādivāsī constitute approximately 8% of the country’s total population. Officially recognised by the constitution as “Scheduled Tribes”, they form administratively part of the category entitled “Scheduled Castes and Tribes”, that is to say: “untouchable and tribal”. The non-indigenous inhabitants of India often consider them “primitive”. One shall also remember that the father of the Indian constitution, B.R. Ambedkar, author of the famous essay The annihilation of the castes and “untouchable” himself, never managed to consider the Ādivāsī of India as complete human beings, with own wishes. For him, they were rather “children” who had to be guided on the path of “progress”. Perhaps this vision is not exactly neo-colonialist, but it is certainly paternalistic. It is a myopia from which many still suffer today.