During 1960s, scholars debated about whether tribes form a part of the caste-based peasant (Hindu) continuum or whether they were an altogether different kind of community.
Those who saw tribes being a part of the continuum argued that tribes were not fundamentally different from caste-peasant society but just less stratified and a more community-based rather than individual-based ownership of resources.
Opponents to this stated that tribes were totally different because they had no notion of purity and pollution which is central to caste.
By the 1970s, it was pointed out that tribe-caste peasantry did not hold any value in term so the criterion forwarded such as livelihood, isolation, religion. This is because of the following reasons:
1. Many tribes such as the Gonds, Bhils and Santhals are very large abd spread over extensive territory.
2. Certain tribes like Mundas, Hos and others have long settled to agriculture and huntinggathering tribes like Birhors of Bihar employ specialised households to make basktes, press oil etc.
3. Also, many castes (non-tribals) have turned to hunting-gathering in the absence of other alternatives.
Tribes can be assimilated into the hindu caste fold in the following ways
- Acceptance into the shudra fold
Some scholars believe that there is no coherent basis for treating tribes as pure and uncontaminated by civilisation. They propose instead that tribes should really be seen as “secondary” phenomena arising out of the exploitative and colonialist contact between preexisting state and non-state groups like the tribals. This contact itself gives rise to the ideology of tribalism to differentiate themselves from the newly encountered others. There is no reason to believe that tribes are out of contact with the rest of the world or have always been the oppressed section of the society. This can be said because of the following reasons
1. Gond kingdoms in central India such as that of Garha Mandia or Chanda.
2. Many of the Rajput kingdoms of central and western India emerged through a process of stratification among adivasi communities themselves.
3. Adivasis often exercised dominance over the plains people through their capacity to raid them and through their services as local militias.
4. They also occupied a special trade niche, trading forest produce, salts and elephants.
5. The capitalist economy’s drive to exploit forest resources and minerals and to recruit cheap labour has brought tribal societies in contact with mainstream society a long time ago.