Dispossession of the Adivasis of Jharkhand, India

Coal strip mine in Jharkhand

By Stan Swamy

05 August, 2010,  Sanhati.com

The dispossessed Adivasi is hunted as a criminal; the looter-outsider has become ‘honourable citizen’

1. The sad story of impoverishment of the Adivasi [the tribal people of India]: A few examples will suffice. Gladson Dungdung is a young human rights activist and writer. His family had 20 acres of fertile land in Simdega district, Jharkhand . It was forcibly acquired by the govt for the construction of a dam at a terribly low rate. The compensation for the 20 acres fertile land the family got was Rs. 11,000. Even by minimal standards, it should have been at least Rs. 20 Iakhs. This is just one example among many many such deprivations. Is this not deliberate impoverishment of a people ?

2. The Suvernrekha Project in Chandil, Jharkhand, displaced 120 villages and alienated 43,500 acres of land from the Adivasi, Moolvasi communities. A rehabilitation package was worked out 27 years ago. But it has not been implemented in about half of the villages. Yet people of these villages have lost every thing they had. To add insult to injury, the project management wants to close the radial gates of the dam which will inundate 44 villages awaiting rehabilitation Is this not a deliberate act of deprivation of a people?

3. Heavy Electricals Company (HEC) in Ranchi displaced 12,990 families and alienated 9,200 acres of land from Adivasi, Moolvasi communities. Of this, about 2000 acres of acquired land has been lying idle during half a century. This surplus land should as per law be returned to the original land owners. But the govt is giving it for real estate housing for the well-to-do. Is this not a deliberate violation of the legal rights of a people?

4. During the past five decades, about 17 lakh of Adivasis & Moolvasis [1.7 million people] have been displaced and about 24 lakh acres of their land has been alienated from them at minimal compensation. Of the displaced, only 25% have been resettled. The remaining 75% have been neatly forgotten. This whole process of dispossession took place without any rehabilitation policy in place. Is this not a deliberate dispossession of a people ? 5. The sad story of annihilation of the Adivasi: Now big giants in the form of national & multinational companies are landing in Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Orissa like devouring lions to capture huge tracts of Adivasi /Moolvasi land in view of looting the mineral riches. Over 100 MoUs between the govt and respective companies have been signed in Jharkhand alone, threatening the take over of 1,04,000 acres of land. There is no estimate of how many hundreds of villages, how many thousands of families, how many lakhs of persons will be displaced. All this is done without any reference to the gram sabhas which is a requirement as per the PESA Act. Is this not a calculated move by the ruling capitalist class to further impoverish the Adivasi / Moolvasi people ?

6. Having been pushed to the wall during all these decades, the Adivasi/ Moolvasi people have reached a stage when they cannot be pushed any more. They have decided to take their life back into their hands. Clear Resistance Movements are emerging through which they have begun to tell one and all that they will not part with any of their land to any company. Consequently, big companies demanding big chunks of land have not been able to open shop in Jharkhand. A clear assertion of people’s power.

7. And this is what the capitalist ruling class, the Indian govt, the corporate houses, the urban middle class, the bureaucracy cannot tolerate. They cannot understand how and why the poor Adivasi / Moolvasi farmers can defy the mighty power of the state and the powerful corporate houses. So they have compelled the Indian Govt to declare Operation Green Hunt against the Adivasi and the Moolvasi. It is actually a hunt for the green fields and green forests of the tribal region of central India, because it is beneath the green fields and green forests lay a treasure of minerals of all kinds. And the corporates want to loot them by all means. This is the last straw on the camel’s back, after which the tribals of central India will be wiped out of existence. Is this not a malicious move against the Indigenous People of India?

8. Now, how to go about doing this act of annihilation? It has to be done in a cleverly manipulated way so that the general usually unthinking majority of the population can be carried along so that the act of extermination does seem justified. Terrorism, extremism, Maoism, Naxalism and the urgent need to counter them is continuously splashed in electronic & print media and the general unthinking public accepts the state’s action of annihilation as legitimate. The stage is now set for the drama of finishing off the extremists by pouring in thousands of para-military forces equipped with sophisticated weapons especially in those areas where there is an abundant stock of minerals.

9. The villages inside jungles or adjoining jungles are occupied by these mercenary forces. School buildings are occupied thus putting an end to rural children’s education and by the same action stopping the mid-day meal to the children for most of whom that is the only full meal they get to eat. All the young men in these villages become suspects; they are picked up, abused, tortured, arrested in the garb of being ‘naxalites’. Young women wearing salwar-kamiz clothes are abused as being aides of naxalites and ordered to wear saries or school uniform. Grown up men are also beaten up because they do not give the expected answer to the queries of the occupying forces. People are not allowed to have small meetings by themselves as also not allowed to travel out of their villages. Women and children are prevented from going into the jungle to collect minor forest produce. For the first time in tribal history, the village bazaars are closing down because people cannot bring forest produce to buy and sell. The whole village is tense and a sense of fear prevails.

10. How long will the people live in such an atmosphere? The sad fact is that poverty is deepening in rural tribal areas. Added to this is the fact that monsoon has failed last two years, and a people who survive on mono-monsoon-crop have nothing to eat. Hunger and malnutrition is a stark reality. The Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) done recently by Oxford University points out that the eight central Indian states have more poor people than all the sub-saharan African countries put together. Its estimate of poverty in India is: 81% of Scheduled Tribes, 66% of Scheduled Castes, 58% of Other Backward Castes are poor as per the measures of MPI. Why doesn’t the govt do some thing about this rather than hunting the hungry Adivasi people in the name of ‘naxalites’?

11. Finally, the police and CRPF are indiscriminately using The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) picking up young men from inside buses, from inside their houses, from village bazaars. Most often one does not know where these young men are taken and what happens to them. The judicial process of producing arrested persons before a magistrate within 24 hours has been dispensed with . The tribal areas of Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Orissa wear the look of ‘police state’. The electronic and press media are playing to tune of the govt. A frightful situation indeed. At the same time, the laws which are in favour of the Adivasi/ Moolvasi, such as The Panchayats (extension to Scheduled Areas) 1996, The Forest Rights of Scheduled Castes and other traditional forest dwellers Act, 2006, are not implemented. So the principle seems to be “starve them, shoot them and finish them”! What is awaiting the Adivasi and Moolvasi People of central India in the near and distant future is difficult to predict. One thing is certain: the corporates, the capitalist ruling class, the Indian State, the urban middle class want to see the end of the Indigenous People of India.

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