Adivasis to Intensify Struggle
THE call to intensify struggle and take initiative in building up joint struggles on common issues in the states emerged out in the recently held central executive committee (CEC) meeting of the Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch (AARM).
The organisation held its CEC meeting on February 10-11, 2016 in Delhi, attended by members from 13 states and representatives from the students, peasants and women’s organisations.
FOREST RIGHTS ACT
The meeting, while congratulating its members on successfully organising the national convention in August 2015 along with other progressive organisations, emphasised the need to take cognisance of the serious developments since the convention. Even though vacation of the stay on implementation of Forest Rights Act in Tamil Nadu by the Supreme Court is likely to benefit the tribals in that state who were being denied the benefits of the law for the last ten years, throughout the country the danger of eviction for the millions of tribal families and traditional forest dwellers, whose claims for ‘pattas’ have been wrongly rejected, looms large. The Supreme Court directive will also gravely undermine community rights over forest resources.
The meeting noted with serious concern the framing of rules to facilitate handing over of forest land to Van Suraksha Samitis (VSS), limiting access to forest produce to 10-15 percent of the total and bringing community resources under forest department committees. The members were unanimous in their observation that the FRA is a hurdle for the corporate capital to grab forest land. Therefore, the Modi government is keen to see that claims are taken as settled so that the forest land can be diverted. In the name of “regeneration" of forests, forest land is being handed over to the private sector under the “Participation of private sector in aforestation of degraded forests", of the ministry of environment. The privatisation of forests has been a constant demand of industries like the pulp and paper industry who want the right to grow plantations for wood supplies.
The retrograde policy of the Modi government and its guidelines which privatise the forests are in clear violation of the Forest Rights Act which gives communities the right to manage the forest and PESA which gives the right to gram sabhas to decide projects in their areas which are under the Fifth Schedule. AARM CEC unanimously demands withdrawal of the guidelines.
Mining lease holders are to pay 30 percent of the royalty to the District Mineral Foundation (DMF). The CEC has decided to collect the information from the states and intervene to ensure that the fund, however inadequate has to go directly for the benefit of the affected tribal population and not to be used as a source of revenue to fund the government’s general development fund for the district and also to ensure representation of the affected people in the committees formed.
The project will affect 526 villages and over two lakh people spread across seven mandals. Organisations in both states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are organising and leading the protest which is to be intensified in the coming days. In Vizag hill areas, there is a big movement against the Naidu government's move to restart the Bauxite project which will affect the entire area. The government has brought out a white paper on this. In the white paper issued by them, the government claims no habitation in areas where electoral rolls show thousands of voters. False certificates of gram sabha consent have been manufactured. These lies are to be exposed. Shockingly, a sarpanch who was a direct witness to the fraud of the government was shot dead reportedly by Maoists, thus helping the government.
The ongoing united struggle against the Ranchi Master Plan, affecting a large number of tribal dominated villages under the leadership of Adivasi Adhikar Manch, Jharkhand was resolved to be intensified.
The Modi government has refused to pass on the benefits of low crude prices to the people and instead has increased the excise and customs duties on petroleum products earning thousands of crores of rupees. In fact the government has got a huge gain of about Rs 1.40 lakh crores because of its savings on the crude oil import expenditure as well as its revenues from increased taxes. On the contrary, subsidies have been cut. The funds for MNREGA have also not matched the demand including in the badly hit drought areas as a result not only are the rural poor deprived of work but those who have worked are not being paid wages. It is estimated that there is a huge backlog of over Rs 4000 crores in delayed wage payments.
Also the Antodaya scheme is virtually frozen, and despite provisions in the NFSA to safeguard it, huge sections of vulnerable tribal groups remain excluded. The meeting demands that in all tribal areas, families should get a minimum of 35 kgs of food grains.
The issue of food security and implementation of MNREGA particularly affects tribal communities. The CEC noted the need to be able to study the specific impact in the areas where the organisation is working and take up the concrete demands.
RSS CAMPAIGN TO
HINDUNISE THE TRIBALS
In November 2015, the RSS held its executive committee meeting in Ranchi. The RSS sah sarkaryavah, Krishna Gopal, stated that all tribals were Hindus and fell under the Hindu code. He was specifically referring to the tribals who believe in the Sarna religion. This led to spontaneous protests and hundreds of tribals marched on the streets of Ranchi against the statement. The minister for tribal affairs Jual Oram also later endorsed the RSS view. This shows the contempt of the RSS towards tribal cultures, beliefs and practices. At the same time there is an aggressive RSS led campaign of hate among tribals against Christians and Muslims. The organised campaign for Ram Mandir in Ayodhya is again being propagated by the Sangh Parivar. CEC took note of the importance to counter these campaigns of the Sangh Parivar.
FORCED SURRENDER & ARRESTS
OF INNOCENT TRIBALS
Under BJP led governments, innocent tribals are being raided and locked up in jails in the name of the fight against Maoists.The most recent horrifying examples of State atrocities and terror against tribals is from Bastar region in Chhattisgarh. The details have been reported in the earlier issue of Peoples Democracy. In Telangana also, the so-called encounter killings led to strong protests by the Left forces. In many states, innocent tribals have been behind bars for years as under-trial prisoners. The CEC has recognised the need to seriously identify the innocents and take up their issues.
The elections for the nine civic bodies in Tripura which were held in December saw a massive win for the Left Front. This follows the victories in the ADC elections which had been held in May. In the civic body elections also, many tribal candidates have won. The CEC extended its warm greetings to the Left Front.
Panchayat elections have also been held in other states. In Jharkhand, several tribal comrades have won at different levels. Huge amounts of money are being spent in these elections by the bourgeois parties. It is very difficult for poorer candidates to win. In many states, elections are conducted on a non-party basis which allows bourgeois parties to escape accountability for the huge corruption they indulge in. In one instance in Jharkhand, in a very remote and backward area, three tribal winning candidates associated with AARM were given Rs 50,000 each to vote for a particular pramukh. All three are from a very deprived background. However, they immediately deposited the money with the police and filed an FIR and got the election of the pramukh stayed. This is an inspiring example of the fight by poor tribals against corruption.
JOINT MOVEMENT ON
THE BURNING ISSUES
The CEC has resolved the launch nationwide campaign and agitational programme on the burning issues being confronted by the adivasi and common people due to anti-people policies and moves of Modi government at the centre and of the state governments. While AARM shall have its constant independent initiatives, it simultaneously shall forge unity with all likeminded secular and democratic organisations and outfits, who are fighting for the causes of the adivasi people in the country.
The CEC, as a step towards strengthening organisation has resolved to conduct its second national conference in February, 2017. Before the National conference, AARM shall hold conferences in all 15 states, right from primary unit level to state level towards making efforts to build a vibrant all India platform of adivasi organisations, fighting for their legitimate and constitutional rights.