Tribals exhorted to reclaim lost lands
Adivasis Day - Adivasis, the indigenous people of the land, the roots of our existence, continue to be displaced from their natural habitats, for accommodating the interests of mining and other multi-national corporations. The first ones to raise the voice of resistance even during the colonial period, the courageous descendants of Birsa Munda and Tilka Maji; find themselves most vulnerable in today’s arena of globalization and industrialization.
Adivasis, the indigenous people of the land, the roots of our existence, continue to be displaced from their natural habitats, for accommodating the interests of mining and other multi-national corporations. The first ones to raise the voice of resistance even during the colonial period, the courageous descendants of Birsa Munda and Tilka Maji; find themselves most vulnerable in today’s arena of globalization and industrialization.
Hundreds of Adivasis and social activists gathered at Shubham function hall in Bhadrachalam on Thursday, to celebrate the World Indigenous People Day- August 9. A two-day seminar organised by the South India Adivasi forum (SIAF) discussed threadbare the issues of displacement affecting the tribal communities. The participants included Endaiah, president, State Adivasi Forum, Vasanthi, President, Tamil Nadu Adivasi Forum , Sanjeevan, President, Kerala Adivasi Forum, Ramu, President Karnataka Adivasi forum, Veera Pandyan, Project Director, ITDA, Bhadrachalam, Father Daniel, Father Koshy, Child Rights’ Activist, Vijay Bhaskar, Forest Rights Activist, Pradip Prabhu, Land Rights Activist and Founder of Kashtakari Sangathan, JV Ratnam, Chief Editor of Green Climate and an Environmental Activist and several delegates from SIAF (Kerala, TN, Karnataka and AP), along with indigenous youngsters attended the event.
Addressing the gathering Pradip Prabhu, Former Dean of Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and an eminent Supreme Court lawyer who drafted PESA and Forest Rights Act, , said that Adivasis live an ecologically sensible life, learning from rest of the world about how to protect Earth. He said that all tenancy legislations made since 1854 (Santal Pradhan’s Tenancy Legislation) to 1969-70’s 1/70 had come only due to the uprisings of the Adivasis.
He questioned the Adivasis present at the seminary why they were allowing themselves to be reduced to the status of a destitute. He questioned non-implementation of the rights of Adivasis in Attapadi and Vainad areas of Kerala, where their lands were being taken away even though a Communist Govt existed there at the time.
He asked them why they haven’t been demanding for a 5th scheduled status for Adivasis as inscribed in the Constitution for the past 65 years. He asked them why they were not questioning the Govt as to why the word indigenous was not being recognized by the Govt of India. He questioned what they were celebrating about when their livelihoods were being in displacement.
He told the Adivasis that land could neither be protected by law, nor could be recovered by law and only their communities should protect their own land. He asked them to re-occupy the lands from these land-grabbers forcefully and take the legal recourse, which would at least ensure a prolonged legal battle which would in the end favour Adivasis. He reminded them how many people had fought rigorously for enactment of Forest Rights Act in Jails, on streets, in courts and in parliament for 33 years for the law to get promulgated. He dared them to fight for their rights if they wanted to survive and assured them full support from civil organizations.
Ratnam warned the Adivasis about the evil intent of the Govt to enact the Land Development, Rehabilitation and Re-settlement Act of 2006, which would take land away from Adivasis and farmers. He said that the legislation has become a grave threat to the 54 groups of Adivasis in Eastern Ghats. He recalled how hundreds of children were fleeing from their scheduled areas and coming to Visakhapatnam, losing their Right to Education.
He explained the cause-effect scenario of mining, which takes place in Eastern Ghats, would at the end pollute the waters which flow to the plains, affecting fertility of land and purity of water; destroying 1, 08,00,000 tonnes of rice output and taking away livelihood of 80, 00,000 farmers in Andhra, Odisha and Tamil Nadu States. Vijay Bhaskar felt that land, forest and livelihood of Adivasis were closely-knit needs and that their notions have been changing from time to time. He said that the ownership pattern, physical damage and ecological crisis had occurred due to post-industrialization of 1970s, causing loss of nutrients in land, which was irreversible.