Issue of Tribal Self Rule

28 January 2012, Kalahandi

On 28 January a public meeting was organised at Bhawanipatnam by ‘Kalahandi Bhumi Suraksha Samiti’ and ‘Niyamgiri Bhumi Suraksha Samiti’. Representatives from ‘Dalit Sangh’, ‘Jungle Manch’,

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‘Jansahajay’, ‘Jan Kalyan’, ‘Kartavya’, ‘Bharat Vanachal Vikas Parishad’ and ‘Citizens Forum’ were present in the meeting to express their full support of Jansatyagrah 2012. Addressing the meeting Shri Bharat Thakur of ‘Kalahandi Bhumi Suraksha Samiti’ said that the government was giving open access to industries and completely ignoring the rights of the tribal community. He said that in Kalahandi 10963 claims were files of these 9193 have been accepted and given 12,496 acres of land while 657 claims have been rejected. He said claims were not accepted in view of industrial projects. In the Lanjigadh region in many villages besides Rengapalli forest rights claims were not being accepted in view of the scheduled expansion of Vedanta Aluminium Company. Shri Siddharth Nayak of ‘Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti’ said that in the Lanjigadh region not only were the forest rights claims being ignored by the administration but on 21 January 47 residents of Rengapalli village were sent to prison when they tried to raise their voice against this injustice. Accusations of disturbing peace and murder have been made against these people even though they were peacefully demonstrating for their rights. That is why more than 2000 villagers came out to support these people on the occasion of Republic Day. Shri Jagan Majhi of Palsapadam village said that 20 tribal families from the village had filed claims with all requisite proof but even after two years they have not received any information from the administration on their acceptance or rejection. Instead the

forest department was involved in incidents of physical abuse of the claimants. Resident of village Harraguda in the Karlapat Sanctuary Smt Rajjo Devi said that in her village 29 tribal families had applied for 120 acres of cultivated forestland but they did not receive more than 2 acres of land. Sukanti Devi member of Kalahandi Municipal Corporation said that despite schems such as ‘Mo Jami More Dih’ and ‘Vasundhara’ the government was not serious about the settlement of the homeless on government land. He said that in Bhawanipatnam 2000 families were homeless. He expressed his belief that through the Samvad Yatra attempts would also be made for the rights of the urban homeless. Shri Vaidhnath Mehra of the ‘Dalit Sangh’ said that the Forest Rights Act provision pertaining to the submission of proof of 75 years of cultivation fro claims by Dalits and non-tribals was fundamentally invalid and that it was a ploy to divide the community of forest dependents. Therefore voice should be raised against this political ploy aimed at division in communities. Prof Suman Rath of ‘Citizens Forum’ gave assurance that at the time of Jansatyagrah 2012 a parallel movement would be launched in Bhawanipatna on 2 October 2012. Senior Social Worker Shri Niranjan Vidrohi said that the government is completely ignoring the rights of the tribals by not implementing the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act (PESA). This law is aimed at tribal self-rule and their control over natural resources. In the evening a public hearing was organised at village Kochaijor by ‘Sahajay Sanghatan’. Shri Samru Salpang village who had come to attend the hearing said that his village was located on the mountain top about 15k.m. from Kochaijor since there was no cultivable land in his village ‘majhi’ families of the village had come down near Kochaijor to cultivate 20 acres of forestland but they were evicted from the land by the forest department. Subsequently these landless families moved to Tutijhola and started cultivating some forestland but there too they were evicted by the resident Tamil community who claimed that the land was the nistar land of their village. After sometime these 50 families (2 Gond, 2 Harijan and 46 tribals) returned to the area near Kochaijor village and once again started cultivating 60-70 acres of forestland. On 25 January the police and forest departments in a joint action created a conflict situation and arrested 8 members of the 50 families community. He added that all the villagers had decided to oppose their arrest and bring them out on bail. The families have vowed to keep their struggle for land alive till they are given the rights to the cultivated land. The villagers expressed hope that their plight would be brought before the government of India through Janstyagrah 2012. They announced support their complete support for the movement in the leadership of Shri P.V. Rajagopal.

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