Continued exploitation of tribals by Forest Department….

15th May 2012, Umaria District headquarters,

Umaria, was the first stoppage of Jan Satyagraha Samvad Yatra where a meeting was jointly organised by National Youth Organization, Ekta Parisad and affiliates. Addressing the meeting, the head of the National Youth Organization, Shri Santosh Dwivedi said that major cause of poverty was the state-sponsored exploitative system and startegies. This makes people to oppose the state gradually. In fact it is a serious challenge to our democracy. Till now, most of the people have related themselves with non-violent movements, but the patience of the masses is being tested. In this system, violent groups are emerging in the name of social work. So far, governments have failed to distinguish between non-violent democratic and violent actions. The direct victims are youths who are coming forward for social causes. He told that the Jansatyagraha was really motivating the rural and urban youth to come forward for social issues and stand up for the causes of the poor. He expressed confidence that Jansatyagraha would prove to be a decisive movement against oppressive violent system of the state administration. District Panchayat President, Gyanwati told that the Umaria district was Baiga and Gond tribe dominated but still the Forest Rights Act was not being seriously implemented. Local authorities have so far resolved only 17 cases, while the most eligible occupants are being harassed by the forest deparment. Amarshahji told that in the Umaria district, about 30 villages were being displaced in the name of the Tiger Project and no arrangement had been done for their rehabilitation yet. He said that unfortunately the society, which lived with wildlife for centuries, was being harassed in the name of wildlife protection. Rajubhai Basod said that Basod Society was being consistently ignored by the state government. Basod society survived in the past using traditional rights to use bamboo forests and forest produce, which was their major means of livelihood. With the Forest Conservation Act and Wildlife Protection Act, the nistar (common use) rights of tribals diminished and the role of Forest Department became unjustifiable in relation to tribals. The Forest Department is now becoming an impediment in animal husbandary work of the villagers. Today, the population of Basod society was approximately 8000 in Umaria district and most of them were reduced to beggars. Anil Prajapati of Gram Parasi said that 12 potter families of the village had become unemployed as on today. They were using soil from the forest area for making pots which was now being prevented by Forest Department. Shyamlal Kol said that in this area, most of the eligible occupants were being given only 50 decimal upto 1 acre of land in place of 10 acres under the Forest Rights Act and this was a major cause of discontent among the tribals. He said that if the state government didn’t review all these faulty allocations before October 2, 2012 then thousands of tribal would collectively attend the Jansatyagraha. The second leg of the journey was at Vijaygarh area of Katni district where discussion was held with the villagers by Ekta Parisad. In order to save their land from land mafias and the administration with its land grabbing policies, the villagers of Bajkacha and Dukaria have placed their “funeral pyres” on their land all around the village boundaries. The administration was putting all kinds of pressures on villages to vacate their 1200 acres of agricultural land. Now to save their land, all the families ready to die. At this place, 50 families displaced from Bansagar are already living but, their proper rehabilitation has not been done yet. Despite the objection of the villagers, the state government has sent the request to Govt. of India to accept the acquisition of land citing the forged proposal of Village Panchayat. Now all the villagers have come together and announced that if the government and the land mafia tried to take away their land, they were ready for mass self-immolation.

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