Discontent: Dalits and Tribals call for Bharat Bandh on March 5

Tribals across several states have called for Bharat Bandh to protest against a recent Supreme Court order that might lead to mass-scale evictions of tribal and forest-dwelling families. Among the demands being made is the demand for an immediate ordinance by the Modi government to correct the controversial eviction order of the Supreme Court delivered on February 13. The Congress, RJD, SP, AAP and Sharad Yadav’s party supported the bandh call. The order of the SC that was temporarily stayed a week later, after the Modi government was compelled to move the same bench for review had resulted in shock waves since it’s effect was that 1.3 million families living on forest lands, and nurturing them would have been evicted. Significantly, the case was heard for several years’ on a ‘PIL” filed by wildlife groups. Since the Modi regime came to power, the union government did not defend the Forest Rights Act of 2006 in the Court that empowers forest working peoples and Adivasis.


Tribals in states like Gujarat, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and other states in Northeast will lead the peaceful bandh on March 5. According to media reports, the agitators will demonstrate against the Supreme Court’s directive to evict more than 10 lakh indigenous people whose land claims were rejected.
While the strike and protest is planned across 16 states, Adivasi and Dalit groups have appealed to civil society and political activists to join them on a march in the capital from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar to press for the issue of the restoration of the Forest Rights Act, 2006. The attitude of the current regime and enforced by the SC ruling of February 13, 2019 in effect completely dilutes this emancipatory law. Dalits are also making a demand for the nullification of the 13 point roster system into colleges, universities and government institutions as it was, in effect restricting the representation of Dalits(SCs), STs and OBCs into these institutions. Adivasi Adhikari Andolan, All India Ambedkar Mahasabha and Samvidhan Bachao Sangharsh Samiti are at the forefront of this protest.
The All India Union of Forest Working People(AIUFWP) units across the country is already having many protests against the recent SC order and the government’s lukewarm attitude. These are as follows: On March 5, Tuesday at Sonbhadra, Chitrakoot, Lakhimpur khiri, Baharaich in Uttar Pradesh, on March 6 at Dehradun, Uttarakhand, on March 9 through a press conference at Lucknow and on March 11 through a press conference in West Bengal.
The protesting Dalits and Adivasis and Forest Workers are demanding the restoration of the  Forest Rights Act for protection of their rights. The Dalit groups are also joining in in this protest to support the tribals. The bandh will be a peaceful one in their respective places.
Maharashtra was the first state to order eviction orders of those living on forest dwellers within the one week that the SC delivered the order and thereafter temporarily stayed it. Both Maharashtra and Delhi are ruled by the same political party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Jharkand has been erupting in protests on the issue of forest and land rights since February 20. In that state, the March for Forest and Land Rights (MFLR), 2019 or Jangal Zameen Adhikar Padyatra, 2019 was organized for a period of seven days, starting 20 February.
The tribals of Jharkhand have been protesting against the acquisition of their ancestral property, along with water, forest, and land in Ranchi. Because the government has neglected their demands, they have now decided to campaign on the streets.

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