Why Adivasis seek to re-assert their traditional identity

‘Adivasi history is an unbroken chain of broken promises’: Dr. B.D. Sharma

What are these broken promises?

  1. Massive displacement without rehabilitation:  Independent studies estimate that about 24 lakh acres of their land has been forcibly acquired by the govt and industries, resulting in about 19 lakh persons being  displaced. Of the displaced only 25% have been resettled, but no one has been rehabilitated because rehabilitation implies restoration of their social, cultural and community values.
  2. Depletion of natural resources with local population having no share in it leading to enrichment of outsider companies, contractors and migrants. Beginning from the start of 20th century excavation of minerals of all kinds has been taking place. But the plight of people in whose land all this mineral wealth is found have been reduced to increasing poverty, disease and lack of basic amenities.
  3. Constitutional, legal and judicial provisions for the welfare and development of the Adivasi have been consistently violated.

(a)  the Vth Schedule of the Indian Constitution [Indian Constitution, Article 244(1)]clearly stipulates that a ‘Tribes Advisory Council’ (TAC) composed solely of members from the Adivasi community who will advice the Governor of the State about any and everything concerning the protection, well-being and development of the Adivasi people in the State.
Whereas the reality is that the meeting of the TAC takes place rarely, and it is convened by and presided over by the Chief Minister of the State and is controlled by the ruling party. TAC has thus been reduced to a toothless body. Verily a constitutional fraud meted out to the Adivasi people.

(b) The Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act [PESA],1996 [No:40 of 1996]  which was a fruit of long drawn disenchantment and struggle of the Adivasi people and their political representatives and which for the first time recognized the fact the Adivasi communities in India have had a rich social and cultural tradition of self-governance outlined the composition and functioning of the Gram Sabha. It gave significant powers to Gram Sabha in all matters pertaining to the welfare and development of tribal adivasi people.
Whereas the reality is this Act of the parliament has deliberately been left unimplemented in all the nine states. It means the capitalist ruling class does not want the Adivasi people to self-govern themselves.

(c) the Samatha Judgment, 1997 of the Supreme Court [Civil Appeal Nos:4601-2 of 1997] came as a huge relief to the Adivasi communities in Scheduled Areas infofar as it decreed that mining in Scheduled Areas can be undertaken only by Adivasi Cooperatives.  The judgment was meant to provide some significant safeguards for the Adivasis to control the excavation of minerals in their lands and to help develop themselves economically. 
Whereas the reality is consistent efforts have been made by the state to ignore this verdict of the highest court. Several cases have been filed by affected communities but the ‘law of eminent domain’ of the colonial rulers are invoked to alienate Adivasi land and to loot the rich mineral resources.

(d) Forest Rights Act, 2006: [Act of Parliament No:2 of 2007] jal, jangal, jamin, as we know, are the basis of the  economic life of the Adivasi people. Of particular importance is their traditional rights in the forest have been infringed upon systematically over the decades. At long last, the govt came to the realization that a historic injustice has been done to the Adivasi and other traditional forest-dwellers. To correct this anomaly it enacted this Act empowering each forest-dwelling family to four acres of land
Whereas the reality is far from desirable. As per the information collected in the nine Scheduled Area States till 28th February, 2017, 41,65,395 claims (40,26,970 individual and 1,38,425 community claims) have been filed and 17,90,624 titles (17,27,655 individual and 62,969 community claims) have been distributed. That means about 24 lakh claims [41%] have been rejected! As for Jharkhand State, 1,02,510 claims were made, of which 56,181 claims have been distributed, and 46,329  (45%) have been rejected. It is a painful reality that nearly half of Adivasis and other forest-dwellers have been refused their ages-long existence in the forests of Jharkhand.

(e) Owner of the land is also the owner of sub-soil minerals’. The Supreme Court of India in a path-breaking judgment [SC: Civil Appeal No 4549 of 2000] has said “we are of the opinion that there is nothing in the law which declares that all mineral wealth sub-soil rights vest in the State, on the other hand, the ownership of sub-soil/mineral wealth should normally follow the ownership of the land, unless the owner of the land is deprived of the same by some valid process.”
The rich minerals in their lands are being looted by the govt and private companies. The Supreme Court has declared 214 out of the 219 Coal-Blocks in the country illegal and ordered their closure and levied a fine on them for their illegal mining. But the Central & State Govts have found a way out by re-allotting these illegal mines through auction to make it look legal!  Lot of assurance is given that Adivasi land will not be given to industrialists, yet at the same time mines in Scheduled Areas are being allotted to govt and private companies. Cheating game.

(f) Mere membership of a banned organisation will not make a person a criminal unless he resorts to violence or incites people to violence or creates public disorder by violence or incitement to violence. [SC: Criminal Appeal No: 889 of 2007] The court rejected the doctrine of ‘guilt by association‘. 
It is common knowledge that very many young men & women are held in prison on the suspicion of being naxalites”.  After arresting them other penal clauses are added on. It is an easy label that can be put on any one whom the police  want to catch. It does not require any proof or witness. Let us keep in mind that they are  not even members of any naxalite outfit. Supreme Court says even membership in a banned organisation does not make a person a criminal. How far removed are  the law and order forces from the judiciary!

(g) Domicile Policy, already enacted by the govt, is meant to side-line the native population and to facilitate outsiders to grab the job opportunities.
Six Criteria to define who could be called a sthaniya niwasi or local resident of Jharkhand

  1. Those who have their or their ancestors’ names in land records as per the last survey. The gram pradhan (village head) can identify the landless as a local resident on the basis of his language, cultural practices and traditions.
  2. Those living in Jharkhand for the past 30 years for reasons of business, jobs, etc., and have acquired immovable properties, and their children, would be considered locals.
  3. Employees of the Jharkhand government, or government-aided institutions, organisations etc. — and their spouses and children — would be considered locals.
  4. Employees of the Central Government living in Jharkhand, and their spouses and children.
  5. Those holding constitutional posts, their spouses and children.
  6. Those who were born in Jharkhand, and have completed their education till matriculation.

Needless to say, this policy is meant to push the native Adivasi Moolvasi people to the margins of society and enable outsiders to capture whatever job opportunities available in the state. This is already in practice and exclusion of indigenous people is taking place very quietly. This must be reversed by all means.

(h) ‘Land Bank’ is the most recent plot to further weaken Adivasi people.  The State govt plans to acquire about 20 lakh acres of land of which about 10 lakh acres are to be allotted to industries. This includes even ‘Common Land’ such as water bodies, rivers & rivulets, hills & hillocks, village roads, sarnas, masnas.  This is being done without the knowledge and consent of people and their respective Gram Sabhas. People have started to express their protest by appealing to the  Governor to stop this illegal action of the govt. Sad to say Adivasi leaders have not taken up this problem and mobilize people into an andolan.
Enough is enough . . .                                                                                                                            
– the frustration of Adivasi people is expressed through some of them erecting Pathalgadis. We may not agree with all that is written on them, but we need to ask WHY they are doing this.

  • The govt must stop looking at this as a law & order problem but make sincere effort to remedy the ‘historic injustice’ being done to Adivasi people;
  •  The ruling class must realize that Adivasi People are not asking for charity but certainly want their constitutional, legal, judicial rights are  acknowledged and honoured by the rest of society;
  • Rights are never given but always taken !



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