10,000 Jharkhand Tribals protest against SC order evicting forest dwellers from ancestral lands

Written by Sabrangindia | Published on: February 26, 2019

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.


Jharkhand Tribals
Image Courtesy: Youth Ki Awaz

Ranchi: India is witnessing major protest from tribal groups following the Supreme Court’s order to evict over 10 lakh tribal and forest-dwelling households from forest land across 17 states in the country. The SC order had further stated that claimants whose rejection has “attained finality” should be evicted before the next hearing on July 27, 2019.
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.
On the very first day of the protest, a group of landless farmers and people from tribal communities gathered in New Hazaribagh Stadium, at St. Columbus College, Hazaribagh. Around 20,000 tribals gathered to demand the basic rights of their forest and ancestral land. Every person was required to carry a bag with 5 kgs of rice, 2kg potatoes, sugar, salt and a bag full of lentils so that they could have food in times of need.
If one goes by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs data, until November 2018, the total number of rejected claimants amounts to 18.29 lakh tribal and forest-dwelling families. The decision has created panic among the people whose rights are protected under the Forest Rights Act 2006.
The BJP-led central government’s failure to defend the rights of forest dwellers has led to the uprooting of more than a million people from their traditional areas of inhabitation. Calling it an “imperious” order, tribal communities have gathered in different states to reject the apex court’s decision that would lead to “mass-scale evictions” of forest-dwelling households.
Speaking to NewsClick, Mahua Manjhi, President of Mahila Morcha, the women’s wing of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, said, “We are holding the central government responsible for not defending the case of forest dwellers. The Supreme Court order came because the centre kept their silence over the issue. We are urging the central government to file a review petition to save the tribals from eviction. See, the name Jharkhand itself consists of the word Jhar which means jungle. There are millions of forest dwellers residing here.”
In Rajasthan, the tribal groups have rejected the SC order and have termed it as “provocative.” As per a report in The Times of India, “Rajasthan has close to 37,000 such families who claim ancestral rights were rejected under the FRA. These include 16,000 families in Banswara alone, who are now facing the danger of eviction.”
In the Niyamgiri hills in Orissa, which is home to more than 8,000 of the Dongria Kondh people, a vulnerable tribal group who fought against the state-government mining project, are shook by the SC decision. Lingaraj Azad, convenor of Niyamgiri Samiti, an outfit fighting for the tribal rights told The Times of India, “If the order is implemented, hundreds of tribals living in the forest lands for generations will have to vacate their native places... We intend to start an agitation to press for our rights.”
A collective massive agitation by different Adivasi groups will be launched on March 2, to highlight the plights of the forest dwellers. Speaking with NewsClick, Abhay Xaxa, Convenor of the National Campaign for Adivasi, said, “The Supreme Court decision is a draconian order and the centre should be held responsible for being indifferent to the plight of tribals. In the last three hearings in the Supreme Court, no lawyer from the BJP-led central government was there to represent the case. Now, they want to evict over 20 lakh tribals in 4 months. Can you believe that? We are going to launch a massive agitation on March 2 and 8. All the tribals and forest rights groups working in India are coordinating and it is going to be a huge agitation.”
Primary Demands
Around 10,000 people including tribal youth, students, women as well as elderly people have been a part of the protest. Their primary demands include the following:
1) To withdraw the cases which are incorrectly filed against a set of the tribal department.
2) The government should seek permission from the villagers before land acquisition in any way.
3) A tribal body should be created that enforces tribal rights.
4) Personal and community land rights under Forest Right Act, 2006, should be insured through the campaign within 6 months.
5) Existing minimum support price of non-timber forest produce should be regularized so traditional forest dwelling communities could avail and dispose of NTFP through Gram Panchayat.
6) CNT Act (Chotanagpur Tenancy Act) and SPT Act (Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act) should be strictly implemented.
7) Collective land should be freed from the hold of Bhumi Bank.
8) Land Acquisition Act, 2013 should be enforced immediately.

With inputs from Youth Ki Awaaz.