Adivasi residents of 27 hamlets located inside Mumbai's famous Aarey Milk Colony, a sprawling forest in the heart of the city, hit the streets on Tuesday demanding rights to their traditional land, access to facilities and the implementation of Forest Rights Act 2006. Around 500 Adivasis were present at the protest where they expressed their stand using traditional songs, dancing and placards. The protest was organised under the auspices of Adivasi Hakk Savardhan Samiti.
“We don’t want to be forced out of our traditional lands. These lands have been being tilled by us for generations and we should be accorded all rights to them under the Forest Rights Act,” said Dinesh Habale of the Adivasi Hakk Savardhan Samiti. The region is currently under threat due to the construction of the proposed carshed for Mumbai Metro. The land has also been long coveted by the builder lobby.
The Adivasis of Aarey were joined by fellow Adivasis from all over the city, Palghar and many environmentalists. Those present at the protest spoke about how despite being “Moolniwasis” or original residents they still had to ask for permission for facilities in their own lands. Many also spoke of the unbreakable bond they had with the forests, their preservation and how Adivasis can’t exist without them.
“The land is traditionally ours, yet we are treated like encroachers,” said Shashi Sonawane of Bhoomiputra Bachao Andolan from Palghar. “The Adivasis are the traditional preservers of the forests and we stand with them in their demand for the implementation of the Forest Rights Act,” said Amrita Bhattacharjee of the Aarey Conservation Group.
CJP has long been associated with the nationwide movement for the implementation of the Forest Rights Act 2006 that grants Adivasis and forest workers rights to forest land and produce. Click here to learn more about our campaign.