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Stories of change-makers in Kutch, Gujarat

How Dr Ambedkar’s touched the heart of the most marginalized

10 Dec 2019

Ambedkar

When Parma Bai put the red shawl on my shoulder as the programme was about to begin, I was overwhelmed. The other friends said that this is made by local Vanakar community person who was supposed to be participating in the training programme but could not come due to his own reasons.  I told friends that after our programme is over, I would like to visit some of the villages including this friend who made it for me.

Our day had started with all of us garlanding the statue of Baba Saheb Ambedkar at the chowk of the city of Bachau and that made me realize how people started thronging in since the morning to pay their tribute to Dr Ambedkar on December 6th.

Parma Bai is 62 year old Kutchi woman belonging to Dalit community. She came here travelling nearly 150 kilometer to participate in a training programme on Dalit and Land Rights. Her village faces threat as the Gujarat government has ‘annexed’ all the land of nearly 100 families under the ‘Shrisarkar’ land act which is actually meant to grab individual land of the people in the name of technicalities. Most of those suffering from the state land grab are the Dalits. Parma Bai has a charming personality. Her son was a plumber but he learnt driving and left India and now working as a driver in Muscat.  I ask her about Baba Saheb Ambedkar and his meaning to him. “He is everything for us. He is our God,” she says. He did what we could not have got, she said. Whatever we are today, it is because of him, she says. I ask, whether she follows Buddhism and she says, no, we worship Ramdev Peer but the new generation is embracing Buddhism she says. Even her son is inclined towards Buddhism as suggested by Baba Saheb. Parma Bai says, she won’t stop her sons from embracing Buddhism if they decide to do so.

Ambedkar

For me listening to Parma Bai was a treat and a realization how Baba Saheb Ambedkar touched the life of common Indian in almost every part of the country and when you hear about their narrative and understanding of Dr Ambedkar, you only have tears in your eyes about the man his mission and his vision for his people.

Sharing his story in our programme was Jaga Solanki, 58 years. He has 3 sons and four daughters.  Though he could not get any education, his children got an education, though not in the way he would have wanted. They were four brothers. His village Ambilayara, which is about 18 kilometer from Bachau town, in Bhuj district have about 50 families of Dalits, about 250 families of Koli Thakurs, 60 from Darbar, 250 from Patel and about 250 from Rabari i.e. maldharis.  The MLA and MP of the area also hail from Dalit community, but are of not much use.

Ambedkar

The community had legally owned 2.5 acres of land for cremation in the name of land for ‘shamshaan’ but one dominant Patel grabbed a large part of the area meant for the cremation against which the Dalits in the village fought for their battle nearly four years.  The battle started in 2012 with sitting for 11 days at Bachau Taluka Panchayat, but the Nagar Palika Parishad did nothing.  Then they sat on dharna at the Bhuj district head quarter for 9 days where a compromise happened and the Zila Panchayat head accepted that the land belongs to the Dalits and must be given to them. But no official was ready to take action against the dominant Patel who had built cemented structure there.  The situation remained the same and every time the officials were using tricks to finish off any public protest.  In December 2015, the local collector had decreed the two acre land in favor of the cremation place for the Dalits but there was no implementation. The struggle continued till one day, Jaga’s younger brother died under very suspicious circumstances on his field. His body could be found the next day and police did not help. The body was sent for the post mortem to Jamnagar but Jaga refused to accept the body.  Four dayshad passed and the situation was becoming out of control and therefore finally police had to act and demolish the illegal structure constructed by the Patel. Jagga Solanki finally succeeded to bury his brother’s dead body at their own place.

Ambedkar

Ambedkar

Even though Jaga Solanki is not literate, he knows things about Baba Saheb Ambedkar and wants his family to follow his path of Buddhism. We cant get anything of these Hindu Gods. The entry of the Dalits in the village temple was not allowed hence they built their own Ramapeer temple. I fould him very enlightened person whose successful story of struggle is an example for all of us.

Ambedkar

After staying for an hour at Shri Jaga Solanki’s place and meeting his children, we decided to move to another village Vanat Nagar weaver colony which has about 60 families of the community. I enter into the house of Shri SavjiVankar who has two sons and two daughters. His daughters are married and now he is supported by his wife, sons and daughter in law in his weaving work.  I loved his house which is very open and have a lot of trees but it is combined house in four plots. He does not own any agricultural land, hence the family totally depend on weaving. I thank Shavji for his red shawl that was offered to me during our programme, I ask him about how many can be weaved in a day and he respond that they can make two when all work together and material is ready. The entire family does work for weaving on a contract basis for a Bhuj based NGO which give them Rs 1800/- per day for the entire work. I am amazed. “Then you must be earning over Rs fifty thousand per month,” I ask. “No Sir.  The thing is that we don’t even get work for 10 days and can you imagine, I along with my son and wife and daughter in law are engaged in the entire exercise. We know that the organization might be selling this in an expensive rate but, we cant do anything as none come to us directly.’”  I call this is absolute exploitation but then in the absence of our own marketing management Dalits despite all their merit don’t get the right price.

Ambedkar

Ambedkar

Ambedkar

His son Arvind joins us. He is happy but complained the exploitative mechanism which is contract based and no social security. “I passed 12th standard,” says Arvind “but my teacher never wanted me to learn English. He would say, are you going to be in England by learning English.” Arvind says, that today, he feel that because of inability to communicate in English language, I am unable to contact directly to people abroad. If I had learnt English, I would have been dealing with clients directly and our business would have flourished and not depended on any one.

He says, our work is very difficult. To prepare raw material for weaving, it take nearly eight days but there is no payment for that. We are paid only when we ‘technically’ start working on our machine but this is wrong as most of the work is done long before that but that is not compensated as ‘work’. I am shocked to see this Gujarat model where you don’t care how the families live and don’t even pay for the meritorious work.

Arvind’s six-year-old son Divyesh writes his name in English on my note pad when I ask him to do so. Arvind says,“I want to get my son educated in best school and must learn the English language.”Savji also feel that they have been exploited for long but it is because of Baba Saheb Ambedkar that they have got life and dignity. Today, the entire family believe in Buddhism and want to follow the path of Baba Saheb. Savji is so happy with my coming there that he bring a shawl to offer me which don’t want to take given his hard work but he is determined to give it to me ‘as you are doing a great service of our society and Baba Saheb mission’. I inform him that speaking to him and the family has given me lot of thoughts how Baba Saheb Ambedkar influenced the lives of millions of people.

Ambedkar

It is late in the evening now and there is darkness so we start to move and my last destination is the house of local activist Ram ji working with MARAG organisation in Bhuj. His mother had already cooked food for me including Bajre kee roti. Ram ji’s family too embraced the thoughts of Baba Saheb Ambedkar and they are now challenging the system. Ram ji fought hard at personal level as he fell in love with a girl from Patel community but after nearly a decade old struggle, now both the families have accepted them.

Over 110 families embraced Buddhism in Kutch on October 14th, 2019 including Shri Jaga Solanki and the Buddhist movement in the region is going to spread. Listening to all these voices of communities which have faced marginalisation and caste discrimination, it looks very clear that they are ready to fight back now with their honor and dignity and Buddhism and Baba Saheb Ambedkar’s mission is their biggest strength. A short yet meaningful visit to Kutch on the Mahaparinirwan Diwas of Baba Saheb Ambedkar enabled me to meet these wonderful and enlightened people and it was my duty to bring those stories to people elsewhere to understand how Baba Saheb influenced the lives of  common people in India.

Stories of change-makers in Kutch, Gujarat

How Dr Ambedkar’s touched the heart of the most marginalized

Ambedkar

When Parma Bai put the red shawl on my shoulder as the programme was about to begin, I was overwhelmed. The other friends said that this is made by local Vanakar community person who was supposed to be participating in the training programme but could not come due to his own reasons.  I told friends that after our programme is over, I would like to visit some of the villages including this friend who made it for me.

Our day had started with all of us garlanding the statue of Baba Saheb Ambedkar at the chowk of the city of Bachau and that made me realize how people started thronging in since the morning to pay their tribute to Dr Ambedkar on December 6th.

Parma Bai is 62 year old Kutchi woman belonging to Dalit community. She came here travelling nearly 150 kilometer to participate in a training programme on Dalit and Land Rights. Her village faces threat as the Gujarat government has ‘annexed’ all the land of nearly 100 families under the ‘Shrisarkar’ land act which is actually meant to grab individual land of the people in the name of technicalities. Most of those suffering from the state land grab are the Dalits. Parma Bai has a charming personality. Her son was a plumber but he learnt driving and left India and now working as a driver in Muscat.  I ask her about Baba Saheb Ambedkar and his meaning to him. “He is everything for us. He is our God,” she says. He did what we could not have got, she said. Whatever we are today, it is because of him, she says. I ask, whether she follows Buddhism and she says, no, we worship Ramdev Peer but the new generation is embracing Buddhism she says. Even her son is inclined towards Buddhism as suggested by Baba Saheb. Parma Bai says, she won’t stop her sons from embracing Buddhism if they decide to do so.

Ambedkar

For me listening to Parma Bai was a treat and a realization how Baba Saheb Ambedkar touched the life of common Indian in almost every part of the country and when you hear about their narrative and understanding of Dr Ambedkar, you only have tears in your eyes about the man his mission and his vision for his people.

Sharing his story in our programme was Jaga Solanki, 58 years. He has 3 sons and four daughters.  Though he could not get any education, his children got an education, though not in the way he would have wanted. They were four brothers. His village Ambilayara, which is about 18 kilometer from Bachau town, in Bhuj district have about 50 families of Dalits, about 250 families of Koli Thakurs, 60 from Darbar, 250 from Patel and about 250 from Rabari i.e. maldharis.  The MLA and MP of the area also hail from Dalit community, but are of not much use.

Ambedkar

The community had legally owned 2.5 acres of land for cremation in the name of land for ‘shamshaan’ but one dominant Patel grabbed a large part of the area meant for the cremation against which the Dalits in the village fought for their battle nearly four years.  The battle started in 2012 with sitting for 11 days at Bachau Taluka Panchayat, but the Nagar Palika Parishad did nothing.  Then they sat on dharna at the Bhuj district head quarter for 9 days where a compromise happened and the Zila Panchayat head accepted that the land belongs to the Dalits and must be given to them. But no official was ready to take action against the dominant Patel who had built cemented structure there.  The situation remained the same and every time the officials were using tricks to finish off any public protest.  In December 2015, the local collector had decreed the two acre land in favor of the cremation place for the Dalits but there was no implementation. The struggle continued till one day, Jaga’s younger brother died under very suspicious circumstances on his field. His body could be found the next day and police did not help. The body was sent for the post mortem to Jamnagar but Jaga refused to accept the body.  Four dayshad passed and the situation was becoming out of control and therefore finally police had to act and demolish the illegal structure constructed by the Patel. Jagga Solanki finally succeeded to bury his brother’s dead body at their own place.

Ambedkar

Ambedkar

Even though Jaga Solanki is not literate, he knows things about Baba Saheb Ambedkar and wants his family to follow his path of Buddhism. We cant get anything of these Hindu Gods. The entry of the Dalits in the village temple was not allowed hence they built their own Ramapeer temple. I fould him very enlightened person whose successful story of struggle is an example for all of us.

Ambedkar

After staying for an hour at Shri Jaga Solanki’s place and meeting his children, we decided to move to another village Vanat Nagar weaver colony which has about 60 families of the community. I enter into the house of Shri SavjiVankar who has two sons and two daughters. His daughters are married and now he is supported by his wife, sons and daughter in law in his weaving work.  I loved his house which is very open and have a lot of trees but it is combined house in four plots. He does not own any agricultural land, hence the family totally depend on weaving. I thank Shavji for his red shawl that was offered to me during our programme, I ask him about how many can be weaved in a day and he respond that they can make two when all work together and material is ready. The entire family does work for weaving on a contract basis for a Bhuj based NGO which give them Rs 1800/- per day for the entire work. I am amazed. “Then you must be earning over Rs fifty thousand per month,” I ask. “No Sir.  The thing is that we don’t even get work for 10 days and can you imagine, I along with my son and wife and daughter in law are engaged in the entire exercise. We know that the organization might be selling this in an expensive rate but, we cant do anything as none come to us directly.’”  I call this is absolute exploitation but then in the absence of our own marketing management Dalits despite all their merit don’t get the right price.

Ambedkar

Ambedkar

Ambedkar

His son Arvind joins us. He is happy but complained the exploitative mechanism which is contract based and no social security. “I passed 12th standard,” says Arvind “but my teacher never wanted me to learn English. He would say, are you going to be in England by learning English.” Arvind says, that today, he feel that because of inability to communicate in English language, I am unable to contact directly to people abroad. If I had learnt English, I would have been dealing with clients directly and our business would have flourished and not depended on any one.

He says, our work is very difficult. To prepare raw material for weaving, it take nearly eight days but there is no payment for that. We are paid only when we ‘technically’ start working on our machine but this is wrong as most of the work is done long before that but that is not compensated as ‘work’. I am shocked to see this Gujarat model where you don’t care how the families live and don’t even pay for the meritorious work.

Arvind’s six-year-old son Divyesh writes his name in English on my note pad when I ask him to do so. Arvind says,“I want to get my son educated in best school and must learn the English language.”Savji also feel that they have been exploited for long but it is because of Baba Saheb Ambedkar that they have got life and dignity. Today, the entire family believe in Buddhism and want to follow the path of Baba Saheb. Savji is so happy with my coming there that he bring a shawl to offer me which don’t want to take given his hard work but he is determined to give it to me ‘as you are doing a great service of our society and Baba Saheb mission’. I inform him that speaking to him and the family has given me lot of thoughts how Baba Saheb Ambedkar influenced the lives of millions of people.

Ambedkar

It is late in the evening now and there is darkness so we start to move and my last destination is the house of local activist Ram ji working with MARAG organisation in Bhuj. His mother had already cooked food for me including Bajre kee roti. Ram ji’s family too embraced the thoughts of Baba Saheb Ambedkar and they are now challenging the system. Ram ji fought hard at personal level as he fell in love with a girl from Patel community but after nearly a decade old struggle, now both the families have accepted them.

Over 110 families embraced Buddhism in Kutch on October 14th, 2019 including Shri Jaga Solanki and the Buddhist movement in the region is going to spread. Listening to all these voices of communities which have faced marginalisation and caste discrimination, it looks very clear that they are ready to fight back now with their honor and dignity and Buddhism and Baba Saheb Ambedkar’s mission is their biggest strength. A short yet meaningful visit to Kutch on the Mahaparinirwan Diwas of Baba Saheb Ambedkar enabled me to meet these wonderful and enlightened people and it was my duty to bring those stories to people elsewhere to understand how Baba Saheb influenced the lives of  common people in India.

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Maha Vikas Aghadi bats for release for Bhima Koregaon activists

Leaders urge Maha CM Uddhav Thackeray to quash the cases against activists who have been fighting for marginalized sections of society

02 Dec 2019

Bhima Koregaon

On Monday, after the Uddhav Thackeray led Maharashtra government decided to review the Aarey and Bhima Koregaon cases, state NCP leader Jitendra Awhad among others have requested the Maha Vikas Aghadi government to withdraw the cases against rights activists in the BhimaKoregaon matter.

 

 

On January 1, 2018 during the Elgar Parishad, some elements –against the gathering of historic import to Dalits-- incited violence against the Dalits at the commemoration of the battle of BhimaKoregaon that had taken place in 1818 between the East India Company and the Peshwas of the Maratha confederacy. The clash claimed the life of one person and injured many others. After a probe in the matter was launched, the Maharashtra police picked up five activists branding them ‘urban naxals’ alleging them to be part of a plot assassinate PM Modi in a ‘Rajiv Gandhi type’ attack.

The activists picked up were Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj, Varavara Rao among other accused – Shoma Sen, Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson and Sudhir Dhawale and Mahesh Raut. Gautam Navlakha is still being targeted. Before these arrests there had been the arrests of Shoma Sen and others.

Now that the Shiv Sena – NCP – Congress alliance has come to power in the State, Jitendra Awhad, NCP; Abu Azmi, SP; Manoj Jhadu, RJD and CPI leader D Raja have appealed the new CM Uddhav Thackeray to close the BhimaKoregaon case and bring relief to the activists.

 

 

 

 

Abu Azmi has said that the government will coordinate with Sharad Pawar to bring the truth to light while CPI leader D Raja has said that the move is important to protect the interests of activists who are putting their lives on the line by fighting for the interests of marginalized people.

The Bhima Koregaon matter turned out to be a saffron conspiracy according to the findings of the Rashtra Seva Dal, a social welfare organization working in the field on Dalit rights. More recently, another shocking fact came to the fore. The infamous WhatsApp spyware row that shook its users worldwide, was found to be targeting Bhima Koregaon activists. It was alleged that the Union government had used the Pegasus software to hack the phones of these activists to gain information that could sabotage their cause to free the wrongly accused rights activists.

It has been more than a year that these activists have been languishing in jail now while the real Hindutva brandishing culprits of divisiveness roam free. Will the strong persuasion of the Aghadi leaders push CM Thackeray to take the step towards the release of the rights activists and establish itself as a secular, liberal and democratic government?


Chronology

Several of the accused have refuted the charges against them. But the court seems to go by the police’s version with scant regard to what petitioners are saying.
 
The following considerations may be taken for what they are worth:
 
Justice PB Sawant, one of the organizers of the Bhima-Koregaon ‘Elgar Parishad’ event on 1st January 2018, in an interview, testified that “For years these pilgrims had been going to Bhima Koregaon, no incident happened. Why did it happen last year only? Our sources tell us that these two people (Bhide and Ekbote) were working there at least two months before the violence because they knew many people were going to come because of the 200th anniversary.
 
This government wants to protect the Hindutva forces. They have been consistently trying to protect Hindutva activists who had indulged in violence. No Maoists were involved in the program and the activists had been arrested because they criticised the government.

Why did the Investigating Officer and courts not pay attention to the above statement by a respected judge, as a point of concern?
 
Various fact-findings took place, the most prominent amongst them was one conducted at the behest of Pune Rural IG, Vishwas Nangare Patil, wherein the ex-mayor of Pune was part of the team and visited many places and submitted its report on January 20, 2018. Summarizing the report, we find the following chronological events narrated in the report. Note the careful planning by communal forces.
 
On December 16, 2017, one person namely Kaustubh Kasture had posted on Facebook that there would be riots on January 01, 2018. This person supports Sambhaj iBhide and Milind Ekbote.
 
On December 30, 2017, Milind Ekbote took a meeting in Bhima Koregaon, where he decided to treat January 01, 2018 as a black day and ensure bandh all across the area.
 
On December 29, 2017, the memorial of GovindMahar, a man who carries the legacy of cremating Sambhaji Maharaj, son of Shivaji Maharaj, came to be defiled.
 
This resulted in a riot-like situation in Vadu Budruk and adjacent areas, however, all the villagers acted with responsibility and sorted out the issue amongst themselves and peace was restored. By December 30, 2017, though the issue at the Vadu Budruk was resolved peacefully, it is said that Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote, instigated the villagers.
 
On December 30, 2017, a message was circulated on social media that there is a meeting called by Sambhaji Bhide in Vadu Village on January 01, 2018 and the supporters should gather in large numbers.
 
On the night of December 31, 2017, PradipKand, Anil Kand and Ganesh Kand were threatening hotel owners to ensure bandh on January 01, 2018.
 
Suddenly on late night December 31, 2017, a letter was sent to the police station, near Bhima Koregaon purportedly written by Bhima Koregaon Gram Panchayat, wherein police were informed about the bandh to be observed next day.


Related:

Whatsapp Spyware Attack: Bhima-Koregaon activists being spied on by the Centre?
BhimaKoregaon case: Bail Applications of three social activists rejected by Bombay High Court
What really happened in BhimaKoregaon
Bhima-Koregaon Case: HC Refuses to Quash Case Against Gautam Navlakha
No bail for activists arrested in BhimaKoregaon arrests even after a year; campaign on twitter demanding their release

Maha Vikas Aghadi bats for release for Bhima Koregaon activists

Leaders urge Maha CM Uddhav Thackeray to quash the cases against activists who have been fighting for marginalized sections of society

Bhima Koregaon

On Monday, after the Uddhav Thackeray led Maharashtra government decided to review the Aarey and Bhima Koregaon cases, state NCP leader Jitendra Awhad among others have requested the Maha Vikas Aghadi government to withdraw the cases against rights activists in the BhimaKoregaon matter.

 

 

On January 1, 2018 during the Elgar Parishad, some elements –against the gathering of historic import to Dalits-- incited violence against the Dalits at the commemoration of the battle of BhimaKoregaon that had taken place in 1818 between the East India Company and the Peshwas of the Maratha confederacy. The clash claimed the life of one person and injured many others. After a probe in the matter was launched, the Maharashtra police picked up five activists branding them ‘urban naxals’ alleging them to be part of a plot assassinate PM Modi in a ‘Rajiv Gandhi type’ attack.

The activists picked up were Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj, Varavara Rao among other accused – Shoma Sen, Surendra Gadling, Rona Wilson and Sudhir Dhawale and Mahesh Raut. Gautam Navlakha is still being targeted. Before these arrests there had been the arrests of Shoma Sen and others.

Now that the Shiv Sena – NCP – Congress alliance has come to power in the State, Jitendra Awhad, NCP; Abu Azmi, SP; Manoj Jhadu, RJD and CPI leader D Raja have appealed the new CM Uddhav Thackeray to close the BhimaKoregaon case and bring relief to the activists.

 

 

 

 

Abu Azmi has said that the government will coordinate with Sharad Pawar to bring the truth to light while CPI leader D Raja has said that the move is important to protect the interests of activists who are putting their lives on the line by fighting for the interests of marginalized people.

The Bhima Koregaon matter turned out to be a saffron conspiracy according to the findings of the Rashtra Seva Dal, a social welfare organization working in the field on Dalit rights. More recently, another shocking fact came to the fore. The infamous WhatsApp spyware row that shook its users worldwide, was found to be targeting Bhima Koregaon activists. It was alleged that the Union government had used the Pegasus software to hack the phones of these activists to gain information that could sabotage their cause to free the wrongly accused rights activists.

It has been more than a year that these activists have been languishing in jail now while the real Hindutva brandishing culprits of divisiveness roam free. Will the strong persuasion of the Aghadi leaders push CM Thackeray to take the step towards the release of the rights activists and establish itself as a secular, liberal and democratic government?


Chronology

Several of the accused have refuted the charges against them. But the court seems to go by the police’s version with scant regard to what petitioners are saying.
 
The following considerations may be taken for what they are worth:
 
Justice PB Sawant, one of the organizers of the Bhima-Koregaon ‘Elgar Parishad’ event on 1st January 2018, in an interview, testified that “For years these pilgrims had been going to Bhima Koregaon, no incident happened. Why did it happen last year only? Our sources tell us that these two people (Bhide and Ekbote) were working there at least two months before the violence because they knew many people were going to come because of the 200th anniversary.
 
This government wants to protect the Hindutva forces. They have been consistently trying to protect Hindutva activists who had indulged in violence. No Maoists were involved in the program and the activists had been arrested because they criticised the government.

Why did the Investigating Officer and courts not pay attention to the above statement by a respected judge, as a point of concern?
 
Various fact-findings took place, the most prominent amongst them was one conducted at the behest of Pune Rural IG, Vishwas Nangare Patil, wherein the ex-mayor of Pune was part of the team and visited many places and submitted its report on January 20, 2018. Summarizing the report, we find the following chronological events narrated in the report. Note the careful planning by communal forces.
 
On December 16, 2017, one person namely Kaustubh Kasture had posted on Facebook that there would be riots on January 01, 2018. This person supports Sambhaj iBhide and Milind Ekbote.
 
On December 30, 2017, Milind Ekbote took a meeting in Bhima Koregaon, where he decided to treat January 01, 2018 as a black day and ensure bandh all across the area.
 
On December 29, 2017, the memorial of GovindMahar, a man who carries the legacy of cremating Sambhaji Maharaj, son of Shivaji Maharaj, came to be defiled.
 
This resulted in a riot-like situation in Vadu Budruk and adjacent areas, however, all the villagers acted with responsibility and sorted out the issue amongst themselves and peace was restored. By December 30, 2017, though the issue at the Vadu Budruk was resolved peacefully, it is said that Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote, instigated the villagers.
 
On December 30, 2017, a message was circulated on social media that there is a meeting called by Sambhaji Bhide in Vadu Village on January 01, 2018 and the supporters should gather in large numbers.
 
On the night of December 31, 2017, PradipKand, Anil Kand and Ganesh Kand were threatening hotel owners to ensure bandh on January 01, 2018.
 
Suddenly on late night December 31, 2017, a letter was sent to the police station, near Bhima Koregaon purportedly written by Bhima Koregaon Gram Panchayat, wherein police were informed about the bandh to be observed next day.


Related:

Whatsapp Spyware Attack: Bhima-Koregaon activists being spied on by the Centre?
BhimaKoregaon case: Bail Applications of three social activists rejected by Bombay High Court
What really happened in BhimaKoregaon
Bhima-Koregaon Case: HC Refuses to Quash Case Against Gautam Navlakha
No bail for activists arrested in BhimaKoregaon arrests even after a year; campaign on twitter demanding their release

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Odisha govt cancels forest applications of over 6000 tribal families

On November 25, several Adivasi welfare organisations protested Odisha Government’s decision of arbitrarily rejecting forest rights claims of 6,313 traditional forest dwellers.

02 Dec 2019
Tribals 
Photo: Ishan Kukreti 


Leaders of many tribal forums such the Ganjam Adivasi Mancha (Campaign for Survival and Dignity affiliate) Rushikulya Rayat Mahasabha, and Bhita Mati Surakshya Abhijan met to show public dissent against the government move and declared that they will take to the streets and stage demonstrations against the decision of the Village Forest Protection Committee.

Adivasi committee leader Jagabandhu Sabar said, “Though the Act gives rights to use forest land and forest resources to tribals and traditional forest dwellers for their livelihood, the state government is trying to deprive them of their rights.”

The New Indian Express reported officials of District Social Welfare Department saying that the land title applications of the 6,313 applicants were rejected because none of them could produce proof of their last three generations residing in the forest. 

The tribal leaders disagreed with the claim and said that the Government violated the Clause 12(A) of Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Amendment Rules, 2012 (Forest Rights Rules, 2012). It states that, except for gram sabha and the forest rights committee, no one can change or cancel forest rights applications of traditional forest dwellers.

Orissa Post reported that in an affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court, the government said the demand of 1,48,870 families including 6,402 of Ganjam tribals for title of forest land would be rejected. After the Campaign for Survival and Dignity staged a protest demonstration in front of the State Legislative Assembly on July 22 this year, the government once again informed the court that it rejects the claims of the 13,851 families including 6,313 of Ganjam. 
 

Reported incompliance of appeal procedure

Down To Earth reported on the serious transgressions by the Odisha forest with respect to the process of appealing against rejection of claims.

Forest dwellers in and around the Chandaka Wildlife Sanctuary were orally told that their claims were rejected because the land they were occupying was leased to someone else, even though the Act requires written communication of rejection and with reasons so as to allow the applicants to appeal against the rejection within 60 days.  When a sub-divisional level committee (SDLC) was set up to look into appeals against rejected claims on June 18, these forest-dwellers were not given any direct notice, and were allegedly made to sign an affidavit which stated they accepted the decision of the SDLC.

With respect to Ganjam district, DownToEarth reported that officials went around villages asking Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFDs) if they had any proof of occupation for the last three generations or 75 years and rejected the claims on the spot of those who did not have any.

In January 2018, the Odisha Forest Department was reported to have asked a Gram Sabha in Kalahandi district to follow a slew of measures it made if it wants to get Transit Permit (TP) for bamboo, against the provisions of the Forest Rights Act.


Related:
Tougher Than Steel: Odisha Community Rally Against Transfer of Their Land, Again
Odisha Dalit-Adivasis Protest Before Assembly, Seek Justice For Activists Killed in Fake Maoist Encounter
POSCO to Jindal: A Fact Finding Report
Maha gov’t blames DLCs for “unlawfully” rejecting Adivasis’ claims
Thousands of Adivasis demand the implementation of FRA 2006

Odisha govt cancels forest applications of over 6000 tribal families

On November 25, several Adivasi welfare organisations protested Odisha Government’s decision of arbitrarily rejecting forest rights claims of 6,313 traditional forest dwellers.

Tribals 
Photo: Ishan Kukreti 


Leaders of many tribal forums such the Ganjam Adivasi Mancha (Campaign for Survival and Dignity affiliate) Rushikulya Rayat Mahasabha, and Bhita Mati Surakshya Abhijan met to show public dissent against the government move and declared that they will take to the streets and stage demonstrations against the decision of the Village Forest Protection Committee.

Adivasi committee leader Jagabandhu Sabar said, “Though the Act gives rights to use forest land and forest resources to tribals and traditional forest dwellers for their livelihood, the state government is trying to deprive them of their rights.”

The New Indian Express reported officials of District Social Welfare Department saying that the land title applications of the 6,313 applicants were rejected because none of them could produce proof of their last three generations residing in the forest. 

The tribal leaders disagreed with the claim and said that the Government violated the Clause 12(A) of Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Amendment Rules, 2012 (Forest Rights Rules, 2012). It states that, except for gram sabha and the forest rights committee, no one can change or cancel forest rights applications of traditional forest dwellers.

Orissa Post reported that in an affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court, the government said the demand of 1,48,870 families including 6,402 of Ganjam tribals for title of forest land would be rejected. After the Campaign for Survival and Dignity staged a protest demonstration in front of the State Legislative Assembly on July 22 this year, the government once again informed the court that it rejects the claims of the 13,851 families including 6,313 of Ganjam. 
 

Reported incompliance of appeal procedure

Down To Earth reported on the serious transgressions by the Odisha forest with respect to the process of appealing against rejection of claims.

Forest dwellers in and around the Chandaka Wildlife Sanctuary were orally told that their claims were rejected because the land they were occupying was leased to someone else, even though the Act requires written communication of rejection and with reasons so as to allow the applicants to appeal against the rejection within 60 days.  When a sub-divisional level committee (SDLC) was set up to look into appeals against rejected claims on June 18, these forest-dwellers were not given any direct notice, and were allegedly made to sign an affidavit which stated they accepted the decision of the SDLC.

With respect to Ganjam district, DownToEarth reported that officials went around villages asking Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFDs) if they had any proof of occupation for the last three generations or 75 years and rejected the claims on the spot of those who did not have any.

In January 2018, the Odisha Forest Department was reported to have asked a Gram Sabha in Kalahandi district to follow a slew of measures it made if it wants to get Transit Permit (TP) for bamboo, against the provisions of the Forest Rights Act.


Related:
Tougher Than Steel: Odisha Community Rally Against Transfer of Their Land, Again
Odisha Dalit-Adivasis Protest Before Assembly, Seek Justice For Activists Killed in Fake Maoist Encounter
POSCO to Jindal: A Fact Finding Report
Maha gov’t blames DLCs for “unlawfully” rejecting Adivasis’ claims
Thousands of Adivasis demand the implementation of FRA 2006

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Dalit woman found dead, family alleges gang-rape: Kancheepuram

CPI (M) and VCK allege that police is protecting ‘upper-caste’ perpetrators

29 Nov 2019

Dalit Women

A 20-year-old Dalit girl with stab marks and burns on her body was found hanging in a private garden in Kancheepuram on Thursday, The New Indian Express reported.

The deceased, identified as Rani (name changed), hailed from Aandi Siruvallur village near Walajabad and worked in a private company in Kancheepuram. The girl’s father, in the police complaint said that he suspects a man, Rajesh (30), with whom Rani was believed to be in a relationship, and a few others had gang-raped and murdered her. 

Primary investigation revealed that Rani was in a relationship with Rajesh for the past year, and that Rajesh is married and has two children. Rajesh was estranged from his wife and Rani’s family had warned her against the relationship.

After Rani didn’t return home on November 21 and the family approached the police, the officials asked them to call Rajesh to know his whereabouts, but his phone was switched off.

The police have apprehended Rajesh and he revealed that Rani was with him but had left his place the same night. He didn’t know where she was. However, Rani’s father, Boopathy accused him and others of gang-rape and murder.

The police have registered a case under Sections 306 (abetment to suicide) of the Indian Penal Code and the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Kalaichelvan, Kanchi DSP told the paper, “On November 21, Rani did not return from work. After a futile search, her family lodged a complaint at the Kancheepuram taluk police station on November 23. On Wednesday, police received information that a girl was found dead in a private garden 2 km from Rani’s house. The garden belongs to a politician.” They have decided to frame charges of rape and murder only after the post-mortem report comes through.

The body of the deceased has been sent to Kancheepuram Government Hospital for autopsy.

The Vidhutala Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) and Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) cadre blocked traffic in protest of the death of the girl near the Kancheepuram Collector’s office alleging that the police were helping the ‘upper caste’ perpetrators.  

This isn’t the first murder of a Dalit woman. Last year in Thalavaipatti, a village on the outskirts of Salem, a man beheaded his 13-year-old neighbour, Rajalakshmi for she had allegedly spurned his advances.

In May this year, six relatives of a Dalit woman, including a juvenile were arrested for the murder of a woman for having an affair with an ‘upper-caste’ Hindu and bringing disrespect to the family. 

Reports by the International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN) show that the conviction rate for rapes against Dalit women is under 2% compared to the conviction rate of 25% in rape cases against women from other castes in India.

Dalit women number over 100 million and according to the National Crime Records Bureau, more than four Dalit women are raped every day. The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, an NGO, says over 23 percent of Dalit women report being raped, and many have reported multiple instances of rape.

The caste system has ensured widespread impunity in cases of violence where the perpetrator is of a dominant caste, with most getting away with their crimes.

There are many reasons why crime against Dalit women is on the rise. Vulnerability, insecure living conditions and their fight to climb up the ladder apart, the biggest issue that women face is the caste-based power dynamics. Rape is about power and all the cases of sexual violence against Dalit women by upper caste Hindus, be it in rural or urban areas, is just an exercise of power. Till the law, doesn’t acknowledge the problems faced by these women for being from a lower caste, and tilt in their favour to actually protect them, this problem will not wane any time soon.


Related:

Dalit Woman Gangraped in Alwar by Upper Caste Men, One Accused Arrested and Four Absconding
Dalit woman stoned to death for not withdrawing sexual harassment complaint
Dalit Woman Student Brutalised Before Murder: Kerala

Dalit woman found dead, family alleges gang-rape: Kancheepuram

CPI (M) and VCK allege that police is protecting ‘upper-caste’ perpetrators

Dalit Women

A 20-year-old Dalit girl with stab marks and burns on her body was found hanging in a private garden in Kancheepuram on Thursday, The New Indian Express reported.

The deceased, identified as Rani (name changed), hailed from Aandi Siruvallur village near Walajabad and worked in a private company in Kancheepuram. The girl’s father, in the police complaint said that he suspects a man, Rajesh (30), with whom Rani was believed to be in a relationship, and a few others had gang-raped and murdered her. 

Primary investigation revealed that Rani was in a relationship with Rajesh for the past year, and that Rajesh is married and has two children. Rajesh was estranged from his wife and Rani’s family had warned her against the relationship.

After Rani didn’t return home on November 21 and the family approached the police, the officials asked them to call Rajesh to know his whereabouts, but his phone was switched off.

The police have apprehended Rajesh and he revealed that Rani was with him but had left his place the same night. He didn’t know where she was. However, Rani’s father, Boopathy accused him and others of gang-rape and murder.

The police have registered a case under Sections 306 (abetment to suicide) of the Indian Penal Code and the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Kalaichelvan, Kanchi DSP told the paper, “On November 21, Rani did not return from work. After a futile search, her family lodged a complaint at the Kancheepuram taluk police station on November 23. On Wednesday, police received information that a girl was found dead in a private garden 2 km from Rani’s house. The garden belongs to a politician.” They have decided to frame charges of rape and murder only after the post-mortem report comes through.

The body of the deceased has been sent to Kancheepuram Government Hospital for autopsy.

The Vidhutala Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) and Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) cadre blocked traffic in protest of the death of the girl near the Kancheepuram Collector’s office alleging that the police were helping the ‘upper caste’ perpetrators.  

This isn’t the first murder of a Dalit woman. Last year in Thalavaipatti, a village on the outskirts of Salem, a man beheaded his 13-year-old neighbour, Rajalakshmi for she had allegedly spurned his advances.

In May this year, six relatives of a Dalit woman, including a juvenile were arrested for the murder of a woman for having an affair with an ‘upper-caste’ Hindu and bringing disrespect to the family. 

Reports by the International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN) show that the conviction rate for rapes against Dalit women is under 2% compared to the conviction rate of 25% in rape cases against women from other castes in India.

Dalit women number over 100 million and according to the National Crime Records Bureau, more than four Dalit women are raped every day. The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, an NGO, says over 23 percent of Dalit women report being raped, and many have reported multiple instances of rape.

The caste system has ensured widespread impunity in cases of violence where the perpetrator is of a dominant caste, with most getting away with their crimes.

There are many reasons why crime against Dalit women is on the rise. Vulnerability, insecure living conditions and their fight to climb up the ladder apart, the biggest issue that women face is the caste-based power dynamics. Rape is about power and all the cases of sexual violence against Dalit women by upper caste Hindus, be it in rural or urban areas, is just an exercise of power. Till the law, doesn’t acknowledge the problems faced by these women for being from a lower caste, and tilt in their favour to actually protect them, this problem will not wane any time soon.


Related:

Dalit Woman Gangraped in Alwar by Upper Caste Men, One Accused Arrested and Four Absconding
Dalit woman stoned to death for not withdrawing sexual harassment complaint
Dalit Woman Student Brutalised Before Murder: Kerala

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Swachh Bharat: Who Will Clean & Empty Out 9.8 Crore Septic Tanks/Pits?

Ideally, there should be machines but there is no such plan. That means govt. wants people to continue with manual scavenging.

28 Nov 2019

Swacch Bharat

A recently released survey report says that over 96% of toilets in rural India have either septic tanks or different kinds of pits to collect human excreta. [See chart below] The report (#584) is based on a survey carried out by the National Statistical Office (NSO), formerly known as NSSO, under the ministry of statistics. Since the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) officially claims that over 10 crore individual household latrines have been built as of date, there have to be about 9.8 crore such septic tanks and pits out there. 

However, there is no word about whether these tanks/pits are being emptied out and cleaned. In fact, there is no money kept aside for this essential task. It is the responsibility of the owner.

It takes a couple of years for a septic tank to fill up and need cleaning. Open pits will fill up faster. Even if there is a system of liquid leaching out (as is the case with most of them) the faecal sludge that remains behind will need to be removed. It is only in the twin leach pit that this faecal sludge will become free of pathogens and odours – but they make up only about 10.6% of the constructed toilets. Even then, the dry sludge in such systems will need to be removed.

Types%20of%20Toilet.png

Who is going to do this? Ideally, there are machines mounted on trucks that can pump out the sludge (if in a semi-liquid form) and dispose it off somewhere. But no such measure is mandated nor are any funds kept for such machines which cost upwards of Rs.12 lakh each.

This means that families which are proud owners of these toilets will either (a) hire a manual scavengers team to clean the tank/pit periodically; or (b) pay a contractor who has a machine to do the job, if they can find one nearby.

Since we are talking about rural India here, the chances that a convenient machine will be available for hire nearby are remote at least for now. On the other hand, manual scavenging is an age-old practice and there are designated sections of people – designated by their caste – who are supposed to do this ‘dirty’ work, no matter that this inhuman practice is officially illegal. 

So, in all probability the practice of manual scavenging will be the path of choice. That is, some people will be summoned and paid for emptying out the collected excreta in the tank/pit using buckets, lowering themselves into the sludge. They will then take it out somewhere – some drain or nallah, or some empty field or barren land – and dump it there. Several micro-surveys have confirmed that this is what is happening.

On the other hand, if a family does not do this, the only other option would be to stop using the latrine. Otherwise their septic tank or pit will overflow.

Has the govt., which has been proudly talking about the revolution brought in by the Swachh Bharat Mission, considered all this? On paper, yes, they say that periodic cleaning is a must. In fact, they have recently released a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for cleaning sewers and septic tanks, drafted by a premier institution, the Central Public Health & Environmental Engineering Organisation (CPHEEO), under the Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs. It gives detailed guidance on how many types of safety equipment are essential for those who do this work (44 types) and lays down exact protocol for cleaning. But on the ground, in distant far flung villages, will this really happen? 

More likely, the manual scavengers will work as usual – and continue to die as usual. According to estimates by the Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA), approximately 2000 manual scavengers die every year based on media reports. These do not fully record the number of such deaths while cleaning septic tanks. Now, with so many new septic tanks these deaths may mount and the illegal practice of manually removing human excreta will get a new shot of life.

Courtesy: News Click

Swachh Bharat: Who Will Clean & Empty Out 9.8 Crore Septic Tanks/Pits?

Ideally, there should be machines but there is no such plan. That means govt. wants people to continue with manual scavenging.

Swacch Bharat

A recently released survey report says that over 96% of toilets in rural India have either septic tanks or different kinds of pits to collect human excreta. [See chart below] The report (#584) is based on a survey carried out by the National Statistical Office (NSO), formerly known as NSSO, under the ministry of statistics. Since the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) officially claims that over 10 crore individual household latrines have been built as of date, there have to be about 9.8 crore such septic tanks and pits out there. 

However, there is no word about whether these tanks/pits are being emptied out and cleaned. In fact, there is no money kept aside for this essential task. It is the responsibility of the owner.

It takes a couple of years for a septic tank to fill up and need cleaning. Open pits will fill up faster. Even if there is a system of liquid leaching out (as is the case with most of them) the faecal sludge that remains behind will need to be removed. It is only in the twin leach pit that this faecal sludge will become free of pathogens and odours – but they make up only about 10.6% of the constructed toilets. Even then, the dry sludge in such systems will need to be removed.

Types%20of%20Toilet.png

Who is going to do this? Ideally, there are machines mounted on trucks that can pump out the sludge (if in a semi-liquid form) and dispose it off somewhere. But no such measure is mandated nor are any funds kept for such machines which cost upwards of Rs.12 lakh each.

This means that families which are proud owners of these toilets will either (a) hire a manual scavengers team to clean the tank/pit periodically; or (b) pay a contractor who has a machine to do the job, if they can find one nearby.

Since we are talking about rural India here, the chances that a convenient machine will be available for hire nearby are remote at least for now. On the other hand, manual scavenging is an age-old practice and there are designated sections of people – designated by their caste – who are supposed to do this ‘dirty’ work, no matter that this inhuman practice is officially illegal. 

So, in all probability the practice of manual scavenging will be the path of choice. That is, some people will be summoned and paid for emptying out the collected excreta in the tank/pit using buckets, lowering themselves into the sludge. They will then take it out somewhere – some drain or nallah, or some empty field or barren land – and dump it there. Several micro-surveys have confirmed that this is what is happening.

On the other hand, if a family does not do this, the only other option would be to stop using the latrine. Otherwise their septic tank or pit will overflow.

Has the govt., which has been proudly talking about the revolution brought in by the Swachh Bharat Mission, considered all this? On paper, yes, they say that periodic cleaning is a must. In fact, they have recently released a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for cleaning sewers and septic tanks, drafted by a premier institution, the Central Public Health & Environmental Engineering Organisation (CPHEEO), under the Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs. It gives detailed guidance on how many types of safety equipment are essential for those who do this work (44 types) and lays down exact protocol for cleaning. But on the ground, in distant far flung villages, will this really happen? 

More likely, the manual scavengers will work as usual – and continue to die as usual. According to estimates by the Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA), approximately 2000 manual scavengers die every year based on media reports. These do not fully record the number of such deaths while cleaning septic tanks. Now, with so many new septic tanks these deaths may mount and the illegal practice of manually removing human excreta will get a new shot of life.

Courtesy: News Click

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In Jharkhand, Forest Rights Could Decide Votes In 77% Assembly Seats

27 Nov 2019

Jharkhand

New Delhi: Tribals’ dissatisfaction with the slow implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA), which offers formal recognition of forest-dwellers’ land rights, could be a deciding factor in more than 62 of the 81 assembly constituencies (over 77%) in the upcoming state elections Jharkhand, an analysis by an independent research group has concluded.

The analysis is based on the fact that the number of Scheduled Caste & Scheduled Tribe (SC and ST) voters eligible for land rights under the FRA is more than the margin of victory in the last election in 94% (58) of the 62 seats considered FRA-sensitive. Nearly 70% of the population in constituencies spread across Jharkhand--Chakradharpur, Gumla, Latehar and Simdega, for example--belongs to SC/ST categories.

Analysing the results of the 2014 assembly elections in these 62 constituencies, researchers concluded that any political party that promises effective implementation of the FRA and other laws protecting land rights of tribespeople could defeat the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The FRA, that came into effect in 2006, is critical to the livelihoods of at least 3.8 million SC & ST voters in Jharkhand, 52% of total 7.3 million voters, as per 2014 voting statistics. Of the SC-ST voters, 75% (2.9 million) belong to Scheduled Tribes, the constitutional term for government-recognised indigenous tribes, found analysts Tushar Shah and Archana Soreng, both members of the NGO network Community Forest Resource-Learning and Advocacy (CFR-LA), who conducted this analysis independent of CFR-LA.

Elections in Jharkhand will be held in five phases between November 30 and December 20, 2019, and the results declared on December 23.

The BJP has lost a substantial number of FRA-sensitive seats in at least four assembly elections in the past year. In Maharashtra--which had elections in October 2019--the incumbent BJP lost about 22% FRA-sensitive seats and could not win a majority to form the government, as we explain later.

Similarly, the BJP lost the 2018 assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, partly due to the FRA, according to the assembly election analysis by the CFR-LA.

The BJP-led central government has since withdrawn a controversial amendment to the Indian Forest Act of 1947 that was criticised for, among other things, proposing to give more powers and immunity for using firearms to forest officials, Livemint reported on November 16, 2019.

On November 21, 2019, hundreds of tribals--from states including Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Bihar, Uttarakhand and West Bengal--gathered at Delhi's Jantar Mantar to protest against the tardy implementation of the FRA.

Jharkhand lags in FRA implementation

Community rights--which vest forest-dwellers with the right to manage and govern the natural forest they have been using for generations--are one of the most important provisions of the FRA. Even by conservative estimates, Jharkhand has the potential to distribute community rights over 1.9 million hectares of forests--bigger than the area of Kuwait--according to a 2015 study by the Rights and Resources Initiative, a Washington-based non-profit.

Jharkhand had recognised just over 2% of its community claims potential, over 40,380 hectares, as on April 2018, according to government data. And it has recognised only a little more than half the claims filed by individuals.

In a recent affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, the state accepted that it had wrongly rejected claims under the FRA. It asked for time until July 2020 to review all the rejected claims and ascertain the number of wrongfully rejected claims.

This low number of settled claims has placed Jharkhand in the list of worst FRA implementers, earning it the tag “laggard state” from Oxfam, a non-profit, in a 2018 report. “For a state where 26% of its population is Adivasis, 31% of who reside in rural areas, this should be a matter of concern,” the report said.

The FRA is a strong tool for financial empowerment for economically backwards STs. In Jharkhand, every second person (49%) from Scheduled Tribes--and two of every five (40%) from Scheduled Castes--lives below the poverty line (BPL), said this 2017 report by the government think-tank Niti Aayog. Overall, 39.1% of people in Jharkhand live below the BPL as against the average national rate of 29.8%.

FRA Implementation In Jharkhand, As Of April 2018
Types of Forest Rights Gram Sabha Claims Received Approved Rejected Approved Forest Area (hectares) Claims Disposed off (% of Claims Received)
Individual Rights 105363 58053 NA 41649.4 NA
Community Forest Rights 3667 2090 NA 40380.34 NA
Total Jharkhand 109030 60143 29521 82029.77 89664 (82.24%)

Source: Ministry of Tribal Affairs, India

Voting patterns

To break down the number of seats against the degree of influence FRA could have in the election results, researchers divided the seats into three ‘value’ categories: critical, high and good. In ‘critical’ seats, the most number of voters is affected by FRA, a high proportion of the population is tribal, and a large area comes under forests. Those categorised under ‘good’ have a comparatively lower population of tribespeople and area under forests.

How Important Was FRA In The 2014 Jharkhand Assembly Elections?
Value of FRA as an electoral factor Seats BJP JMM Others
Won 2nd Won 2nd Won 2nd
Critical Value 10 555 4 1 2 4 4
High Value 26 99 2 11 0 6 4
Good Value 26 1212 2 7 2 7 3

Source: Independent analysis by Tushar Shah and Archana Soreng, FRA researchers 

In the 2014 assembly elections, the ruling BJP won about 42% of the critical 62 seats. The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), the main opposition party in the state, won about 30% seats. The Congress, which has never won an assembly election since the formation of the state in 2001, won only about 5% of seats while the remaining 23% went to candidates from ‘other’ parties.

The JMM and candidates from other parties were collectively runners-up in about 37% of the 62 seats, and could have ensured victory in more seats had they emphasised implementation of the FRA as an election issue, the analysts said. If the BJP, which heads the Jharkhand state government, fails to emphasise FRA in the upcoming elections, it may win fewer seats than in 2014.

FRA and voting decisions 

The BJP has lost FRA-sensitive seats in at least four assembly elections in the past year with Maharashtra being the latest where the party lost 22% critical, high and good value FRA sensitive seats, combined, according to the analysis of Maharashtra election results held in October 2019. In 2014, the BJP had won three of the seven critical value seats. In 2019, it lost all three.

FRA could, if made an election issue, change the results on at least 70% of the total 288 assembly seats in Maharashtra, IndiaSpend had reported on October 18, 2019.

FRA also played an important role, as we said, in the defeat of the incumbent BJP party in the 2018 assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

In its manifesto for the 2018 Assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, the Congress had promised to implement the FRA, and won 68% more seats of the total 39 seats reserved for SCs and STs than in the 2013 election. The BJP lost 75% of the seats it had won in the last election, as per the CFR-LA’s analysis.

In Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, where the Congress won by a smaller margin than in Chhattisgarh, the party had not pushed the land rights issue as vehemently, according to the analysis.

(Tripathi is an IndiaSpend reporting fellow.)

- For the last five years, Bhasker has specialised in development journalism, writing on environment, agriculture, energy and gender. He started his career with Gaon Connection, a rural-media platform. His last job was coordinating Land Conflict Watch, a non-profit data journalism project that analyses land conflicts across India. He was named as one of the best young journalists from developing countries by the United Kingdom’s Foreign Press Association & Thompson Foundation.

Courtesy: IndiaSpend

 

In Jharkhand, Forest Rights Could Decide Votes In 77% Assembly Seats

Jharkhand

New Delhi: Tribals’ dissatisfaction with the slow implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA), which offers formal recognition of forest-dwellers’ land rights, could be a deciding factor in more than 62 of the 81 assembly constituencies (over 77%) in the upcoming state elections Jharkhand, an analysis by an independent research group has concluded.

The analysis is based on the fact that the number of Scheduled Caste & Scheduled Tribe (SC and ST) voters eligible for land rights under the FRA is more than the margin of victory in the last election in 94% (58) of the 62 seats considered FRA-sensitive. Nearly 70% of the population in constituencies spread across Jharkhand--Chakradharpur, Gumla, Latehar and Simdega, for example--belongs to SC/ST categories.

Analysing the results of the 2014 assembly elections in these 62 constituencies, researchers concluded that any political party that promises effective implementation of the FRA and other laws protecting land rights of tribespeople could defeat the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The FRA, that came into effect in 2006, is critical to the livelihoods of at least 3.8 million SC & ST voters in Jharkhand, 52% of total 7.3 million voters, as per 2014 voting statistics. Of the SC-ST voters, 75% (2.9 million) belong to Scheduled Tribes, the constitutional term for government-recognised indigenous tribes, found analysts Tushar Shah and Archana Soreng, both members of the NGO network Community Forest Resource-Learning and Advocacy (CFR-LA), who conducted this analysis independent of CFR-LA.

Elections in Jharkhand will be held in five phases between November 30 and December 20, 2019, and the results declared on December 23.

The BJP has lost a substantial number of FRA-sensitive seats in at least four assembly elections in the past year. In Maharashtra--which had elections in October 2019--the incumbent BJP lost about 22% FRA-sensitive seats and could not win a majority to form the government, as we explain later.

Similarly, the BJP lost the 2018 assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, partly due to the FRA, according to the assembly election analysis by the CFR-LA.

The BJP-led central government has since withdrawn a controversial amendment to the Indian Forest Act of 1947 that was criticised for, among other things, proposing to give more powers and immunity for using firearms to forest officials, Livemint reported on November 16, 2019.

On November 21, 2019, hundreds of tribals--from states including Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Bihar, Uttarakhand and West Bengal--gathered at Delhi's Jantar Mantar to protest against the tardy implementation of the FRA.

Jharkhand lags in FRA implementation

Community rights--which vest forest-dwellers with the right to manage and govern the natural forest they have been using for generations--are one of the most important provisions of the FRA. Even by conservative estimates, Jharkhand has the potential to distribute community rights over 1.9 million hectares of forests--bigger than the area of Kuwait--according to a 2015 study by the Rights and Resources Initiative, a Washington-based non-profit.

Jharkhand had recognised just over 2% of its community claims potential, over 40,380 hectares, as on April 2018, according to government data. And it has recognised only a little more than half the claims filed by individuals.

In a recent affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, the state accepted that it had wrongly rejected claims under the FRA. It asked for time until July 2020 to review all the rejected claims and ascertain the number of wrongfully rejected claims.

This low number of settled claims has placed Jharkhand in the list of worst FRA implementers, earning it the tag “laggard state” from Oxfam, a non-profit, in a 2018 report. “For a state where 26% of its population is Adivasis, 31% of who reside in rural areas, this should be a matter of concern,” the report said.

The FRA is a strong tool for financial empowerment for economically backwards STs. In Jharkhand, every second person (49%) from Scheduled Tribes--and two of every five (40%) from Scheduled Castes--lives below the poverty line (BPL), said this 2017 report by the government think-tank Niti Aayog. Overall, 39.1% of people in Jharkhand live below the BPL as against the average national rate of 29.8%.

FRA Implementation In Jharkhand, As Of April 2018
Types of Forest Rights Gram Sabha Claims Received Approved Rejected Approved Forest Area (hectares) Claims Disposed off (% of Claims Received)
Individual Rights 105363 58053 NA 41649.4 NA
Community Forest Rights 3667 2090 NA 40380.34 NA
Total Jharkhand 109030 60143 29521 82029.77 89664 (82.24%)

Source: Ministry of Tribal Affairs, India

Voting patterns

To break down the number of seats against the degree of influence FRA could have in the election results, researchers divided the seats into three ‘value’ categories: critical, high and good. In ‘critical’ seats, the most number of voters is affected by FRA, a high proportion of the population is tribal, and a large area comes under forests. Those categorised under ‘good’ have a comparatively lower population of tribespeople and area under forests.

How Important Was FRA In The 2014 Jharkhand Assembly Elections?
Value of FRA as an electoral factor Seats BJP JMM Others
Won 2nd Won 2nd Won 2nd
Critical Value 10 555 4 1 2 4 4
High Value 26 99 2 11 0 6 4
Good Value 26 1212 2 7 2 7 3

Source: Independent analysis by Tushar Shah and Archana Soreng, FRA researchers 

In the 2014 assembly elections, the ruling BJP won about 42% of the critical 62 seats. The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), the main opposition party in the state, won about 30% seats. The Congress, which has never won an assembly election since the formation of the state in 2001, won only about 5% of seats while the remaining 23% went to candidates from ‘other’ parties.

The JMM and candidates from other parties were collectively runners-up in about 37% of the 62 seats, and could have ensured victory in more seats had they emphasised implementation of the FRA as an election issue, the analysts said. If the BJP, which heads the Jharkhand state government, fails to emphasise FRA in the upcoming elections, it may win fewer seats than in 2014.

FRA and voting decisions 

The BJP has lost FRA-sensitive seats in at least four assembly elections in the past year with Maharashtra being the latest where the party lost 22% critical, high and good value FRA sensitive seats, combined, according to the analysis of Maharashtra election results held in October 2019. In 2014, the BJP had won three of the seven critical value seats. In 2019, it lost all three.

FRA could, if made an election issue, change the results on at least 70% of the total 288 assembly seats in Maharashtra, IndiaSpend had reported on October 18, 2019.

FRA also played an important role, as we said, in the defeat of the incumbent BJP party in the 2018 assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

In its manifesto for the 2018 Assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, the Congress had promised to implement the FRA, and won 68% more seats of the total 39 seats reserved for SCs and STs than in the 2013 election. The BJP lost 75% of the seats it had won in the last election, as per the CFR-LA’s analysis.

In Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, where the Congress won by a smaller margin than in Chhattisgarh, the party had not pushed the land rights issue as vehemently, according to the analysis.

(Tripathi is an IndiaSpend reporting fellow.)

- For the last five years, Bhasker has specialised in development journalism, writing on environment, agriculture, energy and gender. He started his career with Gaon Connection, a rural-media platform. His last job was coordinating Land Conflict Watch, a non-profit data journalism project that analyses land conflicts across India. He was named as one of the best young journalists from developing countries by the United Kingdom’s Foreign Press Association & Thompson Foundation.

Courtesy: IndiaSpend

 

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Only 8 states use the Institutional Support for Tribal Produce scheme

In what appears to be a double body blow to rights of indigenous people and forest dwelling communities, it appears that not only has the government failed to implement the Forest Rights Act, it has also been unsuccessful when it comes to implementing provisions of the Institutional Support for Tribal Produce scheme.

26 Nov 2019

Tribals

Data suggests that states have not taken the scheme seriously thus leaving the policy looking good only on paper and this gap in policy and implementation has once again left the beneficiaries without benefits.

The second week of the winter session of Parliament saw a question being asked by Anumula Revanth Reddy, of the Congress Party, on a very niche scheme, the Institutional Support for Development and Marketing of Tribal Produce Scheme. The question sought information on amount of funds allocated and funds utilized under the scheme in the last 5 years. The member also sought information on State-wise market size of the tribal produce and whether the same had increased or decreased in the last five years.


About the scheme

Under the scheme, the Central government provides grants-in-aid to Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India Limited (TRIFED) and the State Tribal Development Co-operative Corporations/ Federations. The scheme covers the all the states with ST population and grant are provided for the following activities:-

(i)  Retail Marketing Development Activity
(ii) Minor Forest Produce (MFP) Marketing Development Activity
(iii) Vocational Training, Skill Up-gradation and Capacity Building of ST Artisans and MFP Gatherers.
(iv) Research & Development /IPR Activity.

 
This scheme was formulated in 2014 by revising and merging two separate schemes, namely, “market Development of Tribal Products/produce” and “Grant-in-Aid to State Tribal Development Cooperative Corporation for Minor Forest Produce Operation”.

The main objectives of the scheme are fixation of equitable prices, procurement by State agencies as a safety net, grading of products, training and skill upgradation for improved production and higher grade products, Research and Development for cost effective processes for product development, supply chain infrastructure development, establishment of Trade information system via online portal, capacity building, among other things.
 

Information from the Ministry

The Ministry of Tribal Affairs mentioned that the funds for the scheme are released on demand and hence there is no complete state wise allocation. However, they did provide data on funds that were in fact released to a few sates since 2014. Eight states have been granted aid under the scheme, namely, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Orissa, Rajasthan, Tripura, West Bengal, Mizoram and Sikkim.

What is interesting to note is that Chhattisgarh was granted funds (Rs. 2.32 crores) only once in 2014 but the State did not utilize them. Tripura is the only State to have been granted funds each year since 2014 until 2018 and it has utilized all the funds allocated to it (approx. total Rs. 9.8 billion).

The Ministry further mentioned that the Ministry does not conduct a survey on the market size of Tribal Produce, thus making the monitoring of the scheme difficult. One cannot ascertain the effectiveness of the scheme unless some tangible data is examined to check the implementation. Although the data suggests that 8 states have been granted funds under the scheme and some states have fully utilised the funds, how the funds have been put to use and what has been the outcome of the same, are some questions that can be answered only on the basis of monitoring and collection of data.


Tribal population

As per Census data of 2011, Madhya Pradesh has 14.7% of the entire tribal population in the country and yet the State has not sought any grants from the Centre under this scheme which can prove to be beneficial for forest produce for tribals. Maharashtra, the state with second highest number of tribals, 10.1% of total tribal population also does not take any benefits from this scheme. This indicates that despite of the Centre providing for a good scheme for tribals, it has only remained so on paper and states have failed to implement the same, thus rendering another worthy scheme to be worthless.

Empowerment of the Tribals or Adivasis is a true mark of inclusion by a state and India has a long way to go on that path. Without strict monitoring and measuring of outcomes, such schemes will only become a means of extracting funds from the government without having to be accountable for the same, leaving the beneficiaries of the scheme with no benefits at all.

 

Related:
Frequently Asked Questions on the Forest Rights Act, 2006
Stop forced eviction of Adivasis & Forest dwellers: UN to India
Jal, Jungle, Zamin: Glimpses into the March for Forest Rights
Compilation of Forest Rights Act, Rules, and Guidelines
Statistical Profile of Scheduled Tribes in India, 2013

Only 8 states use the Institutional Support for Tribal Produce scheme

In what appears to be a double body blow to rights of indigenous people and forest dwelling communities, it appears that not only has the government failed to implement the Forest Rights Act, it has also been unsuccessful when it comes to implementing provisions of the Institutional Support for Tribal Produce scheme.

Tribals

Data suggests that states have not taken the scheme seriously thus leaving the policy looking good only on paper and this gap in policy and implementation has once again left the beneficiaries without benefits.

The second week of the winter session of Parliament saw a question being asked by Anumula Revanth Reddy, of the Congress Party, on a very niche scheme, the Institutional Support for Development and Marketing of Tribal Produce Scheme. The question sought information on amount of funds allocated and funds utilized under the scheme in the last 5 years. The member also sought information on State-wise market size of the tribal produce and whether the same had increased or decreased in the last five years.


About the scheme

Under the scheme, the Central government provides grants-in-aid to Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India Limited (TRIFED) and the State Tribal Development Co-operative Corporations/ Federations. The scheme covers the all the states with ST population and grant are provided for the following activities:-

(i)  Retail Marketing Development Activity
(ii) Minor Forest Produce (MFP) Marketing Development Activity
(iii) Vocational Training, Skill Up-gradation and Capacity Building of ST Artisans and MFP Gatherers.
(iv) Research & Development /IPR Activity.

 
This scheme was formulated in 2014 by revising and merging two separate schemes, namely, “market Development of Tribal Products/produce” and “Grant-in-Aid to State Tribal Development Cooperative Corporation for Minor Forest Produce Operation”.

The main objectives of the scheme are fixation of equitable prices, procurement by State agencies as a safety net, grading of products, training and skill upgradation for improved production and higher grade products, Research and Development for cost effective processes for product development, supply chain infrastructure development, establishment of Trade information system via online portal, capacity building, among other things.
 

Information from the Ministry

The Ministry of Tribal Affairs mentioned that the funds for the scheme are released on demand and hence there is no complete state wise allocation. However, they did provide data on funds that were in fact released to a few sates since 2014. Eight states have been granted aid under the scheme, namely, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Orissa, Rajasthan, Tripura, West Bengal, Mizoram and Sikkim.

What is interesting to note is that Chhattisgarh was granted funds (Rs. 2.32 crores) only once in 2014 but the State did not utilize them. Tripura is the only State to have been granted funds each year since 2014 until 2018 and it has utilized all the funds allocated to it (approx. total Rs. 9.8 billion).

The Ministry further mentioned that the Ministry does not conduct a survey on the market size of Tribal Produce, thus making the monitoring of the scheme difficult. One cannot ascertain the effectiveness of the scheme unless some tangible data is examined to check the implementation. Although the data suggests that 8 states have been granted funds under the scheme and some states have fully utilised the funds, how the funds have been put to use and what has been the outcome of the same, are some questions that can be answered only on the basis of monitoring and collection of data.


Tribal population

As per Census data of 2011, Madhya Pradesh has 14.7% of the entire tribal population in the country and yet the State has not sought any grants from the Centre under this scheme which can prove to be beneficial for forest produce for tribals. Maharashtra, the state with second highest number of tribals, 10.1% of total tribal population also does not take any benefits from this scheme. This indicates that despite of the Centre providing for a good scheme for tribals, it has only remained so on paper and states have failed to implement the same, thus rendering another worthy scheme to be worthless.

Empowerment of the Tribals or Adivasis is a true mark of inclusion by a state and India has a long way to go on that path. Without strict monitoring and measuring of outcomes, such schemes will only become a means of extracting funds from the government without having to be accountable for the same, leaving the beneficiaries of the scheme with no benefits at all.

 

Related:
Frequently Asked Questions on the Forest Rights Act, 2006
Stop forced eviction of Adivasis & Forest dwellers: UN to India
Jal, Jungle, Zamin: Glimpses into the March for Forest Rights
Compilation of Forest Rights Act, Rules, and Guidelines
Statistical Profile of Scheduled Tribes in India, 2013

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Adivasis hold ‘Sansad Gherao’ protest in Delhi

Hundreds of Adivasis, forest dwellers and forest working people participated in a peaceful demonstration on November 21 at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi to demand their forest rights as per provisions of the Forest Rights Act, 2006. They appealed for their rights to natural resources they call jal, jungle, zamin to be recognized by the State. The timing of the protest is significant as the FRA case comes up for hearing before the Supreme Court on November 26.

22 Nov 2019
Forest rights

These protesters had come from all over the country—Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, among others—to vent their frustration with the broken administrative system surrounding the implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 that has only served to strip them of their homes and livelihood.


The Sansad Gherao

The movement was organised by Bhumi Adhikar Andolan along with other forest rights groups such as All India Kisan Sabha, All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP), All India Kisan Mahasabha, National Alliance of People’s Movements, All India Agricultural Workers Union, Jagrut Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, All India Krishak Khet Mazdoor Union, Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch, and Delhi Solidarity Group.

These groups have been supporting tribal communities in holding demonstrations and meetings at their state, district and village levels from November 17 so as to protest the violations of their people’s rights and the dilution of the Forest Rights Act in the stay period between Supreme Court hearings on the on-going matter. These actions were planned ahead of the next hearing in the case which is slated for November 26.

Ashok Chaudhary, the general secretary of AIUFWP, said, “This mobilisation is important before the hearing. The message should go to the law makers that forest dwellers will not tolerate injustice.”

The Gherao also saw the presence of two Rajya Sabha MLAs — Elamaram Kareem and K.K. Ragesh, both from the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

 
forest rights


The Case

In 2008, a batch of petitions were filed that challenged the constitutional validity of the Forest Rights Act, clubbed under Wild Life First v. Union of India. In relation to this case, the Apex Court had ordered the eviction of over a million forest dwellers in 16 states when their claims over the forest land they reside in were rejected by forest department officials.

The Court stayed this order after national uproar that was caused by it, and sought information on the claims process, after scores of faults were pointed out in its execution by Adivasis, civil society organisations, and even some retired forest officials.

In September, the Supreme Court admitted 19 intervention applications that had been filed before it in relation to this case by different sets of directly concerned individuals and organisations, all of these defended the constitutional validity of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006.

One such application filed by two Adivasi leaders — Sokalo Gond and Nivada Rana — was backed by the AIUFWP and CJP. Through their application, Gond and Rana are presenting the plight of the Adivasi that has been so thoroughly ignored since the Act’s inception, and also showcasing how the Act is in line with Schedules V, VI, and IX of the Indian Constitution. This application was also significant as it brought to the forefront the role of women human rights defenders and community leaders in the protection of forest rights.

 
forest rights


The Strife

Adivasis have complained that, despite further evictions having been put on hold until November 26, the forest department has continued to push people out by force and attempted to destroy their farms and houses.

On July 9, in the Siwal village in Burhanpur, Madhya Pradesh, the Barela Adivasi community faced an onslaught of continuous pellet gun firing by forest officials for protesting against an eviction drive. Adding insult to literal injury, 153 Barelas were then booked in a FIR filed by the Nepanagar police in Burhanpur with questionable irregularities and several missing details.

On July 17, in Umbha village of Sonbhadra, Uttar Pradesh, close to 300 men of the dominant, Gujjar community rode atop 32 tractors to indiscriminately fired guns at the residing Gond tribals, caught unawares while were farming their land.

The group was led by the village head that was trying to take possession of the Gond-owned land by means of illegal transfers. The firing led to the killing of 11 villagers, and along with injury to 21 persons.

Final arguments in the SC case are set to begin from November 26.

 
forest rights

 

Related:

Sansad Gherao in Delhi for Forests Rights

Thousands of Adivasis demand the implementation of FRA 2006

All Intervention Applications defending FRA, 2006 admitted by SC

Towards Strengthening Women Leadership at the Grassroots

 

Adivasis hold ‘Sansad Gherao’ protest in Delhi

Hundreds of Adivasis, forest dwellers and forest working people participated in a peaceful demonstration on November 21 at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi to demand their forest rights as per provisions of the Forest Rights Act, 2006. They appealed for their rights to natural resources they call jal, jungle, zamin to be recognized by the State. The timing of the protest is significant as the FRA case comes up for hearing before the Supreme Court on November 26.

Forest rights

These protesters had come from all over the country—Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, among others—to vent their frustration with the broken administrative system surrounding the implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 that has only served to strip them of their homes and livelihood.


The Sansad Gherao

The movement was organised by Bhumi Adhikar Andolan along with other forest rights groups such as All India Kisan Sabha, All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP), All India Kisan Mahasabha, National Alliance of People’s Movements, All India Agricultural Workers Union, Jagrut Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, All India Krishak Khet Mazdoor Union, Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch, and Delhi Solidarity Group.

These groups have been supporting tribal communities in holding demonstrations and meetings at their state, district and village levels from November 17 so as to protest the violations of their people’s rights and the dilution of the Forest Rights Act in the stay period between Supreme Court hearings on the on-going matter. These actions were planned ahead of the next hearing in the case which is slated for November 26.

Ashok Chaudhary, the general secretary of AIUFWP, said, “This mobilisation is important before the hearing. The message should go to the law makers that forest dwellers will not tolerate injustice.”

The Gherao also saw the presence of two Rajya Sabha MLAs — Elamaram Kareem and K.K. Ragesh, both from the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

 
forest rights


The Case

In 2008, a batch of petitions were filed that challenged the constitutional validity of the Forest Rights Act, clubbed under Wild Life First v. Union of India. In relation to this case, the Apex Court had ordered the eviction of over a million forest dwellers in 16 states when their claims over the forest land they reside in were rejected by forest department officials.

The Court stayed this order after national uproar that was caused by it, and sought information on the claims process, after scores of faults were pointed out in its execution by Adivasis, civil society organisations, and even some retired forest officials.

In September, the Supreme Court admitted 19 intervention applications that had been filed before it in relation to this case by different sets of directly concerned individuals and organisations, all of these defended the constitutional validity of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006.

One such application filed by two Adivasi leaders — Sokalo Gond and Nivada Rana — was backed by the AIUFWP and CJP. Through their application, Gond and Rana are presenting the plight of the Adivasi that has been so thoroughly ignored since the Act’s inception, and also showcasing how the Act is in line with Schedules V, VI, and IX of the Indian Constitution. This application was also significant as it brought to the forefront the role of women human rights defenders and community leaders in the protection of forest rights.

 
forest rights


The Strife

Adivasis have complained that, despite further evictions having been put on hold until November 26, the forest department has continued to push people out by force and attempted to destroy their farms and houses.

On July 9, in the Siwal village in Burhanpur, Madhya Pradesh, the Barela Adivasi community faced an onslaught of continuous pellet gun firing by forest officials for protesting against an eviction drive. Adding insult to literal injury, 153 Barelas were then booked in a FIR filed by the Nepanagar police in Burhanpur with questionable irregularities and several missing details.

On July 17, in Umbha village of Sonbhadra, Uttar Pradesh, close to 300 men of the dominant, Gujjar community rode atop 32 tractors to indiscriminately fired guns at the residing Gond tribals, caught unawares while were farming their land.

The group was led by the village head that was trying to take possession of the Gond-owned land by means of illegal transfers. The firing led to the killing of 11 villagers, and along with injury to 21 persons.

Final arguments in the SC case are set to begin from November 26.

 
forest rights

 

Related:

Sansad Gherao in Delhi for Forests Rights

Thousands of Adivasis demand the implementation of FRA 2006

All Intervention Applications defending FRA, 2006 admitted by SC

Towards Strengthening Women Leadership at the Grassroots

 

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Only 3 Special Courts in Maharashtra under SC/ST Act

In the winter session of Parliament, many pertinent questions relating to Dalits and Adivasis are being asked. Two such questions were put forth on November 19 and 21 in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, respectively.

22 Nov 2019

SC ST

After the shocking Supreme Court verdict of 2018 which justified stringent conditions for the process of arrest under the SC/ST Act based on alleged misuse, defying the purpose and spirit of the law, the government has now made some amendments making the procedure of arrest slightly less tedious. In the light of this, effective implementation of the law at State level needs to be monitored and relevant questions have been raised in the Parliament.
 

Cases registered under the SC/ST Act

In the Lok Sabha, Kodikunnil Suresh, of Congress Party, asked the Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment for information on number of cases of murders registered during the last five year in each state under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act,1989 (SC/ST Act). Since the National Crime Records Bureau has only recently released data till 2017, the data thus provided by the Ministry was only up until 2017.

As per the data, Uttar Pradesh was the State which topped the list with maximum number of SC ST deaths. From 2013 to 2017, Uttar Pradesh had 1,170 such cases, 2016 being the year with the highest number of cases, which was 271 cases. States like Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Mizoram had no cases registered under the Act, in the period between 2013-2017. This could be because of lack of awareness about the law or general apathy.

The question also asked whether the Government intends to withdraw the SC/ST Act as per the Supreme Court verdict in Subhash Kashinath Mahajan vs. State of Maharashtra of March 2018. The Ministry, however said that certain amendments were made and enforced in August 2018 which reinforced the law and made it stringent. While the judgment of the Supreme Court had directed that any arrest under the Act of a “public servant can only be after approval of the appointing authority and of a non-public servant after approval by the S.S.P. which may be granted in appropriate cases if considered necessary for reasons recorded.”

The amendment to the Act, which came after the judgment, however, clearly stated, by inserting section 18 A:

“18A. (1) For the purposes of this Act,-

(a) preliminary enquiry shall not be required for registration of an FIR against any person; or

(b) the investigating officer shall not require approval for the arrest, if necessary, of any person, against whom an accusation of having committed an offence under this Act has been made and no procedure other than that provide under this Act or the Code shall apply.

(2) The provisions of section 438 of the Code shall not apply to a case under this Act, notwithstanding any judgment or order or direction of any Court”

The above amendment was contradictory to the judgement, which had inclined towards some regressive views and had failed to take into account the true purpose and spirit of the law, only owing to “abuse of law” in that particular case.
 

Special Courts under the SC/ST Act

On November 21, Ripun Bora, of Congress party, raised the question regarding number of Special Courts established as per the provisions under the Act and sought State wise data of the same. The question was also pertaining to pendency of cases under the Act.

With respect to number of Special Courts, the data indicated that such courts had been set up in only 12 States with Madhya Pradesh having the maximum number i.e. 43 special courts under the SC/ST Act, followed by Uttar Pradesh which has 40 Special Courts while Andhra Pradesh has only 1. The number of Special Courts in Maharashtra is only 3, which seems sparse considering the State has seen 283 cases of deaths under the SC/ST Act between 2013-2017. On the other hand, Tamil Nadu registered 228 such cases in the same period and has 6 Special Courts.

In many states the District Sessions Court had been designated as Special court since the Act provides that “in Districts where less number of cases under this Act is recorded, the State Government shall, with the concurrence of the Chief Justice of the High Court, specify for such Districts, the Court of Session to be a Special Court to try the offences under the Act.”

The data provided by the Ministry revealed that in 2017, a total of 5,553 cases under the Act ended in conviction and 1,75,409 cases were pending in court by the end of 2017.

A reading of the data indicates that while states where the incidents under the SC/ST Act have consistently seen a rise, have buckled up and set up Special Court to deal with the cases expeditiously while some other States are falling short in the implementation of the provisions of the Act.


Related:
Statistical Profile of Scheduled Tribes in India, 2013
Babasaheb Ambedkar: A Man Far Ahead of His Times
Caste Discrimination and Related Laws in India
Only eight out of India's 20 IIMs have Dalit-Adivasi faculty
TN gov’t sets free Dalit massacre convicts, Madras HC demands answers

 

 

Only 3 Special Courts in Maharashtra under SC/ST Act

In the winter session of Parliament, many pertinent questions relating to Dalits and Adivasis are being asked. Two such questions were put forth on November 19 and 21 in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, respectively.

SC ST

After the shocking Supreme Court verdict of 2018 which justified stringent conditions for the process of arrest under the SC/ST Act based on alleged misuse, defying the purpose and spirit of the law, the government has now made some amendments making the procedure of arrest slightly less tedious. In the light of this, effective implementation of the law at State level needs to be monitored and relevant questions have been raised in the Parliament.
 

Cases registered under the SC/ST Act

In the Lok Sabha, Kodikunnil Suresh, of Congress Party, asked the Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment for information on number of cases of murders registered during the last five year in each state under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act,1989 (SC/ST Act). Since the National Crime Records Bureau has only recently released data till 2017, the data thus provided by the Ministry was only up until 2017.

As per the data, Uttar Pradesh was the State which topped the list with maximum number of SC ST deaths. From 2013 to 2017, Uttar Pradesh had 1,170 such cases, 2016 being the year with the highest number of cases, which was 271 cases. States like Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Mizoram had no cases registered under the Act, in the period between 2013-2017. This could be because of lack of awareness about the law or general apathy.

The question also asked whether the Government intends to withdraw the SC/ST Act as per the Supreme Court verdict in Subhash Kashinath Mahajan vs. State of Maharashtra of March 2018. The Ministry, however said that certain amendments were made and enforced in August 2018 which reinforced the law and made it stringent. While the judgment of the Supreme Court had directed that any arrest under the Act of a “public servant can only be after approval of the appointing authority and of a non-public servant after approval by the S.S.P. which may be granted in appropriate cases if considered necessary for reasons recorded.”

The amendment to the Act, which came after the judgment, however, clearly stated, by inserting section 18 A:

“18A. (1) For the purposes of this Act,-

(a) preliminary enquiry shall not be required for registration of an FIR against any person; or

(b) the investigating officer shall not require approval for the arrest, if necessary, of any person, against whom an accusation of having committed an offence under this Act has been made and no procedure other than that provide under this Act or the Code shall apply.

(2) The provisions of section 438 of the Code shall not apply to a case under this Act, notwithstanding any judgment or order or direction of any Court”

The above amendment was contradictory to the judgement, which had inclined towards some regressive views and had failed to take into account the true purpose and spirit of the law, only owing to “abuse of law” in that particular case.
 

Special Courts under the SC/ST Act

On November 21, Ripun Bora, of Congress party, raised the question regarding number of Special Courts established as per the provisions under the Act and sought State wise data of the same. The question was also pertaining to pendency of cases under the Act.

With respect to number of Special Courts, the data indicated that such courts had been set up in only 12 States with Madhya Pradesh having the maximum number i.e. 43 special courts under the SC/ST Act, followed by Uttar Pradesh which has 40 Special Courts while Andhra Pradesh has only 1. The number of Special Courts in Maharashtra is only 3, which seems sparse considering the State has seen 283 cases of deaths under the SC/ST Act between 2013-2017. On the other hand, Tamil Nadu registered 228 such cases in the same period and has 6 Special Courts.

In many states the District Sessions Court had been designated as Special court since the Act provides that “in Districts where less number of cases under this Act is recorded, the State Government shall, with the concurrence of the Chief Justice of the High Court, specify for such Districts, the Court of Session to be a Special Court to try the offences under the Act.”

The data provided by the Ministry revealed that in 2017, a total of 5,553 cases under the Act ended in conviction and 1,75,409 cases were pending in court by the end of 2017.

A reading of the data indicates that while states where the incidents under the SC/ST Act have consistently seen a rise, have buckled up and set up Special Court to deal with the cases expeditiously while some other States are falling short in the implementation of the provisions of the Act.


Related:
Statistical Profile of Scheduled Tribes in India, 2013
Babasaheb Ambedkar: A Man Far Ahead of His Times
Caste Discrimination and Related Laws in India
Only eight out of India's 20 IIMs have Dalit-Adivasi faculty
TN gov’t sets free Dalit massacre convicts, Madras HC demands answers

 

 

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Islamophobia: What’s Common between Payal Tadvi and Fathima Latif

22 Nov 2019

Fathima lathima latif

Lately committing of suicide in higher places of learning has been in the news more often than before. Most of the victims belong to the dalits, Adivaisis in particular, while few others have also done so due to academic pressures. In case of Rohith Vemula, it was a case of caste discrimination and his activities as a Rohith was labeled as anti-national. Two other cases which stand out are that of Payal Tadvi, an aspiring gynecologist, and Fathima Lathif, who was pursuing her post graduation in IIT Madras. Tadvi was a Bhil Muslim, wife of Dr. Salman Tadvi, and she was harassed by her seniors, in day to day life. Fathima was a bright young student who was topping in most of the examinations and after joining IITM, she met with the stone wall of prejudice, where despite her caliber she was given poor score in ‘internal evaluation’. She named one of her teachers for denigrating her and wrote to her father “Dad, my name itself is a problem’.

While other types of humiliations have abounded based on caste, being a tribal or being transgender, these two cases of Payal and Fathima relate also to be part of subtle and overt dislike-hatred for Muslim community. This phenomenon is not present only in India but globally as it picked up after 9/11, 2001, when US media coined and popularized a phrase “Islamic Terrorism”. Surely terrorism is an all pervasive phenomenon where people from many religions have indulged in it for various reasons. There have been those belonging to Irish Republican Army, Buddhist Monks indulging in such activities in Sri Lanka, there has been LTTE, with Dhanu killing Rajiv Gandhi, but never was religion associated with terrorism till the WTC attack. This attack was most horrid killing nearly three thousand innocent people from across different countries and different religions.

Blame for this was put on Osama bin Laden-Al Qaeda. It is another matter that it was America which helped in bringing up of Al Qaeda, by funding it massively (eight thousand Million dollars and seven Thousand tons of armaments). Scholar Mahmud Mamdani in his book ‘Good Muslim Bad Muslim’, based on CIA documents gives the details of mechanism in which America operated to prop up Al Qaeda, how the syllabus of its indoctrination module was prepared in Washington. Later of course the US policies in the West Asia, policies aimed at controlling the oil wealth of West Asia led to the other dangerous fallouts of Al Qaeda, in the form of ISIS and IS. US Vice-President Hillary Clinton in a blunt statement did concede how Al Qaeda was propped up by US to fight the Russian armies in Afghanistan. She says, “Let’s remember here… the people we are fighting today we funded them twenty years ago

… Let’s go recruit these mujahedeen. “…importing their Wahabi brand of Islam so that we can go beat the Soviet Union.”

The roots of global Islamophobia lie in the American machinations. In India this came as an add on to the prevailing prejudices against Muslims. These prejudices part of ‘social common sense’ does have roots in the British introduced communal historiography, presented in a selective way. While the roots of these anti Muslim perceptions do lie in the British introduced syllabus, the proliferation of this took place through various mechanisms, the roots of which les in communal organizations particularly RSS, while Muslim League made its own contribution by adopting the historiography, which presented Muslims as the rulers. In RSS Shakhas the acts of Muslim kings in destroying Hindu temples and spreading Islam on the point of sword and selective stories of Aurangzeb form the base for indoctrinating young minds. This was supplemented by the chain of Sarswati Shishu Mandirs and many other acts, organizations floated for glorying Hindus and demonizing Muslims.

This demonization got a big boost in the decade of 1980s, when Rath Yatras were taken out to build Ram Temple. What was propagated was that Babar’s general Mir Baqui had destroyed the Ram Temple at the site of Lord Ram’s birth. The good part of the recent Supreme Court Judgment on the Babri Mosque is that as per SC there was a ‘non Islamic structure’ below the mosque. And As per the ASI report, there is no proof that it was a temple or that it was destroyed or that was a place of birth of the Lord Ram.

All this truth coming out is a bit too late in the day as by now the falsehoods spread against Muslims are a core part of understanding of most of the people in the society. So Fathima’s teacher or Payal Tadvi’s seniors are in a way no exception to their subtle signals about dislike for their Muslim students or junior Muslim-Tribal colleague.

The power of media in shaping people’s perceptions is infinite. The acme of the power of media was seen when US went on to attack Vietnam on the pretext that its liberation from colonialism is an attack on free World. Noam Chomsky rightly calls that US media ‘Manufactures consent’ for imperialist ambitions of US. Today while US media is most powerful in spreading the global Islamophobia, in India media during last two decades had caught up tremendously in following not only what US media has been spreading, but also the socially divisive propaganda generated by RSS organizations, which are working strongly from last many decades.

Can Fathima’s and Payal’s be saved from the humiliation, insinuations and the insults to which they are being subjected by their peers? It is quite likely that Payal and Fathima are the tip of the iceberg! Not much has been done to counter the hateful propagations done by the US media impacting global media and by Hindu nationalists’ machinations, here at home. The plight of Muslim community, which has to face the brunt of such prejudices and misconceptions are infinite. Can we raise ourselves to counter the false hoods against weaker sections of society, prevailing all around?  

Islamophobia: What’s Common between Payal Tadvi and Fathima Latif

Fathima lathima latif

Lately committing of suicide in higher places of learning has been in the news more often than before. Most of the victims belong to the dalits, Adivaisis in particular, while few others have also done so due to academic pressures. In case of Rohith Vemula, it was a case of caste discrimination and his activities as a Rohith was labeled as anti-national. Two other cases which stand out are that of Payal Tadvi, an aspiring gynecologist, and Fathima Lathif, who was pursuing her post graduation in IIT Madras. Tadvi was a Bhil Muslim, wife of Dr. Salman Tadvi, and she was harassed by her seniors, in day to day life. Fathima was a bright young student who was topping in most of the examinations and after joining IITM, she met with the stone wall of prejudice, where despite her caliber she was given poor score in ‘internal evaluation’. She named one of her teachers for denigrating her and wrote to her father “Dad, my name itself is a problem’.

While other types of humiliations have abounded based on caste, being a tribal or being transgender, these two cases of Payal and Fathima relate also to be part of subtle and overt dislike-hatred for Muslim community. This phenomenon is not present only in India but globally as it picked up after 9/11, 2001, when US media coined and popularized a phrase “Islamic Terrorism”. Surely terrorism is an all pervasive phenomenon where people from many religions have indulged in it for various reasons. There have been those belonging to Irish Republican Army, Buddhist Monks indulging in such activities in Sri Lanka, there has been LTTE, with Dhanu killing Rajiv Gandhi, but never was religion associated with terrorism till the WTC attack. This attack was most horrid killing nearly three thousand innocent people from across different countries and different religions.

Blame for this was put on Osama bin Laden-Al Qaeda. It is another matter that it was America which helped in bringing up of Al Qaeda, by funding it massively (eight thousand Million dollars and seven Thousand tons of armaments). Scholar Mahmud Mamdani in his book ‘Good Muslim Bad Muslim’, based on CIA documents gives the details of mechanism in which America operated to prop up Al Qaeda, how the syllabus of its indoctrination module was prepared in Washington. Later of course the US policies in the West Asia, policies aimed at controlling the oil wealth of West Asia led to the other dangerous fallouts of Al Qaeda, in the form of ISIS and IS. US Vice-President Hillary Clinton in a blunt statement did concede how Al Qaeda was propped up by US to fight the Russian armies in Afghanistan. She says, “Let’s remember here… the people we are fighting today we funded them twenty years ago

… Let’s go recruit these mujahedeen. “…importing their Wahabi brand of Islam so that we can go beat the Soviet Union.”

The roots of global Islamophobia lie in the American machinations. In India this came as an add on to the prevailing prejudices against Muslims. These prejudices part of ‘social common sense’ does have roots in the British introduced communal historiography, presented in a selective way. While the roots of these anti Muslim perceptions do lie in the British introduced syllabus, the proliferation of this took place through various mechanisms, the roots of which les in communal organizations particularly RSS, while Muslim League made its own contribution by adopting the historiography, which presented Muslims as the rulers. In RSS Shakhas the acts of Muslim kings in destroying Hindu temples and spreading Islam on the point of sword and selective stories of Aurangzeb form the base for indoctrinating young minds. This was supplemented by the chain of Sarswati Shishu Mandirs and many other acts, organizations floated for glorying Hindus and demonizing Muslims.

This demonization got a big boost in the decade of 1980s, when Rath Yatras were taken out to build Ram Temple. What was propagated was that Babar’s general Mir Baqui had destroyed the Ram Temple at the site of Lord Ram’s birth. The good part of the recent Supreme Court Judgment on the Babri Mosque is that as per SC there was a ‘non Islamic structure’ below the mosque. And As per the ASI report, there is no proof that it was a temple or that it was destroyed or that was a place of birth of the Lord Ram.

All this truth coming out is a bit too late in the day as by now the falsehoods spread against Muslims are a core part of understanding of most of the people in the society. So Fathima’s teacher or Payal Tadvi’s seniors are in a way no exception to their subtle signals about dislike for their Muslim students or junior Muslim-Tribal colleague.

The power of media in shaping people’s perceptions is infinite. The acme of the power of media was seen when US went on to attack Vietnam on the pretext that its liberation from colonialism is an attack on free World. Noam Chomsky rightly calls that US media ‘Manufactures consent’ for imperialist ambitions of US. Today while US media is most powerful in spreading the global Islamophobia, in India media during last two decades had caught up tremendously in following not only what US media has been spreading, but also the socially divisive propaganda generated by RSS organizations, which are working strongly from last many decades.

Can Fathima’s and Payal’s be saved from the humiliation, insinuations and the insults to which they are being subjected by their peers? It is quite likely that Payal and Fathima are the tip of the iceberg! Not much has been done to counter the hateful propagations done by the US media impacting global media and by Hindu nationalists’ machinations, here at home. The plight of Muslim community, which has to face the brunt of such prejudices and misconceptions are infinite. Can we raise ourselves to counter the false hoods against weaker sections of society, prevailing all around?  

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