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And now, Hathras-like horror in Delhi!

Rape, murder, hasty cremation of a 9-year-old Dalit girl, this time in a crematorium; where is the political, social outrage?

03 Aug 2021

Rape of 9 yr Dalit girlImage Courtesy:kmsnews.org

A heinous crime has been reported from New Delhi, the national capital, which is now under an enhanced security blanket as Independence Day draws near. Yet the lack of public and official uproar over the terrifying crime is deafening. On Sunday, August 1, a nine-year-old Dalit girl was allegedly raped, murdered and her body forcibly cremated by the alleged culprits, reportedly in a Delhi crematorium.

According to news reports, the Delhi Police have detained the crematorium priest in the case along with three others. A few Valmiki community members have bravely come out to protest the crime and demand justice for the victim and her family. According to a news report, the victim is from a poor family, and lived with her parents in Purana Nangal area near the Delhi Cantonment. She had reportedly gone to the crematorium on Sunday evening to get some drinking water for her family. According to reports the crematorium has a drinking water cooler from where she would collect water, however the little girl never returned home this time.

It has been reported that the “priest and his companions then told the girl's mother not to inform the police”, when the family went looking for her and discovered the horror. However the distraught mother and father raised an alarm alerting the locals who then called the police. The South West district police told the media that they received a call about the case around 10.30 P.M. The news was reported in brief late night, and gained prominence after handles of social and community organisations raised the issue. 

 

Delhi Government's Cabinet Minister Rajendra Pal Gautam who is an MLA from Seemapuri visited the area and assured help. However he reiterated that Delhi Police was under the Lt Governor and not the state government. 

It is noteworthy that Delhi Police’s Commissioner Rakesh Asthana, has recently assumed office, and this could well be one of the biggest cases the force has to solve after he assumed office. 

According to media reports, the accused reportedly told the girl’s parents that the child “died of electrocution” and pressured them not to inform the police. Nangal village where the crime took place is in the Delhi Cantonment area. According to media reports based on police statements the victim left home “at around 5:30 P.M on to get cold water from the water cooler at the crematorium but never returned”. India today reported further details saying, “At 6 P.M, the priest of the crematorium, Radhey Shyam, and 2-3 other persons known to the mother of minor girl called her to the crematorium and showed the girl's body, saying that she got electrocuted while drinking water from the water cooler, police said, adding that girl's mother said that there were injury marks on the her wrist and elbow and that her lips were blue.”

The horror of the case intensifies as a woman identified as the mother of the victim told journalist Meena Kotwal that the crematorium priest purpotdly admitted to committing the rape. “Pandit said ‘I have raped, I have done galat kaam’,” she can be heard in the video clip the journalist shared on social media. The distraught mother added that they tried to dismiss the matter there and there, and said that they should not go to the police. “They asked him [my husband] to sign a paper, they also asked me to sign, i said i am not literate and did not sign,” she said, adding, “They said go home but don't go crying and lamenting. It will result in Infamy”. The child was then cremated, allegedly forcefully, “They did not even ask for her Aadhaar number,” said the mother. A crucial point as city crematoriums usually ask relatives for the death certificate and the Aadhaar number of the deceased before they go ahead with the final rites.

That the case is yet to shake the core of the civil society, Delhi residents and the political silence around it is scary. It also brings alive the horrific memories of the Hathras gangrape case, reported in Sepetember 2020, where the victim, a Dalit girl, was also hastily cremated allegedly without the consent of the family. The allegations, counter allegations, and cases related to the Hathras ganrape, murder and cremation are ongoing. 

Related:

Hathras case: Victim’s family and lawyers threatened inside court premises
Gujarat: 16-year-old girl stabbed 32 times for refusing man’s marriage proposal
Woman set ablaze by man who had raped her two years ago

And now, Hathras-like horror in Delhi!

Rape, murder, hasty cremation of a 9-year-old Dalit girl, this time in a crematorium; where is the political, social outrage?

Rape of 9 yr Dalit girlImage Courtesy:kmsnews.org

A heinous crime has been reported from New Delhi, the national capital, which is now under an enhanced security blanket as Independence Day draws near. Yet the lack of public and official uproar over the terrifying crime is deafening. On Sunday, August 1, a nine-year-old Dalit girl was allegedly raped, murdered and her body forcibly cremated by the alleged culprits, reportedly in a Delhi crematorium.

According to news reports, the Delhi Police have detained the crematorium priest in the case along with three others. A few Valmiki community members have bravely come out to protest the crime and demand justice for the victim and her family. According to a news report, the victim is from a poor family, and lived with her parents in Purana Nangal area near the Delhi Cantonment. She had reportedly gone to the crematorium on Sunday evening to get some drinking water for her family. According to reports the crematorium has a drinking water cooler from where she would collect water, however the little girl never returned home this time.

It has been reported that the “priest and his companions then told the girl's mother not to inform the police”, when the family went looking for her and discovered the horror. However the distraught mother and father raised an alarm alerting the locals who then called the police. The South West district police told the media that they received a call about the case around 10.30 P.M. The news was reported in brief late night, and gained prominence after handles of social and community organisations raised the issue. 

 

Delhi Government's Cabinet Minister Rajendra Pal Gautam who is an MLA from Seemapuri visited the area and assured help. However he reiterated that Delhi Police was under the Lt Governor and not the state government. 

It is noteworthy that Delhi Police’s Commissioner Rakesh Asthana, has recently assumed office, and this could well be one of the biggest cases the force has to solve after he assumed office. 

According to media reports, the accused reportedly told the girl’s parents that the child “died of electrocution” and pressured them not to inform the police. Nangal village where the crime took place is in the Delhi Cantonment area. According to media reports based on police statements the victim left home “at around 5:30 P.M on to get cold water from the water cooler at the crematorium but never returned”. India today reported further details saying, “At 6 P.M, the priest of the crematorium, Radhey Shyam, and 2-3 other persons known to the mother of minor girl called her to the crematorium and showed the girl's body, saying that she got electrocuted while drinking water from the water cooler, police said, adding that girl's mother said that there were injury marks on the her wrist and elbow and that her lips were blue.”

The horror of the case intensifies as a woman identified as the mother of the victim told journalist Meena Kotwal that the crematorium priest purpotdly admitted to committing the rape. “Pandit said ‘I have raped, I have done galat kaam’,” she can be heard in the video clip the journalist shared on social media. The distraught mother added that they tried to dismiss the matter there and there, and said that they should not go to the police. “They asked him [my husband] to sign a paper, they also asked me to sign, i said i am not literate and did not sign,” she said, adding, “They said go home but don't go crying and lamenting. It will result in Infamy”. The child was then cremated, allegedly forcefully, “They did not even ask for her Aadhaar number,” said the mother. A crucial point as city crematoriums usually ask relatives for the death certificate and the Aadhaar number of the deceased before they go ahead with the final rites.

That the case is yet to shake the core of the civil society, Delhi residents and the political silence around it is scary. It also brings alive the horrific memories of the Hathras gangrape case, reported in Sepetember 2020, where the victim, a Dalit girl, was also hastily cremated allegedly without the consent of the family. The allegations, counter allegations, and cases related to the Hathras ganrape, murder and cremation are ongoing. 

Related:

Hathras case: Victim’s family and lawyers threatened inside court premises
Gujarat: 16-year-old girl stabbed 32 times for refusing man’s marriage proposal
Woman set ablaze by man who had raped her two years ago

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Kaimur Police firing: 15 Adivasi-activists get bail for lack of evidence

During a sit in protest for forests and lands, the Bihar Police open fired, lathi charged and even arrested some of them in 2020 and 2021

31 Jul 2021

Adivasi

A sessions court in Kaimur, Bihar has granted bail to 15 Adivasis protestors who had staged a peaceful sit-in protest demanding rights over forest land and resources last year in September.

The accused- Kailash Urawan, Mahendra Singh, Jawahar Singh, Ramlal Singh, Ramlayak Singh, Mohan Singh, Sunil Kumar, Fulmatiya Devi, Vijay Shankar Singh, Balkeshwar Singh, Parikha Singh, Rupnarayan Ram, Lal Bihari Singh, Dinanath Singh and Mehaki Devi were arrested and made to spend 2 weeks in jail.

They were booked under sections 147 (punishment for rioting), 148 (Rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 149 (unlawful assembly), 323 (Punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 307 (attempt to murder), 353 (Assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 332 (Voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty), 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 427 (Mischief causing damage to the amount of fifty rupees), 342 (Punishment for wrongful confinement.) of the Indian Penal Code and section 27 (use of arms or ammunition) of the Arms Act.

The State’s allegations

The additional public prosecutor argued that the allegations were serious in nature and eight policemen have received injuries in the hurling of brick bats by the mob which included the 15 Adivasi protestors. He further contended that some circumstances where policemen are not seriously injured, should also not be taken lightly as it directly affects the “maintenance of law and order by the police and leniency will send a wrong message to the society that law breakers can take on the police with impunity.”

The Station House Officer at the Adhaura Police Station had recorded that on September 10, 2020, the members of an organisation Kaimur Mukti Morcha (KMM) had organised a two days sit-in protest in the proximity of Adhaura Block Head Office “without any permission in which they locked the block office and the exit of office of Forest Department illegally which was force opened with the help of police force.”

On September 11, some KMM members blocked the main and branch road, sat there and made provocative speeches on a loudspeaker. 400-500 men and women were participating in this sit-in demonstration. The proceedings were going on peacefully but, in the afternoon, the mob entered the block office and ransacked it which was prevented by the use of force. The Police alleged that the protestors locked the main gate of the block office which was broken open by the police later.

Thereafter, this alleged unruly crowd ran towards the office of Forest Department, entered the barrack and damaged the computer set, photocopy machine, table, chair, Almirah and many official documents, patrolling vehicle and the doors of the range office. The police and forest officers present tried to exhort them but to no avail, the prosecutor alleged. Further, the protesters were accused of setting these premises on fire and hurling brick bats on the police and forest officials. To disperse the mob, the prosecutor argued that the police resorted to use of ‘mild force’ and also fired in the air to defend themselves but the mob kept on hurling brick bats in which six police persons and two personnel of the forest department received injuries. Close to 30 people were identified as being part of the mob, including the 15 activists.

Court finds no evidence

The Additional Sessions Judge, however, found no merit in the State’s case. The court found that in the case diary, no specific role has been assigned to them nor it is mentioned in what manner they had participated in the occurrence. The order also read, “The period during which the petitioners could have been taken for interrogation in police remand is over and no TIP (test identification parade) of them has been conducted despite them being in custody for more than 15 days. In my opinion their continued custody will not serve any purpose. Further, from the material available on the record so far, no case for offence u/s 307, 333 of IPC is being made out against the petitioners even if they have been made accused by resorting to section 149 IPC as the injuries on the persons of the injured are simple and generally on non-vital part of the body. The case of these petitioners stands on similar footing to the accused who have already been granted regular bail by this court.”

The accused here are- Seepahi Singh, age 65 years from Goiyan, Dharmender Singh, age 25 years from Bardihya, Pappu Paswan, age 23 years from Jharpa, Lallan Singh Kharwa, age 45 years from Baraap, Kailash Singh, age 62 from Bardiha, Ram Shakal Singh Kharwar, age 52 years from Goiyan and Haricharan Singh, age 65 from Sarainar who were granted bail on October 16, as per the fact-finding report co-published by CJP, along with All India Union of Forest Working People and the Delhi Solidarity Group.

Fact-finding report contravenes the State’s accusations

CJP, SabrangIndia’s sister publication, has co-published a fact-finding report with All India Union of Forest Working People and the Delhi Solidarity Group on this incident. The teams of AIUFWP and DSG visited the Adhaura Block, Kaimur District of Bihar from September 23 to 27, 2020. The entire report may be read here:

What came to light was that some seven activists were not just fired upon and injured in the firing and lathi-charged but were also picked up by the police on trumped up charges. On October 16, all seven were released on bail. Two days later, in response to the ‘boycott election call’ given by the Kaimur Mukti Morcha (KMM), an organisation formed in the 1990s to democratically struggle for the land rights of the people of Kaimur, political heavyweights including the central minister of state for home, Nityanand Rai, air dropped into the far reaches of Kaimur, pleading with the protesters to lift the boycott call.

The protest had started on September 10, where thousands of Adivasis including women, men, youths and children from 108 villages of Adhaura Block mobilised themselves in front of the forest department office at Adhaura. They were demanding for the implementation of Forest Rights Act 2006 and Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996. They were also demanding to declare Kaimur as a Scheduled area as per the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution Panchayats, implement the Chota Nagpur Tenancy Act and abolish the proposed Kaimur Forest Wildlife Sanctuary and Tiger Reserve.

Since there was no response from the administration, their protest continued. When the delegated representatives went inside the forest department office to negotiate some dialogue, they were abused and man-handled by officials and later on, and quite suddenly, more police poured in, along with CRPF personnel, and unleased a brutal assault on the Adivasi demonstrators. The police opened fire and lathi-charged the protesters.

On September 12, Kaimur Mukti Morcha’s office in Adhaura was ransacked by the police. Dozens of activists affiliated with Kaimur Mukti Morcha were arrested on false charges by the police, but were granted bail on October 16.

CJP-AIUFWP’s complaint to NHRC

On September 30, CJP and AIUFWP had complained to the Human Rights Commission (NHRC) about this brutal incident. The complaint had pointed out how the protestors had asked prior permission for the protests, something that the State has alleged was not done.

A letter dated September 13, 2020 was addressed to Shri Manoj Jha, member of Rajya Sabha in India Parliament in relation to the firing at Adivasis at the protest in Kaimur, Bihar on September 11, 2020 by AIUFWP. The same letter mentions the aforementioned incidents and also that activists of Kaimur Mukti Morcha had circulated ten thousand pamphlets informing the villagers, Gram Sabha, Police and Forest Department about the protests of September 10 and 11, 2020 one month prior to fight for their rights. Another letter dated September 15, 2020 was addressed to the Director General of Police, Patna Bihar in relation to the firing at Kaimur Activists and forest dwellers by the AIUFWP on the same issues. Both letters attached the copy of the pamphlet that was circulated to inform people about the protests. The pamphlets call for unity against the fight for their rights to water, forest and land. The entire complaint may be read here:

The bail order dated July 28 may be read here:

Related:

CJP-AIUFWP move NHRC against firing on peaceful Adivasi protesters in Kaimur
Kaimur Firing: Fact-finding report released

Kaimur Police firing: 15 Adivasi-activists get bail for lack of evidence

During a sit in protest for forests and lands, the Bihar Police open fired, lathi charged and even arrested some of them in 2020 and 2021

Adivasi

A sessions court in Kaimur, Bihar has granted bail to 15 Adivasis protestors who had staged a peaceful sit-in protest demanding rights over forest land and resources last year in September.

The accused- Kailash Urawan, Mahendra Singh, Jawahar Singh, Ramlal Singh, Ramlayak Singh, Mohan Singh, Sunil Kumar, Fulmatiya Devi, Vijay Shankar Singh, Balkeshwar Singh, Parikha Singh, Rupnarayan Ram, Lal Bihari Singh, Dinanath Singh and Mehaki Devi were arrested and made to spend 2 weeks in jail.

They were booked under sections 147 (punishment for rioting), 148 (Rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 149 (unlawful assembly), 323 (Punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 307 (attempt to murder), 353 (Assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 332 (Voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty), 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 427 (Mischief causing damage to the amount of fifty rupees), 342 (Punishment for wrongful confinement.) of the Indian Penal Code and section 27 (use of arms or ammunition) of the Arms Act.

The State’s allegations

The additional public prosecutor argued that the allegations were serious in nature and eight policemen have received injuries in the hurling of brick bats by the mob which included the 15 Adivasi protestors. He further contended that some circumstances where policemen are not seriously injured, should also not be taken lightly as it directly affects the “maintenance of law and order by the police and leniency will send a wrong message to the society that law breakers can take on the police with impunity.”

The Station House Officer at the Adhaura Police Station had recorded that on September 10, 2020, the members of an organisation Kaimur Mukti Morcha (KMM) had organised a two days sit-in protest in the proximity of Adhaura Block Head Office “without any permission in which they locked the block office and the exit of office of Forest Department illegally which was force opened with the help of police force.”

On September 11, some KMM members blocked the main and branch road, sat there and made provocative speeches on a loudspeaker. 400-500 men and women were participating in this sit-in demonstration. The proceedings were going on peacefully but, in the afternoon, the mob entered the block office and ransacked it which was prevented by the use of force. The Police alleged that the protestors locked the main gate of the block office which was broken open by the police later.

Thereafter, this alleged unruly crowd ran towards the office of Forest Department, entered the barrack and damaged the computer set, photocopy machine, table, chair, Almirah and many official documents, patrolling vehicle and the doors of the range office. The police and forest officers present tried to exhort them but to no avail, the prosecutor alleged. Further, the protesters were accused of setting these premises on fire and hurling brick bats on the police and forest officials. To disperse the mob, the prosecutor argued that the police resorted to use of ‘mild force’ and also fired in the air to defend themselves but the mob kept on hurling brick bats in which six police persons and two personnel of the forest department received injuries. Close to 30 people were identified as being part of the mob, including the 15 activists.

Court finds no evidence

The Additional Sessions Judge, however, found no merit in the State’s case. The court found that in the case diary, no specific role has been assigned to them nor it is mentioned in what manner they had participated in the occurrence. The order also read, “The period during which the petitioners could have been taken for interrogation in police remand is over and no TIP (test identification parade) of them has been conducted despite them being in custody for more than 15 days. In my opinion their continued custody will not serve any purpose. Further, from the material available on the record so far, no case for offence u/s 307, 333 of IPC is being made out against the petitioners even if they have been made accused by resorting to section 149 IPC as the injuries on the persons of the injured are simple and generally on non-vital part of the body. The case of these petitioners stands on similar footing to the accused who have already been granted regular bail by this court.”

The accused here are- Seepahi Singh, age 65 years from Goiyan, Dharmender Singh, age 25 years from Bardihya, Pappu Paswan, age 23 years from Jharpa, Lallan Singh Kharwa, age 45 years from Baraap, Kailash Singh, age 62 from Bardiha, Ram Shakal Singh Kharwar, age 52 years from Goiyan and Haricharan Singh, age 65 from Sarainar who were granted bail on October 16, as per the fact-finding report co-published by CJP, along with All India Union of Forest Working People and the Delhi Solidarity Group.

Fact-finding report contravenes the State’s accusations

CJP, SabrangIndia’s sister publication, has co-published a fact-finding report with All India Union of Forest Working People and the Delhi Solidarity Group on this incident. The teams of AIUFWP and DSG visited the Adhaura Block, Kaimur District of Bihar from September 23 to 27, 2020. The entire report may be read here:

What came to light was that some seven activists were not just fired upon and injured in the firing and lathi-charged but were also picked up by the police on trumped up charges. On October 16, all seven were released on bail. Two days later, in response to the ‘boycott election call’ given by the Kaimur Mukti Morcha (KMM), an organisation formed in the 1990s to democratically struggle for the land rights of the people of Kaimur, political heavyweights including the central minister of state for home, Nityanand Rai, air dropped into the far reaches of Kaimur, pleading with the protesters to lift the boycott call.

The protest had started on September 10, where thousands of Adivasis including women, men, youths and children from 108 villages of Adhaura Block mobilised themselves in front of the forest department office at Adhaura. They were demanding for the implementation of Forest Rights Act 2006 and Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996. They were also demanding to declare Kaimur as a Scheduled area as per the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution Panchayats, implement the Chota Nagpur Tenancy Act and abolish the proposed Kaimur Forest Wildlife Sanctuary and Tiger Reserve.

Since there was no response from the administration, their protest continued. When the delegated representatives went inside the forest department office to negotiate some dialogue, they were abused and man-handled by officials and later on, and quite suddenly, more police poured in, along with CRPF personnel, and unleased a brutal assault on the Adivasi demonstrators. The police opened fire and lathi-charged the protesters.

On September 12, Kaimur Mukti Morcha’s office in Adhaura was ransacked by the police. Dozens of activists affiliated with Kaimur Mukti Morcha were arrested on false charges by the police, but were granted bail on October 16.

CJP-AIUFWP’s complaint to NHRC

On September 30, CJP and AIUFWP had complained to the Human Rights Commission (NHRC) about this brutal incident. The complaint had pointed out how the protestors had asked prior permission for the protests, something that the State has alleged was not done.

A letter dated September 13, 2020 was addressed to Shri Manoj Jha, member of Rajya Sabha in India Parliament in relation to the firing at Adivasis at the protest in Kaimur, Bihar on September 11, 2020 by AIUFWP. The same letter mentions the aforementioned incidents and also that activists of Kaimur Mukti Morcha had circulated ten thousand pamphlets informing the villagers, Gram Sabha, Police and Forest Department about the protests of September 10 and 11, 2020 one month prior to fight for their rights. Another letter dated September 15, 2020 was addressed to the Director General of Police, Patna Bihar in relation to the firing at Kaimur Activists and forest dwellers by the AIUFWP on the same issues. Both letters attached the copy of the pamphlet that was circulated to inform people about the protests. The pamphlets call for unity against the fight for their rights to water, forest and land. The entire complaint may be read here:

The bail order dated July 28 may be read here:

Related:

CJP-AIUFWP move NHRC against firing on peaceful Adivasi protesters in Kaimur
Kaimur Firing: Fact-finding report released

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Two ministries and India’s traditional forest dwellers, Adivasis

The controversial amendments to the EPA 2020 and two recent notifications could mean that the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF) is seeking to control the autonomy over land and rights that the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MOTA) was given in 2006

31 Jul 2021

Enviornment ministryImage Courtesy:adivasiresurgence.com

On June 22, 2021, the environment ministry invited consultancy organisations to express interest in preparing a draft comprehensive amendment to the draconian and colonial Indian Forest Act 1927. The government has used this draconian law of colonial origin to weaponise the forest department and control land and produce actually devolved to traditional forest dwellers under the Forest Rights Act of 2006.

This announcement comes after unsuccessful attempts to push through an amendment to this Act in 2019. The announcement may be read here.

In March 2019, it was the same ministry that circulated a draft amendment to the Indian Forest Act 1927, to overhaul the 1927 version. This had invited widespread protests and sharp criticisms. These controversial amendments included provisions that allowed the officers of the forest department to shoot anyone in the name of forest protection, with little threat of criminal action. They could even terminate the forest rights of any forest-dwellers by paying them a paltry sum of money (section 22A (2), 30(b)). Forest officials could also raid and arrest without warrants and confiscate the property of any forest-dweller. If the forest department accused anyone of possessing any illegal objects, the accused would have to prove their innocence, not the accuser. The proposed amendments may be read here.

If this draft had become law, it would have ended the rule of law in India’s forests and turned them into grim battlefields. It would have deviously overridden the Forest Rights Act 2006 (FRA), a law enacted after a century and a half long battle of indigenous peoples of the country.

Prakash Javadekar, the then environment minister, was quick disowned this draft in November 2020, in the face of widespread criticism. With an eye on that, Javadekar said, “We are completely withdrawing the draft amendment to the Indian Forest Act to remove any misgivings; the tribal rights will be protected fully and they will continue to be the important stakeholder in forest development.” Jawdekar’s statrement may be read here

It was then that the onus on drafting the changes was passed from government and its bureaucrats to private companies. The FRA 2006 recognises all conceivable forest rights except hunting, whether listed in the law. These pertain to the rights of individuals and the community and territorial rights of habitations. It effectively shifted the authority to protect forests, wildlife and biodiversity from the forest department to the gram sabha of these habitations. The law was enacted because “forest rights on ancestral lands and their habitat were not adequately recognised in the consolidation of State forests during the colonial period as well as in independent India resulting in historical injustice”.

Eighteen years before in a significant policy shift, the National Forest Policy, 1988 –in tune with national and international evolving understanding around forest conservation and the rights of India’s indigenous peoples-- also recognised “the symbiotic relationship between the tribal people and forests”. Then, the passage of the FRA gave fuller expression to this goal.

It was under the NDA II government, with its inherent policy to transfer public resources to private capital that the central environment ministry, in March 2018, released the draft National Forest Policy as a replacement of the 1988 document. This draft completely ignored the FRA and its gram sabha-based governance structures. It brazenly promoted commercial plantation-centric investments that sought to manage forests through private entities, under the rubric of private-public participation. The aim was to increase tree cover and productivity to meet industrial and other needs – at the cost of negating the fact that more than half of India’s forests are currently within the jurisdiction of gram sabhas. This draft policy may be read here

It was several months and several protests before the tribal ministry responded. In June 2018, the tribal affairs secretary wrote to the environment secretary that the environment ministry doesn’t have “exclusive jurisdiction” to frame policies related to forests. In actual fact, 12 years before, on March 17, 2006, “all matters, including legislation, relating to the rights of forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes on forest lands” had been carved out from the subject of forests from the environment ministry, and transferred to the tribal affairs ministry’s jurisdiction through an amendment to the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules 1961.

These may be read here. This put an end to the environment ministry’s perceived monopoly over forests. MOTA is on record saying that the draft National Forest Policy 2018 “disregarded the traditional custodians and conservatives of the forests, namely, tribals” and that it gave “a thrust to increased privatisation, industrialisation and diversion of forest resources for commercialisation”. What is to follow now is a fresh confrontation between the MoEF and MOTA as can be gleaned in the New Forest Policy (2020), not public yet.

A recent joint communication by the tribal and environment ministries signed a ‘Joint communication for more effective implementation of the Forest Rights Act’ on July 6, 2021. This is what former environment minister Javadekar called this “a paradigm shift from one of working in silos to achieving convergence between ministries and departments”. Apparently, the result of discussions between the two ministries since August 2020, the ‘joint communication’ said that, henceforth, “both ministries may take a collective view on the matter including issuing joint clarification, guidelines, etc.”

However, all matters relating to forest rights on forest land are today under the tribal ministry. It is in fact the nodal ministry for FRA implementation. And it has asked frontline forest staff to assist the gram sabhas with preparing conservation and management plans for the forests under their respective jurisdictions. They are to “integrate such conservation and management plans with the micro plans or working plans or management plans of the forest department”. This is contrary to the law. Gram sabhas have a free hand to make their own plans and also “to modify the micro plan or working plan or management plan of the forest department”.

State governments have also been asked “to give suitable instructions” to the gram sabhas to harness the joint forest management committees to protect and manage forests. These are admittedly entities under the control of the forest department – but ultimately the gram sabhas have the authority to “protect the wildlife, forest and biodiversity”.

Taken together, the tribal affairs ministry has asked the forest bureaucracy to take control of FRA implementation at all levels – again contrary to the law. India’s traditional forest dwellers and Adivasis are closely observing what the environment ministry will do next, and how the tribal affairs ministry will respond.

Related:

Compendium of Judgments on the Forest Rights Act, 2006 (June 15, 2016)
Counter Affidavit filed by MoTa in support of tribal rights in the FRA

Two ministries and India’s traditional forest dwellers, Adivasis

The controversial amendments to the EPA 2020 and two recent notifications could mean that the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF) is seeking to control the autonomy over land and rights that the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MOTA) was given in 2006

Enviornment ministryImage Courtesy:adivasiresurgence.com

On June 22, 2021, the environment ministry invited consultancy organisations to express interest in preparing a draft comprehensive amendment to the draconian and colonial Indian Forest Act 1927. The government has used this draconian law of colonial origin to weaponise the forest department and control land and produce actually devolved to traditional forest dwellers under the Forest Rights Act of 2006.

This announcement comes after unsuccessful attempts to push through an amendment to this Act in 2019. The announcement may be read here.

In March 2019, it was the same ministry that circulated a draft amendment to the Indian Forest Act 1927, to overhaul the 1927 version. This had invited widespread protests and sharp criticisms. These controversial amendments included provisions that allowed the officers of the forest department to shoot anyone in the name of forest protection, with little threat of criminal action. They could even terminate the forest rights of any forest-dwellers by paying them a paltry sum of money (section 22A (2), 30(b)). Forest officials could also raid and arrest without warrants and confiscate the property of any forest-dweller. If the forest department accused anyone of possessing any illegal objects, the accused would have to prove their innocence, not the accuser. The proposed amendments may be read here.

If this draft had become law, it would have ended the rule of law in India’s forests and turned them into grim battlefields. It would have deviously overridden the Forest Rights Act 2006 (FRA), a law enacted after a century and a half long battle of indigenous peoples of the country.

Prakash Javadekar, the then environment minister, was quick disowned this draft in November 2020, in the face of widespread criticism. With an eye on that, Javadekar said, “We are completely withdrawing the draft amendment to the Indian Forest Act to remove any misgivings; the tribal rights will be protected fully and they will continue to be the important stakeholder in forest development.” Jawdekar’s statrement may be read here

It was then that the onus on drafting the changes was passed from government and its bureaucrats to private companies. The FRA 2006 recognises all conceivable forest rights except hunting, whether listed in the law. These pertain to the rights of individuals and the community and territorial rights of habitations. It effectively shifted the authority to protect forests, wildlife and biodiversity from the forest department to the gram sabha of these habitations. The law was enacted because “forest rights on ancestral lands and their habitat were not adequately recognised in the consolidation of State forests during the colonial period as well as in independent India resulting in historical injustice”.

Eighteen years before in a significant policy shift, the National Forest Policy, 1988 –in tune with national and international evolving understanding around forest conservation and the rights of India’s indigenous peoples-- also recognised “the symbiotic relationship between the tribal people and forests”. Then, the passage of the FRA gave fuller expression to this goal.

It was under the NDA II government, with its inherent policy to transfer public resources to private capital that the central environment ministry, in March 2018, released the draft National Forest Policy as a replacement of the 1988 document. This draft completely ignored the FRA and its gram sabha-based governance structures. It brazenly promoted commercial plantation-centric investments that sought to manage forests through private entities, under the rubric of private-public participation. The aim was to increase tree cover and productivity to meet industrial and other needs – at the cost of negating the fact that more than half of India’s forests are currently within the jurisdiction of gram sabhas. This draft policy may be read here

It was several months and several protests before the tribal ministry responded. In June 2018, the tribal affairs secretary wrote to the environment secretary that the environment ministry doesn’t have “exclusive jurisdiction” to frame policies related to forests. In actual fact, 12 years before, on March 17, 2006, “all matters, including legislation, relating to the rights of forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes on forest lands” had been carved out from the subject of forests from the environment ministry, and transferred to the tribal affairs ministry’s jurisdiction through an amendment to the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules 1961.

These may be read here. This put an end to the environment ministry’s perceived monopoly over forests. MOTA is on record saying that the draft National Forest Policy 2018 “disregarded the traditional custodians and conservatives of the forests, namely, tribals” and that it gave “a thrust to increased privatisation, industrialisation and diversion of forest resources for commercialisation”. What is to follow now is a fresh confrontation between the MoEF and MOTA as can be gleaned in the New Forest Policy (2020), not public yet.

A recent joint communication by the tribal and environment ministries signed a ‘Joint communication for more effective implementation of the Forest Rights Act’ on July 6, 2021. This is what former environment minister Javadekar called this “a paradigm shift from one of working in silos to achieving convergence between ministries and departments”. Apparently, the result of discussions between the two ministries since August 2020, the ‘joint communication’ said that, henceforth, “both ministries may take a collective view on the matter including issuing joint clarification, guidelines, etc.”

However, all matters relating to forest rights on forest land are today under the tribal ministry. It is in fact the nodal ministry for FRA implementation. And it has asked frontline forest staff to assist the gram sabhas with preparing conservation and management plans for the forests under their respective jurisdictions. They are to “integrate such conservation and management plans with the micro plans or working plans or management plans of the forest department”. This is contrary to the law. Gram sabhas have a free hand to make their own plans and also “to modify the micro plan or working plan or management plan of the forest department”.

State governments have also been asked “to give suitable instructions” to the gram sabhas to harness the joint forest management committees to protect and manage forests. These are admittedly entities under the control of the forest department – but ultimately the gram sabhas have the authority to “protect the wildlife, forest and biodiversity”.

Taken together, the tribal affairs ministry has asked the forest bureaucracy to take control of FRA implementation at all levels – again contrary to the law. India’s traditional forest dwellers and Adivasis are closely observing what the environment ministry will do next, and how the tribal affairs ministry will respond.

Related:

Compendium of Judgments on the Forest Rights Act, 2006 (June 15, 2016)
Counter Affidavit filed by MoTa in support of tribal rights in the FRA

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No eviction of tribals without settlement of land claims: J. Arun Mishra (retd.)

In February 2019, as a judge in the SC, J Mishra had first ordered the eviction of tribals and forest dwellers, but stayed operation of the order soon thereafter

30 Jul 2021

AdivasiImage Courtesy:thehindubusinessline.com

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Chairperson Justice (retired) Arun Mishra has said that no Adivasi/tribal should be evicted without the settlement of his/her claim related to land rights, while chairing a webinar organised by the Commission with Human Rights Defenders and Civil Societies on human rights issues.

Another suggestion that he gave during the webinar held on July 29, was that the rehabilitation of displaced people due to development projects should be fully drawn out before the implementation of the project which should not merely include financial support.

It is noteworthy, that the same judge had delivered the controversial order (W.P Civ. 109 of 2008) on February 13, 2019, ordering for the eviction of over 11 lakh tribals and forest dwelling communities across several all states. The Bench which also consisted of Justices Navin Sinha and Indira Banerjee of the Supreme Court, had asked the authorities of 21 states to give affidavits explaining why evictions, wherever ordered, had not taken place.

The apex court had also asked some states to pass orders for eviction wherever the rejection of claims under the Forest Rights Act had taken place. The strongly worded order read, “In case the eviction is not carried out, as aforesaid, the matter would be viewed seriously by this Court.” The court had directed that the evictions must be carried out by July, and also directed the Dehradun-based Forest Survey of India (FSI) to submit a satellite image-based report once the “encroachments” are removed.

But this order was stayed on February 28, 2019, after huge condemnation by Adivasi and forest dwellers’ movements, and forest rights activists. In its order, Justice Arun Mishra said, “At the present juncture there is likelihood of traditional Tribals being affected whose claims have been rejected. At the same time the question which is also of significance and which cannot be ignored and overlooked is that in the guise of and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFDs), the land is not in occupied by mighty people, industrialists and other persons who are not belonging to the aforesaid category. Let the State Governments also point out the category wise details of such incumbents who have been occupying these areas belonging to Scheduled Tribe category and OTFD category and such persons who cannot be treated as Tribals….However, till we examine all aforesaid aspects, we keep our order dated 13.02.2019 on hold so far as eviction is concerned.”

Even though the Bench stayed the exercise of the order, the fate of lakhs of tribals and forest dwelling communities remains uncertain due to such pronouncements.

CJP’s role

In August 2019, in response to the Supreme Court’s eviction order and subsequent stay, Adivasi human rights defenders Sokalo Gond and Nivada Rana had intervened in the same matter, backed by Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) along with All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP). The intervention plea explained how the law is in statutory line with Schedules V (administration and control of Scheduled Areas), VI (administration of tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram), and IX (contains a list of central and state laws which cannot be challenged in courts) of the Constitution. 

Justice Arun Mishra’s order had triggered around 19 intervention applications, including this one that was successfully admitted by the Supreme Court in September, 2019. The two organisations have been actively campaigning for forest rights and Adivasis, who are subject to government apathy. Recently, CJP along with AIUFWP and Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS), organised an online press conference providing a platform to the Adivasi villagers of Madhya Pradesh’s Negaon-Jamniya village, who have had their houses destroyed and property looted by a mob. They were illegally evicted and had their homes demolished by a mob of people from neighbouring villages who appeared to operate with the blessings of the Forest Department and police officials present on the spot.

Even though Justice (retired) Mishra has now opined that traditional forest dwellers and Adivasis must not be evicted without settlement of their claims, and added emphasis on the need of more foundational rehabilitation plans, his ideas certainly do not align with his previous orders as a serving judge of the Supreme Court.

On August 31, 2020, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, also headed by him, had ordered the removal of nearly 48,000 slum dwellings around the 140-km of railway tracks in Delhi within three months with no “interference”, political or otherwise. (MC Mehta vs Union of India 1985).

This was in direct contravention of the landmark judgment in Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation (1985) that held that the right to shelter and livelihood is a facet of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The judgment in Olga Tellis was delivered by a five-judge bench, which the three-judge should have ought to follow but did not. In addition to this, the order did not provide details of alternative rehabilitation, etc and was passed in the middle of a pandemic against the most disadvantaged.

Related:

Breaking: All Intervention Applications defending FRA, 2006 admitted by SC
Sokalo Gond and Nivada Rana lead the campaign for Forest Rights in SC
Gov’t doesn’t really care about us: Forcibly evicted Khandwa Adivasis
NHRC chairmanship contender Justice Arun Mishra's legacy

No eviction of tribals without settlement of land claims: J. Arun Mishra (retd.)

In February 2019, as a judge in the SC, J Mishra had first ordered the eviction of tribals and forest dwellers, but stayed operation of the order soon thereafter

AdivasiImage Courtesy:thehindubusinessline.com

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Chairperson Justice (retired) Arun Mishra has said that no Adivasi/tribal should be evicted without the settlement of his/her claim related to land rights, while chairing a webinar organised by the Commission with Human Rights Defenders and Civil Societies on human rights issues.

Another suggestion that he gave during the webinar held on July 29, was that the rehabilitation of displaced people due to development projects should be fully drawn out before the implementation of the project which should not merely include financial support.

It is noteworthy, that the same judge had delivered the controversial order (W.P Civ. 109 of 2008) on February 13, 2019, ordering for the eviction of over 11 lakh tribals and forest dwelling communities across several all states. The Bench which also consisted of Justices Navin Sinha and Indira Banerjee of the Supreme Court, had asked the authorities of 21 states to give affidavits explaining why evictions, wherever ordered, had not taken place.

The apex court had also asked some states to pass orders for eviction wherever the rejection of claims under the Forest Rights Act had taken place. The strongly worded order read, “In case the eviction is not carried out, as aforesaid, the matter would be viewed seriously by this Court.” The court had directed that the evictions must be carried out by July, and also directed the Dehradun-based Forest Survey of India (FSI) to submit a satellite image-based report once the “encroachments” are removed.

But this order was stayed on February 28, 2019, after huge condemnation by Adivasi and forest dwellers’ movements, and forest rights activists. In its order, Justice Arun Mishra said, “At the present juncture there is likelihood of traditional Tribals being affected whose claims have been rejected. At the same time the question which is also of significance and which cannot be ignored and overlooked is that in the guise of and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFDs), the land is not in occupied by mighty people, industrialists and other persons who are not belonging to the aforesaid category. Let the State Governments also point out the category wise details of such incumbents who have been occupying these areas belonging to Scheduled Tribe category and OTFD category and such persons who cannot be treated as Tribals….However, till we examine all aforesaid aspects, we keep our order dated 13.02.2019 on hold so far as eviction is concerned.”

Even though the Bench stayed the exercise of the order, the fate of lakhs of tribals and forest dwelling communities remains uncertain due to such pronouncements.

CJP’s role

In August 2019, in response to the Supreme Court’s eviction order and subsequent stay, Adivasi human rights defenders Sokalo Gond and Nivada Rana had intervened in the same matter, backed by Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) along with All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP). The intervention plea explained how the law is in statutory line with Schedules V (administration and control of Scheduled Areas), VI (administration of tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram), and IX (contains a list of central and state laws which cannot be challenged in courts) of the Constitution. 

Justice Arun Mishra’s order had triggered around 19 intervention applications, including this one that was successfully admitted by the Supreme Court in September, 2019. The two organisations have been actively campaigning for forest rights and Adivasis, who are subject to government apathy. Recently, CJP along with AIUFWP and Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS), organised an online press conference providing a platform to the Adivasi villagers of Madhya Pradesh’s Negaon-Jamniya village, who have had their houses destroyed and property looted by a mob. They were illegally evicted and had their homes demolished by a mob of people from neighbouring villages who appeared to operate with the blessings of the Forest Department and police officials present on the spot.

Even though Justice (retired) Mishra has now opined that traditional forest dwellers and Adivasis must not be evicted without settlement of their claims, and added emphasis on the need of more foundational rehabilitation plans, his ideas certainly do not align with his previous orders as a serving judge of the Supreme Court.

On August 31, 2020, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, also headed by him, had ordered the removal of nearly 48,000 slum dwellings around the 140-km of railway tracks in Delhi within three months with no “interference”, political or otherwise. (MC Mehta vs Union of India 1985).

This was in direct contravention of the landmark judgment in Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation (1985) that held that the right to shelter and livelihood is a facet of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The judgment in Olga Tellis was delivered by a five-judge bench, which the three-judge should have ought to follow but did not. In addition to this, the order did not provide details of alternative rehabilitation, etc and was passed in the middle of a pandemic against the most disadvantaged.

Related:

Breaking: All Intervention Applications defending FRA, 2006 admitted by SC
Sokalo Gond and Nivada Rana lead the campaign for Forest Rights in SC
Gov’t doesn’t really care about us: Forcibly evicted Khandwa Adivasis
NHRC chairmanship contender Justice Arun Mishra's legacy

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Forcibly evicted Khandwa Adivasis decry government apathy

At a press conference co-organised by JADS, CJP and AIUFWP, Adivasis of the region have revealed that they have been facing harassment and institutional oppression since as far back as 2005!

27 Jul 2021

Khandwa Adivasi

After watching a rampaging mob destroy their homes and loot their property on July 10, even as Forest Department and Police officials deployed at the spot stood by, Adivasi villagers of Madhya Pradesh’s Negaon-Jamniya village are now demanding justice. They shared their heart rending stories at an online press conference co-organised by Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS), Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), and the All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP).

JADS members such as Madhuri Behn, Antaram Awase, Ashabai Solanki, Ratan Alawe and residents of Negaon-Jamniya village gathered on Monday to recount the illegal eviction and demolition of their homes, by a mob of people from neighbouring villages who appeared to operate with the blessings of the Forest Department and police officials present on the spot.

“That day, there were more villagers than official personnel. We have already heard claims that forest officials trained villagers for the attack around five days before the incident,” said Alawe.

Villagers say that 40 families comprising a total of 212 people, including at least 60 children were left with shelter amidst the rainy season with the Covid-19 pandemic raging unabated. Now, they are forced to live in makeshift tents, often just a piece of tarp strung to two tree branches… hardly any protection from the rain.

212 लोग हैं हमारे। पानी में, परशानी में, बच्चों को सुला देते हैं धरती पे। खटिया भी चली गई। कुछ सामान नहीं बचा हमारे पास। पन्नी लगा के रह रहे हैं अभी।

- नेगाओं - जामनिया रहवासी

One of the women recounted how she saw an army of villagers approaching their houses in the morning. People did not have the time to save their belongings, their food or even themselves. Stones were pelted at the villagers, who fled in different directions. Due to this, the next two days were spent desperately hunting for a child who was lost in the confusion.

सुबाह एकदम से पूरी फौज बन के आई और पत्थर फेकने लगे। हम भागे और सब अलग हो गए। एक बच्चा गुम हो गया। दो दिन में मिला। धुंड-धुंड के, रो के परशन हो गए। ऐसे हमें भगाया इन लोगों ने।

- नेगाओं - जामनिया रहवासी

Another woman recalled how her husband was forcibly taken away when he tried to reason with the goons.

हमारा आदमी जब उससे बात करने गया तो उसको जबरन उठा लिया। हमने बात करने की कोशिश ही नहीं की। जब हमें फिर से पत्थर मारा तो हम भाग गए।

- नेगाओं - जामनिया रहवासी

The mob also looted the villagers’ belongings such as foodgrains, utensils, cattle, mobile phones and vehicles. The situation was so dire that the Adivasis were able to escape with just the clothes they were wearing. It was only because of the involvement of NGOs such as JADS that provided foodgrains and some other kind-hearted but equally impoverished people from some other villages that the ousted Adivasis could get 60 quintals of food. Villagers say that when they approached the administration for help, there was deafening silence.

संगठन के लोगों ने मदद की। सरकार ने कुछ नहीं दिया। राशन मांगा, एक भी दाना नहीं दिया। किसी ने हमारी मदद नहीं की।

- नेगाओं - जामनिया रहवासी

JADS revealed that the incident was not an isolated incident but a part of a pattern of violence involving systematic violation of their legal rights.

A history of apathy, oppression and exclusion

JADS member Ashabai talked about past eviction attempts in 2012, 2010 and even before 2005. At every instance, villagers approached local police stations but officials refused to file their complaints, and pointedly asked them to either write the report themselves or educate their children enough to write the report.

हम थाने में जाते हैं तो वो रिपोर्ट नहीं लिखते हैं। बोलते हैं तुम अपनी  रिपोर्ट खुद लिखो। अपने बच्चों को पढ़ाते क्यों नहीं? लेकिन वो बार बार हमे उजाडते रहेंगे तो बच्चे पढ़ेंगे कैसे? और वो रिपोर्ट क्यों नहीं लिखते?

- नेगाओं - जामनिया रहवासी

Ashabai has a lot of pertinent questions, “How are we to live and educate our kids? Police officials tell our children to write the FIR. Then they ask why our kids are not educated enough to write an FIR. How are we to educated them if we constantly evicted? And why can’t they write the report?”

Villager Ramlal said his community members lived peacefully in Negaon-Jamniya and cultivated land. When the mob came, he tried to reason with them. But Ramlal was taken away by the police and allegedly abused in custody. He says it has become rather routine for Adivasi men and women to be picked up by the police on false or trumped-up charges.

हर साल हमें प्रताड़ित किया जा रहा है। घरों को गिराने, खेतों में काम करने वाली महिलाओं, पुरुषों को उठाने का काम किया जा रहा है।

- नेगाओं - जामनिया रहवासी

It is noteworthy, that Khandwa is the home district of State Forest Minister Vijay Shah, who despite regular appeals has allegedly not responded to Adivasi grievances.

JADS asserted that it will continue to demand the just rights of these tribal communities and correct the systemic error.

An account of Adivasi repression

JADS member Ratan Alawe shared how officials blamed Adivasis for all environmental issues and illegal tree-cutting incidents in the state. Khandwa-Burhanpur region especially regularly reports clashes between forest officials and indigenous groups.

“Forest officials act like bullies,” he said. “The Superintendent of Police and the District Collector assure justice but nothing changes. Nonetheless, tribals assert their forest rights under the Forest Right Act (FRA) 2006 despite the non-bailable offences and alleged illegal confinement used against them,” said Alawe.

Madhuri Behn shared an instance of November 26, 2020 when police men nabbed and tortured an Adivasi man who was just carrying fodder for his cattle. “Gyarsilal Awaye was walking alone when forcibly picked up and taken to the Asir range office. There he was bound and beaten with rods and pipes for carrying Jowar (sorghum) stalks from his field as fodder for his cattle,” said Madhuri Behn. Following protests by villagers, Awaye was released and his injuries recorded. However, the police took no further action.

Many such incidents took place in the last two years alone as detailed in this compilation by JADS:

Villagers condemned such behaviour as hooliganism. They said the governmental officials acted the same as dacoits.

Madhuri Behn asked, “Is it administrative strategy to pit people from one village against another? This isn’t procedure. This destruction and loot is an example of dacoity! Which government department allows a mob to attack villagers?” She further said, “When the administration does not listen to our demand for forest rights, it makes us feel that this government does not care about Adivasi rights,” she said.

Legal protection for Adivasis in Madhya Pradesh

As per the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006, Adivasis can file Community Land Claims and cannot be evicted from their land of residence until all claims pertaining to claims on land are verified. So far, 72 claims have been assessed from Burhanpur village. In all of Madhya Pradesh, only 13 percent of claims have been assessed, accepted and cleared, and at least 50 percent were deemed invalid.

JADS claimed such delays and rejections are part of a scheme to give forest land to big companies. Madhuri Behn said that last year, 40 percent of forest land was allegedly offered to crony industrialists. However, the move was stalled albeit not dismissed following strong opposition.

“We keep citing our forest rights but the government is silent. Now, our Adivasis are on the street. The administrative officials should be ashamed that so-called ‘illiterate’ Adivasis are teaching them about laws,” said Madhuri Behn.

On top of existing laws, the Madhya Pradesh High Court issued Covid-guidelines that explicitly barred any eviction of tribals anywhere regardless of claims. But even this direction was violated with impunity!

Similarly, a Grievance Redressal Authority appointed by the Supreme Court in 2015 to look into complaints of atrocities against Adivasis, found that the community was repeatedly subjected to evictions, despite legitimate claims. The redressal called for an investigation on the then Divisional Manager/DFO and his apathetic attitude towards the law and Court directives.

“This is what we have been saying for years but people don't take us seriously. We receive assurances during election. But post-election, the same pattern continues,” said Madhuri.

AIUFWP general secretary Roma Malik lauded the Adivasis for standing strong despite all pressures. “This needs to be highlighted on a national level. The government should not get the impression that Adivasis will tolerate the injustice,” said Roma. Pointing to the virtual erasure of Adivasis from mainstream news media reportage, CJP secretary and human rights defender Teesta Setalvad said, “I appeal to national news media to cover stories of injustice against Adivasis. Their voices are often not heard by the rest of the country.”               

Related:

MP: “If admin doesn’t know the law, learn from us!” Enraged adivasis assemble outside FDO
MP Adivasis piece their lives together following forced eviction
MP: 40 Adivasi families illegally evicted amidst a pandemic!

Forcibly evicted Khandwa Adivasis decry government apathy

At a press conference co-organised by JADS, CJP and AIUFWP, Adivasis of the region have revealed that they have been facing harassment and institutional oppression since as far back as 2005!

Khandwa Adivasi

After watching a rampaging mob destroy their homes and loot their property on July 10, even as Forest Department and Police officials deployed at the spot stood by, Adivasi villagers of Madhya Pradesh’s Negaon-Jamniya village are now demanding justice. They shared their heart rending stories at an online press conference co-organised by Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS), Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), and the All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP).

JADS members such as Madhuri Behn, Antaram Awase, Ashabai Solanki, Ratan Alawe and residents of Negaon-Jamniya village gathered on Monday to recount the illegal eviction and demolition of their homes, by a mob of people from neighbouring villages who appeared to operate with the blessings of the Forest Department and police officials present on the spot.

“That day, there were more villagers than official personnel. We have already heard claims that forest officials trained villagers for the attack around five days before the incident,” said Alawe.

Villagers say that 40 families comprising a total of 212 people, including at least 60 children were left with shelter amidst the rainy season with the Covid-19 pandemic raging unabated. Now, they are forced to live in makeshift tents, often just a piece of tarp strung to two tree branches… hardly any protection from the rain.

212 लोग हैं हमारे। पानी में, परशानी में, बच्चों को सुला देते हैं धरती पे। खटिया भी चली गई। कुछ सामान नहीं बचा हमारे पास। पन्नी लगा के रह रहे हैं अभी।

- नेगाओं - जामनिया रहवासी

One of the women recounted how she saw an army of villagers approaching their houses in the morning. People did not have the time to save their belongings, their food or even themselves. Stones were pelted at the villagers, who fled in different directions. Due to this, the next two days were spent desperately hunting for a child who was lost in the confusion.

सुबाह एकदम से पूरी फौज बन के आई और पत्थर फेकने लगे। हम भागे और सब अलग हो गए। एक बच्चा गुम हो गया। दो दिन में मिला। धुंड-धुंड के, रो के परशन हो गए। ऐसे हमें भगाया इन लोगों ने।

- नेगाओं - जामनिया रहवासी

Another woman recalled how her husband was forcibly taken away when he tried to reason with the goons.

हमारा आदमी जब उससे बात करने गया तो उसको जबरन उठा लिया। हमने बात करने की कोशिश ही नहीं की। जब हमें फिर से पत्थर मारा तो हम भाग गए।

- नेगाओं - जामनिया रहवासी

The mob also looted the villagers’ belongings such as foodgrains, utensils, cattle, mobile phones and vehicles. The situation was so dire that the Adivasis were able to escape with just the clothes they were wearing. It was only because of the involvement of NGOs such as JADS that provided foodgrains and some other kind-hearted but equally impoverished people from some other villages that the ousted Adivasis could get 60 quintals of food. Villagers say that when they approached the administration for help, there was deafening silence.

संगठन के लोगों ने मदद की। सरकार ने कुछ नहीं दिया। राशन मांगा, एक भी दाना नहीं दिया। किसी ने हमारी मदद नहीं की।

- नेगाओं - जामनिया रहवासी

JADS revealed that the incident was not an isolated incident but a part of a pattern of violence involving systematic violation of their legal rights.

A history of apathy, oppression and exclusion

JADS member Ashabai talked about past eviction attempts in 2012, 2010 and even before 2005. At every instance, villagers approached local police stations but officials refused to file their complaints, and pointedly asked them to either write the report themselves or educate their children enough to write the report.

हम थाने में जाते हैं तो वो रिपोर्ट नहीं लिखते हैं। बोलते हैं तुम अपनी  रिपोर्ट खुद लिखो। अपने बच्चों को पढ़ाते क्यों नहीं? लेकिन वो बार बार हमे उजाडते रहेंगे तो बच्चे पढ़ेंगे कैसे? और वो रिपोर्ट क्यों नहीं लिखते?

- नेगाओं - जामनिया रहवासी

Ashabai has a lot of pertinent questions, “How are we to live and educate our kids? Police officials tell our children to write the FIR. Then they ask why our kids are not educated enough to write an FIR. How are we to educated them if we constantly evicted? And why can’t they write the report?”

Villager Ramlal said his community members lived peacefully in Negaon-Jamniya and cultivated land. When the mob came, he tried to reason with them. But Ramlal was taken away by the police and allegedly abused in custody. He says it has become rather routine for Adivasi men and women to be picked up by the police on false or trumped-up charges.

हर साल हमें प्रताड़ित किया जा रहा है। घरों को गिराने, खेतों में काम करने वाली महिलाओं, पुरुषों को उठाने का काम किया जा रहा है।

- नेगाओं - जामनिया रहवासी

It is noteworthy, that Khandwa is the home district of State Forest Minister Vijay Shah, who despite regular appeals has allegedly not responded to Adivasi grievances.

JADS asserted that it will continue to demand the just rights of these tribal communities and correct the systemic error.

An account of Adivasi repression

JADS member Ratan Alawe shared how officials blamed Adivasis for all environmental issues and illegal tree-cutting incidents in the state. Khandwa-Burhanpur region especially regularly reports clashes between forest officials and indigenous groups.

“Forest officials act like bullies,” he said. “The Superintendent of Police and the District Collector assure justice but nothing changes. Nonetheless, tribals assert their forest rights under the Forest Right Act (FRA) 2006 despite the non-bailable offences and alleged illegal confinement used against them,” said Alawe.

Madhuri Behn shared an instance of November 26, 2020 when police men nabbed and tortured an Adivasi man who was just carrying fodder for his cattle. “Gyarsilal Awaye was walking alone when forcibly picked up and taken to the Asir range office. There he was bound and beaten with rods and pipes for carrying Jowar (sorghum) stalks from his field as fodder for his cattle,” said Madhuri Behn. Following protests by villagers, Awaye was released and his injuries recorded. However, the police took no further action.

Many such incidents took place in the last two years alone as detailed in this compilation by JADS:

Villagers condemned such behaviour as hooliganism. They said the governmental officials acted the same as dacoits.

Madhuri Behn asked, “Is it administrative strategy to pit people from one village against another? This isn’t procedure. This destruction and loot is an example of dacoity! Which government department allows a mob to attack villagers?” She further said, “When the administration does not listen to our demand for forest rights, it makes us feel that this government does not care about Adivasi rights,” she said.

Legal protection for Adivasis in Madhya Pradesh

As per the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006, Adivasis can file Community Land Claims and cannot be evicted from their land of residence until all claims pertaining to claims on land are verified. So far, 72 claims have been assessed from Burhanpur village. In all of Madhya Pradesh, only 13 percent of claims have been assessed, accepted and cleared, and at least 50 percent were deemed invalid.

JADS claimed such delays and rejections are part of a scheme to give forest land to big companies. Madhuri Behn said that last year, 40 percent of forest land was allegedly offered to crony industrialists. However, the move was stalled albeit not dismissed following strong opposition.

“We keep citing our forest rights but the government is silent. Now, our Adivasis are on the street. The administrative officials should be ashamed that so-called ‘illiterate’ Adivasis are teaching them about laws,” said Madhuri Behn.

On top of existing laws, the Madhya Pradesh High Court issued Covid-guidelines that explicitly barred any eviction of tribals anywhere regardless of claims. But even this direction was violated with impunity!

Similarly, a Grievance Redressal Authority appointed by the Supreme Court in 2015 to look into complaints of atrocities against Adivasis, found that the community was repeatedly subjected to evictions, despite legitimate claims. The redressal called for an investigation on the then Divisional Manager/DFO and his apathetic attitude towards the law and Court directives.

“This is what we have been saying for years but people don't take us seriously. We receive assurances during election. But post-election, the same pattern continues,” said Madhuri.

AIUFWP general secretary Roma Malik lauded the Adivasis for standing strong despite all pressures. “This needs to be highlighted on a national level. The government should not get the impression that Adivasis will tolerate the injustice,” said Roma. Pointing to the virtual erasure of Adivasis from mainstream news media reportage, CJP secretary and human rights defender Teesta Setalvad said, “I appeal to national news media to cover stories of injustice against Adivasis. Their voices are often not heard by the rest of the country.”               

Related:

MP: “If admin doesn’t know the law, learn from us!” Enraged adivasis assemble outside FDO
MP Adivasis piece their lives together following forced eviction
MP: 40 Adivasi families illegally evicted amidst a pandemic!

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MP: “If admin doesn’t know the law, learn from us!” Enraged adivasis assemble outside FDO

Thousands of adivasis assembled outside the forest department on Tuesday to condemn the crude eviction of Khandwa adivasis and blatant transgression of their land and forest rights.

22 Jul 2021

Khandwa Adivasi

Over 3000 adivasis in Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh staged a sit-in protest outside District Collector and Forest Development Corporation offices on July 20, 2021 to condemn the illegal eviction that devastated their life during the Covid-19 pandemic.

On July 10, as many as 40 tribal families in Negaon-Jamniya futilely struggled against a mob of villagers, allegedly instigated by forest and police officers, who tore down houses and looted Adivasi property and livestock. Twelve days later, the 200 homeless people still reside in the same area, agitating over the crude violation of their basic rights.

Rights organisation Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS) has drafted a comprehensive list of the physical losses as follows:

On Tuesday, adivasis demanded action against officers for violating Forest Rights Act (2006) section 4(5) that protected all indigenous groups from eviction. A High Court order also protected said villagers from demolition or eviction until the re-examination of land ownership claims.

“The eviction by the police and the forest department was completely unconstitutional. Helpless people were beaten up and goods were looted. Under various sections of the Forest Rights Act, the incident on July 10 was illegal,” said JADS leader Madhuri Behn.

Adivasis and activists from Khargone, Barwani, Jhabua and Burhanpur districts participated in the sit-in demonstration. Similarly, Adivasi Students Organisation State President Prakash Bandod and General Secretary Piyush Mojhale warned of a state-wide attention if action is not taken against offending officers.

“If the government does not know the law, then learn from us,” said the JADS, voicing the ire of the small hamlet.

Protesters demanded tax arrest and sought an explanation from officials on the legality of their action. The JADS said the homeless families deserve immediate relief and compensation for the loss caused by the loot.

Travelling across districts on tractor-trolleys, tribals sang songs against the district administration, forest department and police. Speakers including Madhuri Behn said that the forest is the home of the tribals. Agitating women led the rally to the forest office where they raised slogans and vented their rage.

Khandwa Adivasi

Towards the conclusion of the event in the evening, tribal leaders stressed social unity and chanted the slogan “We are all one, we will take our rights.”

Meanwhile, Khandwa SDM Mamta Khede said that all proceedings concerning forest land ownership in Jamniya were carried out with complete transparency. Khede said that the forest department has all documents related to “encroachment” by people from outer districts for tree-cutting.

Regarding the Tuesday protest, she said that the demonstration was organised without prior permission from the administration. Social distancing norms were flouted and protesters will face action for the same, said Khede.

Khandwa Adivasi

Khandwa Adivasi

The centuries-long battle of Adivasis

Despite the existence of the Forest Rights Act, a large number of tribals and traditional forest-dwellers are yet to receive their pattas(designated land). Due to this, they face the threat of homelessness. This issue was recently raised during a Vidhan Sabha meeting where the Tribal Welfare Ministry said that till July 6, 2020, it received 3.79 lakh applications for the lease of forest land.

Of these, only 716 applications were approved and around 2.85 lakh applications were rejected. With the rejection of these many applications, the problem of housing and livelihood is worse than ever for the four lakh or so tribals and traditional forest-dwellers. This in a state where the current Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan hails from a tribal background.

On June 27, 2020, Chouhan said, "The over-3.58 lakh pattas cancelled will be given to tribals. Officers should understand, I will not allow the rights of the poor to be snatched away. If there is a slight negligence in work, then strict action will be taken. Tribal / forest dweller community is a community that is unable to properly put its views forward. In such a situation, it is absolutely unfair to demand evidence from them and cancel leases. All collectors and DFOs should review all cases and report within a week. Pattas must be given to forest dwellers.”

Despite these assurances, the Khandwa incident is living proof of how the forest department and administration continue to be at odds with the adivasi community.

Khandwa Adivasi

Khandwa Adivasi

In Khandwa and Burhanpur, more than five thousand tribals made claims for leases on forest land. Similarly, there are claims of more than two thousand encroachers in the Gudi range. There is a fear among people that the administration may evict them as well.

Already, a large number of people were wrongly labelled ‘ineligible’ due to delays and errors in the claims verification process. This was admitted by the state government in the Supreme Court, said the JADS.

Even during the re-investigation about 2,416 claims – 86 percent of total claims – in Khandwa and 10,800 claims – 99.5 percent of total claims – in Burhanpur reported pending. It was during this proceeding that adivasis assembled out of the office days ago to protest the forcible arrest of six persons and the confiscation of their phones.

“This is the condition of officers when the Forest Rights Act provides for comprehensive private and collective legal forest rights to the community under forest areas from December 13, 2005. There is a three-tier system to scrutinize claims, the most important being the Gram Sabha. The decisions of the Gram Sabha can be appealed at the sub-divisional and district level. The violence of the Forest Department is notorious throughout India, so the Tribal Welfare Department has been made the nodal department,” said Madhuri Ben.

Khandwa Adivasi

Adivasi oppression elsewhere

Protesters also condemned the illegal harvesting done in Hirapur-Wakdi region under the alleged protection of the forest department. Tribals also accused the forest department of illegal timber smuggling in Nimad and accusing the indigenous group of destroying the forest.

The JADS also opposed the government plan to destroy over 2.15 lakh trees for diamond mines in Chhatarpur district. It is noteworthy that the Parliamentary Committee on Environment stated that 1.75 lakh acres of forest was transferred to industries across India in the last five years.

Related:

MP Adivasis piece their lives together following forced eviction
MP: 40 Adivasi families illegally evicted amidst a pandemic!
Over 1,75,174 acres of Forest Land diverted to Industry between 2014-2019: Madhuribehn

MP: “If admin doesn’t know the law, learn from us!” Enraged adivasis assemble outside FDO

Thousands of adivasis assembled outside the forest department on Tuesday to condemn the crude eviction of Khandwa adivasis and blatant transgression of their land and forest rights.

Khandwa Adivasi

Over 3000 adivasis in Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh staged a sit-in protest outside District Collector and Forest Development Corporation offices on July 20, 2021 to condemn the illegal eviction that devastated their life during the Covid-19 pandemic.

On July 10, as many as 40 tribal families in Negaon-Jamniya futilely struggled against a mob of villagers, allegedly instigated by forest and police officers, who tore down houses and looted Adivasi property and livestock. Twelve days later, the 200 homeless people still reside in the same area, agitating over the crude violation of their basic rights.

Rights organisation Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS) has drafted a comprehensive list of the physical losses as follows:

On Tuesday, adivasis demanded action against officers for violating Forest Rights Act (2006) section 4(5) that protected all indigenous groups from eviction. A High Court order also protected said villagers from demolition or eviction until the re-examination of land ownership claims.

“The eviction by the police and the forest department was completely unconstitutional. Helpless people were beaten up and goods were looted. Under various sections of the Forest Rights Act, the incident on July 10 was illegal,” said JADS leader Madhuri Behn.

Adivasis and activists from Khargone, Barwani, Jhabua and Burhanpur districts participated in the sit-in demonstration. Similarly, Adivasi Students Organisation State President Prakash Bandod and General Secretary Piyush Mojhale warned of a state-wide attention if action is not taken against offending officers.

“If the government does not know the law, then learn from us,” said the JADS, voicing the ire of the small hamlet.

Protesters demanded tax arrest and sought an explanation from officials on the legality of their action. The JADS said the homeless families deserve immediate relief and compensation for the loss caused by the loot.

Travelling across districts on tractor-trolleys, tribals sang songs against the district administration, forest department and police. Speakers including Madhuri Behn said that the forest is the home of the tribals. Agitating women led the rally to the forest office where they raised slogans and vented their rage.

Khandwa Adivasi

Towards the conclusion of the event in the evening, tribal leaders stressed social unity and chanted the slogan “We are all one, we will take our rights.”

Meanwhile, Khandwa SDM Mamta Khede said that all proceedings concerning forest land ownership in Jamniya were carried out with complete transparency. Khede said that the forest department has all documents related to “encroachment” by people from outer districts for tree-cutting.

Regarding the Tuesday protest, she said that the demonstration was organised without prior permission from the administration. Social distancing norms were flouted and protesters will face action for the same, said Khede.

Khandwa Adivasi

Khandwa Adivasi

The centuries-long battle of Adivasis

Despite the existence of the Forest Rights Act, a large number of tribals and traditional forest-dwellers are yet to receive their pattas(designated land). Due to this, they face the threat of homelessness. This issue was recently raised during a Vidhan Sabha meeting where the Tribal Welfare Ministry said that till July 6, 2020, it received 3.79 lakh applications for the lease of forest land.

Of these, only 716 applications were approved and around 2.85 lakh applications were rejected. With the rejection of these many applications, the problem of housing and livelihood is worse than ever for the four lakh or so tribals and traditional forest-dwellers. This in a state where the current Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan hails from a tribal background.

On June 27, 2020, Chouhan said, "The over-3.58 lakh pattas cancelled will be given to tribals. Officers should understand, I will not allow the rights of the poor to be snatched away. If there is a slight negligence in work, then strict action will be taken. Tribal / forest dweller community is a community that is unable to properly put its views forward. In such a situation, it is absolutely unfair to demand evidence from them and cancel leases. All collectors and DFOs should review all cases and report within a week. Pattas must be given to forest dwellers.”

Despite these assurances, the Khandwa incident is living proof of how the forest department and administration continue to be at odds with the adivasi community.

Khandwa Adivasi

Khandwa Adivasi

In Khandwa and Burhanpur, more than five thousand tribals made claims for leases on forest land. Similarly, there are claims of more than two thousand encroachers in the Gudi range. There is a fear among people that the administration may evict them as well.

Already, a large number of people were wrongly labelled ‘ineligible’ due to delays and errors in the claims verification process. This was admitted by the state government in the Supreme Court, said the JADS.

Even during the re-investigation about 2,416 claims – 86 percent of total claims – in Khandwa and 10,800 claims – 99.5 percent of total claims – in Burhanpur reported pending. It was during this proceeding that adivasis assembled out of the office days ago to protest the forcible arrest of six persons and the confiscation of their phones.

“This is the condition of officers when the Forest Rights Act provides for comprehensive private and collective legal forest rights to the community under forest areas from December 13, 2005. There is a three-tier system to scrutinize claims, the most important being the Gram Sabha. The decisions of the Gram Sabha can be appealed at the sub-divisional and district level. The violence of the Forest Department is notorious throughout India, so the Tribal Welfare Department has been made the nodal department,” said Madhuri Ben.

Khandwa Adivasi

Adivasi oppression elsewhere

Protesters also condemned the illegal harvesting done in Hirapur-Wakdi region under the alleged protection of the forest department. Tribals also accused the forest department of illegal timber smuggling in Nimad and accusing the indigenous group of destroying the forest.

The JADS also opposed the government plan to destroy over 2.15 lakh trees for diamond mines in Chhatarpur district. It is noteworthy that the Parliamentary Committee on Environment stated that 1.75 lakh acres of forest was transferred to industries across India in the last five years.

Related:

MP Adivasis piece their lives together following forced eviction
MP: 40 Adivasi families illegally evicted amidst a pandemic!
Over 1,75,174 acres of Forest Land diverted to Industry between 2014-2019: Madhuribehn

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MP Adivasis piece their lives together following forced eviction

After destruction of settlement by a mob, that allegedly enjoyed the backing of police personnel present on the spot, Adivasis of this hamlet in Khandwa are demanding justice

17 Jul 2021

Adivasi

Over 200 Adivasis in Negaon-Jamniya region of Madhya Pradesh lost their houses, rations, fields and material belongings on July 10, 2021 during an illegal eviction. A mob looted, assaulted and illegally contained the indigenous families. Enraged, the Adivasis are now demanding justice for this gross violation of their rights. The following is a photo feature depicting the grave injustice. All images courtesy Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS).

AdivasiOn Saturday, 40 families of Bhil and Barela tribes tried to protect their homes and belongings from a mob of nearby villagers, who attacked them, allegedly with the blessings of police and forest officials.

 

AdivasiVillagers had until then lived under the bitter-sweet assurance that a court order protected them from eviction until July 15.

 

AdivasiMore than anything, families knew their rights to the land under the Forest Rights Act 2006.

 

AdivasiAfter July 10, villagers have vehemently demanded compensation from the government for allowing a gross violation of their constitutional rights.

 

AdivasiThese days, the community still lives amid the ruins of their homes. The fields in the background were sprayed with poisonous chemicals.

 

AdivasiJADS demanded an explanation as to why government officials were even accompanied by a frenzied mob that laid waste to land.

 

AdivasiWhat is left in the small hamlet now are battered and bent remains of homes destroyed in the attack.

 

AdivasiJADS estimated that in terms of livestock, over 300 chickens, 16 goats and one calf were killed in the mob attack.

 

AdivasiFurther, families mourned a loot of 130 quintals of food grains, Rs. 63,800 in cash, a shop worth Rs 80,000, Rs.12,000 worth of jewellery.

 

AdivasiDevastated by the incident, the community is only left with the clothes on their back and a week-long pending demand for justice against this destruction.

MP Adivasis piece their lives together following forced eviction

After destruction of settlement by a mob, that allegedly enjoyed the backing of police personnel present on the spot, Adivasis of this hamlet in Khandwa are demanding justice

Adivasi

Over 200 Adivasis in Negaon-Jamniya region of Madhya Pradesh lost their houses, rations, fields and material belongings on July 10, 2021 during an illegal eviction. A mob looted, assaulted and illegally contained the indigenous families. Enraged, the Adivasis are now demanding justice for this gross violation of their rights. The following is a photo feature depicting the grave injustice. All images courtesy Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS).

AdivasiOn Saturday, 40 families of Bhil and Barela tribes tried to protect their homes and belongings from a mob of nearby villagers, who attacked them, allegedly with the blessings of police and forest officials.

 

AdivasiVillagers had until then lived under the bitter-sweet assurance that a court order protected them from eviction until July 15.

 

AdivasiMore than anything, families knew their rights to the land under the Forest Rights Act 2006.

 

AdivasiAfter July 10, villagers have vehemently demanded compensation from the government for allowing a gross violation of their constitutional rights.

 

AdivasiThese days, the community still lives amid the ruins of their homes. The fields in the background were sprayed with poisonous chemicals.

 

AdivasiJADS demanded an explanation as to why government officials were even accompanied by a frenzied mob that laid waste to land.

 

AdivasiWhat is left in the small hamlet now are battered and bent remains of homes destroyed in the attack.

 

AdivasiJADS estimated that in terms of livestock, over 300 chickens, 16 goats and one calf were killed in the mob attack.

 

AdivasiFurther, families mourned a loot of 130 quintals of food grains, Rs. 63,800 in cash, a shop worth Rs 80,000, Rs.12,000 worth of jewellery.

 

AdivasiDevastated by the incident, the community is only left with the clothes on their back and a week-long pending demand for justice against this destruction.

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MP: 40 Adivasi families illegally evicted amidst a pandemic!

Life upended during the monsoon season, Adivasi families protest the destruction of their small hamlet in Khandwa

16 Jul 2021

Demolition Adivasi

As many as 40 Adivasi families hailing from Bhil and Barela tribes in Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh have spent the last six days roofless in the leftover ruins of their village. The destroyed settlement, now a mixture of rubble and dirt, is where once stood homes, and fields of crops. But, on July 10, 2021 a mob, allegedly supervised by police and forest officials, illegally evicted over 200 people with little concern for the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic or the monsoon season.

On Saturday, the unassuming villagers of Negaon-Jamniya went about their everyday activities, assured by a month-old High Court order that barred demolition and eviction in their area until July 15.

However, at the end of the day, the villagers suffered various atrocities such as looting of personal property, assault, abduction and illegal confinement by a mob comprising nearby villagers. Survivors said they did not receive any prior eviction notice.

Adivasi village ruined

According to people’s organisation Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS), the mob ransacked houses and destroyed fields by spraying poisonous chemicals. Speaking to Sabrang India, Adivasi leader Madhuri said that two villagers Mahesh and Ramlal suffered physical injuries during the attack.

“The forest department has decided on its own that we are invading the land when in fact, under the Forest Rights Act, this land belongs to us," sadid Madhuri asking, "But regardless, what kind of government action is this to invite villagers from nearby villages to attack us?” 

Working for the community, she said that villagers living in the ruins have suffered continued attacks for the last week. This despite the fact that the mob already looted grain, cattle, money and household goods from the families.

Adivasi

“Everything owned by these families was looted or destroyed -- 130 quintals of food grains, Rs. 63,800 in cash, a shop worth Rs 80,000, Rs.12,000 worth of jewellery, five cycles and four mobile phones and over 300 chickens, 16 goats and 1 calf. Another calf was killed during the destruction of homes. They are left with nothing but the clothes on their backs,” said JADS in a press release.

JADS has released a detailed list of property loss in their complaint letters to the Chief Minister, Forest Minister and Tribal Affairs Minister along with the district administration.

Along with property loss, three Adivasis and three social activists were taken away to the Forest Development Corporation office for over 10 hours. Villagers alleged that detained adivasis were tied with ropes.

Adivasi

Adivasi

When news of the mob attack spread, hundreds of Adivasis gathered for a massive sit-in outside Khandwa SP’s office. Officials released the six people in light of the huge protest.

However, the administration has filed complaints against the detainees. The JADS said that the villagers have still not been informed about the details of these complaints although they were forced to sign blank papers.

The forest department took their signatures under Section 41 of the CrPC that allows arrest without warrant but did not hand over notices. Meanwhile, three phones were confiscated. Among their demands, villagers have asked that the phones be returned and the forcibly signed papers be dismissed.

Adivasi demands and administrative inaction

For nearly a week now, surviving Adivasis have voiced the need for immediate compensation and action with regards to the crimes committed during the illegal eviction.

Enraged by the attack, villagers demanded the immediate arrest of Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Charan Singh and other officials under the Prevention of Atrocities Act and other relevant provisions for supervising the wrongdoings that unfolded that day.

Adivasi

Adivasi

Moreover, they demanded immediate ration relief for the evicted families, left stranded during a pandemic. Villagers also require compensation for the loss of personal belongings. However, they are yet to hear from the state government.

“Adivasis have warned the administration that they will intensify their struggle if these basic demands are not met. There has been no action to punish those responsible for this brutal violation of adivasis’ constitutional rights. No relief has been provided so far to the over-200 people who remain homeless and have had their food grains looted,” said the Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS) in a press release.

A blatant violation of Adivasi rights

When SabrangIndia spoke to the Khandwa police, Additional Superintendent of Police Prakash Parihar said that the incident occurred due to the illegal encroachment of the tribal community.

“The tribals came and cut down 90 hectares of land. They were to be removed from the place,” he said.

However, when asked about the court order for a stay on Adivasi eviction, the official directed the question to the forest department, and the forest department has been unavailable for comment so far.

Meanwhile, Bhil and Barela villagers condemn the eviction as a violation of not just High Court orders but the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006. The concerned families are claimants under the FRA that protects them against evictions until the verification process of claims is complete. In this case, the verification has not even started.

Regarding the incident, the JADS said just as freedom fighters in their community like Tantia Bhil, Vir Singh Gond, Ganjan Korku, Bhima Nayak fought the British colonists, the current generation continues to fight against a similar exploitative regime in free India.

Related:

Pathalgadi: Assertion of Adivasi rights over land
Stone quarrying, development projects threatening Jharkhand’s sacred groves
Dewas Adivasi family massacre: There’s more to it than a failed ‘love affair’
A 2020 Report of 10 Worst Victims of apathy: Dalits, Adivasis
Over 1,75,174 acres of Forest Land diverted to Industry between 2014-2019: Madhuribehn

MP: 40 Adivasi families illegally evicted amidst a pandemic!

Life upended during the monsoon season, Adivasi families protest the destruction of their small hamlet in Khandwa

Demolition Adivasi

As many as 40 Adivasi families hailing from Bhil and Barela tribes in Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh have spent the last six days roofless in the leftover ruins of their village. The destroyed settlement, now a mixture of rubble and dirt, is where once stood homes, and fields of crops. But, on July 10, 2021 a mob, allegedly supervised by police and forest officials, illegally evicted over 200 people with little concern for the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic or the monsoon season.

On Saturday, the unassuming villagers of Negaon-Jamniya went about their everyday activities, assured by a month-old High Court order that barred demolition and eviction in their area until July 15.

However, at the end of the day, the villagers suffered various atrocities such as looting of personal property, assault, abduction and illegal confinement by a mob comprising nearby villagers. Survivors said they did not receive any prior eviction notice.

Adivasi village ruined

According to people’s organisation Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS), the mob ransacked houses and destroyed fields by spraying poisonous chemicals. Speaking to Sabrang India, Adivasi leader Madhuri said that two villagers Mahesh and Ramlal suffered physical injuries during the attack.

“The forest department has decided on its own that we are invading the land when in fact, under the Forest Rights Act, this land belongs to us," sadid Madhuri asking, "But regardless, what kind of government action is this to invite villagers from nearby villages to attack us?” 

Working for the community, she said that villagers living in the ruins have suffered continued attacks for the last week. This despite the fact that the mob already looted grain, cattle, money and household goods from the families.

Adivasi

“Everything owned by these families was looted or destroyed -- 130 quintals of food grains, Rs. 63,800 in cash, a shop worth Rs 80,000, Rs.12,000 worth of jewellery, five cycles and four mobile phones and over 300 chickens, 16 goats and 1 calf. Another calf was killed during the destruction of homes. They are left with nothing but the clothes on their backs,” said JADS in a press release.

JADS has released a detailed list of property loss in their complaint letters to the Chief Minister, Forest Minister and Tribal Affairs Minister along with the district administration.

Along with property loss, three Adivasis and three social activists were taken away to the Forest Development Corporation office for over 10 hours. Villagers alleged that detained adivasis were tied with ropes.

Adivasi

Adivasi

When news of the mob attack spread, hundreds of Adivasis gathered for a massive sit-in outside Khandwa SP’s office. Officials released the six people in light of the huge protest.

However, the administration has filed complaints against the detainees. The JADS said that the villagers have still not been informed about the details of these complaints although they were forced to sign blank papers.

The forest department took their signatures under Section 41 of the CrPC that allows arrest without warrant but did not hand over notices. Meanwhile, three phones were confiscated. Among their demands, villagers have asked that the phones be returned and the forcibly signed papers be dismissed.

Adivasi demands and administrative inaction

For nearly a week now, surviving Adivasis have voiced the need for immediate compensation and action with regards to the crimes committed during the illegal eviction.

Enraged by the attack, villagers demanded the immediate arrest of Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Charan Singh and other officials under the Prevention of Atrocities Act and other relevant provisions for supervising the wrongdoings that unfolded that day.

Adivasi

Adivasi

Moreover, they demanded immediate ration relief for the evicted families, left stranded during a pandemic. Villagers also require compensation for the loss of personal belongings. However, they are yet to hear from the state government.

“Adivasis have warned the administration that they will intensify their struggle if these basic demands are not met. There has been no action to punish those responsible for this brutal violation of adivasis’ constitutional rights. No relief has been provided so far to the over-200 people who remain homeless and have had their food grains looted,” said the Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS) in a press release.

A blatant violation of Adivasi rights

When SabrangIndia spoke to the Khandwa police, Additional Superintendent of Police Prakash Parihar said that the incident occurred due to the illegal encroachment of the tribal community.

“The tribals came and cut down 90 hectares of land. They were to be removed from the place,” he said.

However, when asked about the court order for a stay on Adivasi eviction, the official directed the question to the forest department, and the forest department has been unavailable for comment so far.

Meanwhile, Bhil and Barela villagers condemn the eviction as a violation of not just High Court orders but the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006. The concerned families are claimants under the FRA that protects them against evictions until the verification process of claims is complete. In this case, the verification has not even started.

Regarding the incident, the JADS said just as freedom fighters in their community like Tantia Bhil, Vir Singh Gond, Ganjan Korku, Bhima Nayak fought the British colonists, the current generation continues to fight against a similar exploitative regime in free India.

Related:

Pathalgadi: Assertion of Adivasi rights over land
Stone quarrying, development projects threatening Jharkhand’s sacred groves
Dewas Adivasi family massacre: There’s more to it than a failed ‘love affair’
A 2020 Report of 10 Worst Victims of apathy: Dalits, Adivasis
Over 1,75,174 acres of Forest Land diverted to Industry between 2014-2019: Madhuribehn

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Deccan Herald caught in sly attempt to malign Fr. Stan Swamy

Quiz published on July 15 attempts to defame him by insinuating he was linked to banned Maoist group

15 Jul 2021

Fr Stan Swamy

Readers of Deccan Herald, a prominent Begaluru-based English Language news paper, were shocked on Thursday morning when they discovered a quiz, purportedly a part of a consumer outreach program by the publication, suggest that Fr. Stan Swamy was linked to a banned Maoist group. 

The quiz, a picture of which may be viewed below asks readers to identify a person who recently passed away, based on a series of images: 

1) the Bhima Koregaon Pillar, 

2) advocate and union leader Sudha Bharadwaj, 

3) a white hammer and sickle against a red background (a logo of the banned group CPI-Maoist).

This weaves in with the narrative spun by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) who claim that Fr. Stan Swamy was associated with CPI - Maoist, a banner left wing terror group. Truth is Fr. Stan was an activist for Adivasi rights and had campaigned against their mass incarceration. The quiz and its choice of images, therefore, are not only in poor taste, but also defamatory, given how no charges against Fr. Stan have been proven so far. It is also dangerous because it can sway public pinion against Fr. Stan by subtly creating a connection in people's minds between him and Maoists.

Enraged activists and citizens groups have now written to the Editor of Deccan Herald saying, "We would like to draw your attention to the State page (Page 5) of E-Paper/Newspaper, released on July 15, 2021. The DH Visual Connect ad on the page is not just factually incorrect, but it is also in very bad taste. Advertising and holding contests, based on false information is not only indicative of the creator’s prejudice, but also of bad journalism." The letter further says, "How did the editorial staff not see the absurdities inherent in this advertisement? This oversight, if done inadvertently, is indicative of unprofessionalism, and if done deliberately smacks of malicious bias."

Drawing further attention to exactly why the quiz is disrespectful, the letter says, "We are dismayed at the concept of making a game of a person’s death. It is a shame that a newspaper of repute had to resort to making a prize-winning puzzle about a human rights activist, whose was incarcerated and abused by a system that is being globally condemned for being draconian. To mock the dead or abuse the living, is not the sign of a civilized person or publication. The clues used are even more shameful. It was a deliberate attempt to vilify Bhima Koregaon, human rights activist Sudha Bhardwaj, and the Communists!!!"

It asks, "What exactly was DH trying to achieve by running the advertisement on a day prior to the hearing of the case? Does it want it’s readers to develop a bias against the victims of a flawed and draconian state policy?" The activists also clarify, "Father Stan was not a communist, nor is Advocate Sudha Bhardwaj. Bhima Koregaon, the place and monument, is also not connected with the communist movements."

More pointedly, the letter questions the timing of the quiz and says that it "indicates mal-inten," adding, "At a point of time when Sudha Bhardwaj’s case is being decided by the courts, this would add credence to the false narrative around her. This is going to sublimely influence the readers, jury and others connected with the case that there is a connection between all four."

The signatories to the open letter are growing with each passing minute and they all stand resolute and united in their demand, asking Deccan Herald to "withdraw this false and malicious content immediately, and issue an apology for the same." Further, they say, "We would like the apology to be published in the same space in tomorrow's July 16's newspaper in all editions," warning, "In case there is no apology and withdrawal, we will be left with no option but take the matter to court." 

Activist Vimla KS also sent a strong message to DH and got this response from the publication: "This was done by a quiz agency, for quiz purpose (sic). We were not directly involved. However, we may issue a clarification."  

Related:

Thank you, dear Fr. Stan, you will live forever!
Citizens condemn Fr. Stan's institutional murder under UAPA
Reflections on the demise of Fr. Stan Swamy
Jesuits of India, journalists and academics bid Fr Stan Swamy an emotional farewell
Fr Stan Swamy’s death highlights the need to repeal UAPA

Deccan Herald caught in sly attempt to malign Fr. Stan Swamy

Quiz published on July 15 attempts to defame him by insinuating he was linked to banned Maoist group

Fr Stan Swamy

Readers of Deccan Herald, a prominent Begaluru-based English Language news paper, were shocked on Thursday morning when they discovered a quiz, purportedly a part of a consumer outreach program by the publication, suggest that Fr. Stan Swamy was linked to a banned Maoist group. 

The quiz, a picture of which may be viewed below asks readers to identify a person who recently passed away, based on a series of images: 

1) the Bhima Koregaon Pillar, 

2) advocate and union leader Sudha Bharadwaj, 

3) a white hammer and sickle against a red background (a logo of the banned group CPI-Maoist).

This weaves in with the narrative spun by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) who claim that Fr. Stan Swamy was associated with CPI - Maoist, a banner left wing terror group. Truth is Fr. Stan was an activist for Adivasi rights and had campaigned against their mass incarceration. The quiz and its choice of images, therefore, are not only in poor taste, but also defamatory, given how no charges against Fr. Stan have been proven so far. It is also dangerous because it can sway public pinion against Fr. Stan by subtly creating a connection in people's minds between him and Maoists.

Enraged activists and citizens groups have now written to the Editor of Deccan Herald saying, "We would like to draw your attention to the State page (Page 5) of E-Paper/Newspaper, released on July 15, 2021. The DH Visual Connect ad on the page is not just factually incorrect, but it is also in very bad taste. Advertising and holding contests, based on false information is not only indicative of the creator’s prejudice, but also of bad journalism." The letter further says, "How did the editorial staff not see the absurdities inherent in this advertisement? This oversight, if done inadvertently, is indicative of unprofessionalism, and if done deliberately smacks of malicious bias."

Drawing further attention to exactly why the quiz is disrespectful, the letter says, "We are dismayed at the concept of making a game of a person’s death. It is a shame that a newspaper of repute had to resort to making a prize-winning puzzle about a human rights activist, whose was incarcerated and abused by a system that is being globally condemned for being draconian. To mock the dead or abuse the living, is not the sign of a civilized person or publication. The clues used are even more shameful. It was a deliberate attempt to vilify Bhima Koregaon, human rights activist Sudha Bhardwaj, and the Communists!!!"

It asks, "What exactly was DH trying to achieve by running the advertisement on a day prior to the hearing of the case? Does it want it’s readers to develop a bias against the victims of a flawed and draconian state policy?" The activists also clarify, "Father Stan was not a communist, nor is Advocate Sudha Bhardwaj. Bhima Koregaon, the place and monument, is also not connected with the communist movements."

More pointedly, the letter questions the timing of the quiz and says that it "indicates mal-inten," adding, "At a point of time when Sudha Bhardwaj’s case is being decided by the courts, this would add credence to the false narrative around her. This is going to sublimely influence the readers, jury and others connected with the case that there is a connection between all four."

The signatories to the open letter are growing with each passing minute and they all stand resolute and united in their demand, asking Deccan Herald to "withdraw this false and malicious content immediately, and issue an apology for the same." Further, they say, "We would like the apology to be published in the same space in tomorrow's July 16's newspaper in all editions," warning, "In case there is no apology and withdrawal, we will be left with no option but take the matter to court." 

Activist Vimla KS also sent a strong message to DH and got this response from the publication: "This was done by a quiz agency, for quiz purpose (sic). We were not directly involved. However, we may issue a clarification."  

Related:

Thank you, dear Fr. Stan, you will live forever!
Citizens condemn Fr. Stan's institutional murder under UAPA
Reflections on the demise of Fr. Stan Swamy
Jesuits of India, journalists and academics bid Fr Stan Swamy an emotional farewell
Fr Stan Swamy’s death highlights the need to repeal UAPA

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Pathalgadi: Assertion of Adivasi rights over land

The movement which spread in Jharkhand’s Khunti district around 2017-18 sought to end the community’s exploitation by outsiders

14 Jul 2021

Pathalgadi MovementPhoto by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi

The Pathalgadi movement championed the rule of the gram sabha in Khunti. One of the primary reasons behind it was continuous attacks on tribal rights, forcible land acquisition and the weakening of village councils in Fifth Schedule areas. Here is an exclusive photo feature in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center.

Pathalgadi MovementPhoto by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi

A stone slab marks the Munda community akhara or open space used for public events and festivals in Khunti. Erection of stones or pathalgadi is common in the district. However, there are various types of pathalgadi traditions followed by the Munda tribe here.

Munda community AkharaPhoto by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi

Such erect stones are commonly seen across the district. The reporter came across many instances of such slabs standing on the ground, especially during numerous trips to the villages. It is an age-old tradition of Munda Adivasis to erect stones in memory of the dead, to announce important events or to demarcate a boundary. This place looked particularly beautiful as the stones have been erected under foliage.

Erect StonePhoto by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi

A typical village road in Khunti district. About 34 km from state capital Ranchi, the district witnessed the rise of the Pathalgadi movement during 2017-18, which started as an assertion of tribal rights over land and natural resources. This photo was taken in Baridih village where the reporter attended a meeting of the Sati Pati cult which has arrived in Khunti from Gujarat. Followers of this cult consider themselves to be the owners of India and refrain from using any kind of government facility. With cult members spreading in the villages of Khunti, tension is simmering between the Adivasis and the Sati Pati followers.

Pathalgadi MovementPhoto by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi

Munda tribals enjoy a break during a hot afternoon at Lamlum village in Khunti. “We did not want to erect the stones initially, but followed in others’ footsteps,” says resident Sunil Munda. He adds that supporters of the Pathalgadi movement ordered huge stones for inscribing sections from PESA and the Indian Constitution. While some are in support of the movement others are opposed to it, he explains. Prem Mardi, an advocate at the Jharkhand High Court, says that the movement started as a result of power vested in gram sabhas in Fifth Schedule areas.

Pathalgadi MovementPhoto by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi

A green stone slab erected in 2017 under the heading Indian Constitution prohibits the entry of outsiders in the villages. The Pathalgadi movement was severely dealt with by the state and several supporters were thrown into prison or accused of sedition. However, a process to withdraw these cases has been initiated.

“The withdrawal process is still going on in a slow manner. The cases will not be withdrawn from the Jharkhand High Court, but from the lower courts as trials are on in lower courts. It is going through a legal process. There is a committee looking into the matter. The public prosecutor will have to submit an application in the court for withdrawal of the cases,” explains Md Shadab Ansari, advocate, Jharkhand High Court.

Pathalgadi MovementPhoto by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi

Mostly painted in green, this stone slab of Dariguttu panchayat is in grey. There are six blocks in Khunti district of Jharkhand. The major affected blocks during the Pathalgadi movement were Khunti, Murhu and Arki.

Pathalgadi MovementPhoto by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi

Etawah Munda, the headman of Lamlum village, says that this grey stone slab contains a list of the names of all those who have died in the village.

Pathalgadi MovementPhoto by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi

A row of stone slabs clicked during a previous assignment in Khunti’s Torpa block. In case of natural death, Munda tribals inscribe the deceased’s name on a stone slab. This is the original pathalgadi. However, when someone dies accidentally, such stone slabs are erected outside the village limits.

*This photo feature was produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center

Related:

Under the shadow of coal mining
Adivasi identity at stake
Save the Sarnas!
Stone quarrying, development projects threatening Jharkhand’s sacred groves

Pathalgadi: Assertion of Adivasi rights over land

The movement which spread in Jharkhand’s Khunti district around 2017-18 sought to end the community’s exploitation by outsiders

Pathalgadi MovementPhoto by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi

The Pathalgadi movement championed the rule of the gram sabha in Khunti. One of the primary reasons behind it was continuous attacks on tribal rights, forcible land acquisition and the weakening of village councils in Fifth Schedule areas. Here is an exclusive photo feature in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center.

Pathalgadi MovementPhoto by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi

A stone slab marks the Munda community akhara or open space used for public events and festivals in Khunti. Erection of stones or pathalgadi is common in the district. However, there are various types of pathalgadi traditions followed by the Munda tribe here.

Munda community AkharaPhoto by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi

Such erect stones are commonly seen across the district. The reporter came across many instances of such slabs standing on the ground, especially during numerous trips to the villages. It is an age-old tradition of Munda Adivasis to erect stones in memory of the dead, to announce important events or to demarcate a boundary. This place looked particularly beautiful as the stones have been erected under foliage.

Erect StonePhoto by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi

A typical village road in Khunti district. About 34 km from state capital Ranchi, the district witnessed the rise of the Pathalgadi movement during 2017-18, which started as an assertion of tribal rights over land and natural resources. This photo was taken in Baridih village where the reporter attended a meeting of the Sati Pati cult which has arrived in Khunti from Gujarat. Followers of this cult consider themselves to be the owners of India and refrain from using any kind of government facility. With cult members spreading in the villages of Khunti, tension is simmering between the Adivasis and the Sati Pati followers.

Pathalgadi MovementPhoto by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi

Munda tribals enjoy a break during a hot afternoon at Lamlum village in Khunti. “We did not want to erect the stones initially, but followed in others’ footsteps,” says resident Sunil Munda. He adds that supporters of the Pathalgadi movement ordered huge stones for inscribing sections from PESA and the Indian Constitution. While some are in support of the movement others are opposed to it, he explains. Prem Mardi, an advocate at the Jharkhand High Court, says that the movement started as a result of power vested in gram sabhas in Fifth Schedule areas.

Pathalgadi MovementPhoto by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi

A green stone slab erected in 2017 under the heading Indian Constitution prohibits the entry of outsiders in the villages. The Pathalgadi movement was severely dealt with by the state and several supporters were thrown into prison or accused of sedition. However, a process to withdraw these cases has been initiated.

“The withdrawal process is still going on in a slow manner. The cases will not be withdrawn from the Jharkhand High Court, but from the lower courts as trials are on in lower courts. It is going through a legal process. There is a committee looking into the matter. The public prosecutor will have to submit an application in the court for withdrawal of the cases,” explains Md Shadab Ansari, advocate, Jharkhand High Court.

Pathalgadi MovementPhoto by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi

Mostly painted in green, this stone slab of Dariguttu panchayat is in grey. There are six blocks in Khunti district of Jharkhand. The major affected blocks during the Pathalgadi movement were Khunti, Murhu and Arki.

Pathalgadi MovementPhoto by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi

Etawah Munda, the headman of Lamlum village, says that this grey stone slab contains a list of the names of all those who have died in the village.

Pathalgadi MovementPhoto by Deepanwita Gita Niyogi

A row of stone slabs clicked during a previous assignment in Khunti’s Torpa block. In case of natural death, Munda tribals inscribe the deceased’s name on a stone slab. This is the original pathalgadi. However, when someone dies accidentally, such stone slabs are erected outside the village limits.

*This photo feature was produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center

Related:

Under the shadow of coal mining
Adivasi identity at stake
Save the Sarnas!
Stone quarrying, development projects threatening Jharkhand’s sacred groves

Related Articles


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