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Jharkhand’s Tribes Protest For Rights Over Their Very Own Land

This article is about the tribals of Jharkhand who are being denied their basic rights of ancestral land and property by the State Government.

The March for Forest and Land Rights (MFLR), 2019 or Jangal Zameen Adhikar Padyatra, 2019 was organized for a period of 7 days, starting 20 February.

The tribals of Jharkhand have been protesting against the acquisition of their ancestral property, along with water, forest, and land of Ranchi. Because the government has neglected their demands, they have now decided to campaign on the streets.

On the very first day of the protest, a group of landless farmers and people from tribal communities gathered in New Hazaribagh Stadium, at St. Columbus College, Hazaribagh. Around 20,000 tribals gathered to demand the basic rights of their forest and ancestral land. Every person was required to carry a bag with 5 kgs of rice, 2kg potatoes, sugar, salt and a bag full of lentils, so that they could have food in times of need.

Image result for Jangal Zameen Adhikar Padyatra 2019
Protesters at Jangal Zameen Adhikar Padyatra, 2019. Image Credit:

A programme on 19 February was organized in the New Hazaribagh Stadium, where the leaders gave speeches to the volunteers, as well as the tribal people, who were to participate in the march. They made arrangements to cook their food for these 7 days. According to the tribals, in a few districts, the Government has provided them with bhoodan zamin (infertile land), but they have not received proper receipts for the same. They do not favour taking loans from the government, since paying back the money becomes a serious problem for the uneducated and poor people like the tribals. According to them, the old laws are being modified and new land laws are being brought into effect, by the government.

Primary Demands

Around 10,000 people including tribal youth, students, women as well as elderly people have been a part of the protest. Their primary demands include the following:

1) To withdraw the cases which are incorrectly filed against a set of the tribal department

2) The government should seek permission from the villagers before land acquisition in any way

3) A tribal body should be created that enforces tribal rights

4) Personal and community land rights under Forest Right Act, 2006, should be insured through the campaign within 6 months.

5) Existing minimum support price of non-timber forest produce should be regularized so traditional forest dwelling communities could avail and dispose NTFP through Gram Panchayat.

6) CNT Act (Chotanagpur Tenancy Act) and SPT Act (Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act) should be strictly implemented.

7) Collective land should be freed from the hold of Bhumi Bank

8) Land Acquisition Act, 2013 should be enforced immediately.

The tribals, who have come from remote villages, are extremely poor, and do not have anything to lose. They had to stay on the streets, where they suffered on account of the cold weather conditions. Many people donated food as well as water to them.

One should be informed about the groups or committees who file petitions in the Supreme Court regarding banning or abolition of tribals from the forest area. This group, which includes advocates as well as officers, runs with the help of corporate funding and their only work is to remove the group of tribals from their native areas. These groups create hindrance and obstacles in the path of tribal welfare. They file petitions against them to the Supreme Court, or the High Court, in order to ammend the laws related to the welfare of the tribals.

In Chhattisgarh, Bagga tribesmen have been evicted from a large area due to the formation of a Tiger Reserve. Tribals have also been removed from their natural habitat due to the formation of Barnavapara and Bhoramdeo Tiger Reserves.

They have been banned from going to the forest as well as the mountains. The most surprising part is that the above-mentioned Tiger Reserve does not inhabit a single tiger. Whatever was done was because the Centre gave a huge funding to this corporate group, which they divided among themselves. In 2013-14, the Supreme Court was approached regarding the unfair administration of the tribals and of the campaign fund, as well as the irregularity of Rs. 3000 crores.

At that time, there was a Forest Bench and the issues related to the environment were investigated and discussed immediately. Now, the cases related to environment are dealt with, according to the rules of the Central Government. Tribals will have to raise their voices against judges too. Three people sitting in an enclosed air-conditioned room cannot decide the fate of millions of tribals in the country.

Community members who are coming forward to help are being assisted by the organisation named National Alliance for Peace and Justice. They are providing the protesters with basic sanitation and night shelter for 7 days. You can come forward and contribute your share to the movement, by going to the Milap link shared on the Facebook page of National Alliance for Peace and Justice.

The protesters have been marching with their green flags and drums. Their banners read “Jangal Zameen Adhikar Padyatra 2019”. They repeatedly shout their slogans “Humari maange poori karo, poori karo” (Fulfill our demands), “Jangal Zameen humara hai, humara hai” (The forest land is ours). Till now, the Government has not responded to their demands. But they are not ready to give up. They are determined to fight for what is rightfully theirs.

Let us pray for the success of the movement and that the government gives back the basic rights of land, forest and water to the tribals of Jharkhand. One can contribute to the success of the movement by contributing to the NGO National Alliance for Peace and Justice, by going to the link mentioned above.

Let us hope for the best.

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