MAC: Mines and Communities

India's Adivasi Community has right of ownership over natural resources

Published by MAC on 2018-01-25
Source: Stan Swamy

Supreme Court says "Yes"; government says "no"

Stan Swamy is a long-standing, fearless, and diligent defender of Indian Adivasi (indigenous) peoples' rights to their traditional land, forests, and livelihoods.

Based in Jharkhand, he eloquently asserts in the following article that the country's highest court is at grave odds with the state government over how to deal with widespread "terrorism" in and around  these communities.

In reality, Adivasis are being persecuted, and often slaughtered,  for alleged "crimes", trumped-up in order to assist in depriving them of the resources on which they depend.

Among the current corporate beneficiaries of this relentless attrition are:  Jindal Steel, Central Coalfields, Adani, Tata - and Britain's Vedanta Resources.

(Another tribal rights activist from Jharkhand has just published a lengthy account of the rapes, killings, torture, and other atrocities committed  by the police, military and paramilities against the state's Adivasi peoples: Endless Cry in The Red Corridor by Gladson Dungdung, Prithvi Prakashan publishers, New Delhi, December 2017)

'Adivasi Community has right of ownership over natural resources’

Supreme Court says: YES . . . Government says: NO

Stan Swamy

22 January 2018

Some facts:

(1) The Central Indian States of M.P, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha,
Bengal are blessed with enormous amount of minerals, water sources and
(2) Adivasi communities have for centuries lived, owned and used these
natural resources;
(3) While enormous wealth is extracted from Adivasi land by the state and
private companies, the people are being deprived of their rights over
their natural resources;
(4) Many tribals are falsely implicated and arrested for daring to protest
against the violation of their constitutional and human rights like the
right to possess and protect their land and livelihood resources. Label
given to them ‘naxal’ / ‘maoists’;
(5) 90% of so-called naxals are adivasis… but 90% of adivasis are not
(6) Currently thousands of Adivasi youth are languishing in the jails of
Jharkhand as under-trials prisoners;
(7) Fake encounters and fake surrenders have become a norm;
(8) Trial of under-trial prisoners is deliberately prolonged because if
they are tried, most will be acquitted.
(9) At long last, admitting a PIL on under-trial prisoners, Jharkhand HC
has directed state govt to provide detailed information about all
under-trial prisoners in all the jails of Jkd by 29th Jan.2018

How does Jharkhand govt deal with so-called ‘naxals’?

“Either make the naxals surrender or shoot them down in encounters” [the
Internal Security Adiviser’s order to the police/para-military forces on
2nd April 2015 at Rania, Jharkhand ].

Jkd police and para-military forces claim that during 2017 they arrested 608
‘maoists’, 47 surrendered their arms and, and 12 maoists have been gunned
down. They also have announced that they are all set to confiscate the
property owned by top 40 Maoist leaders. The DGP rewarded each of the
twenty Jharkhand Jaguar personnel  Rs, 10,000 cash and congratulated
them for gunning down a maoist splinter group area commander a few days
ago. [ Hindustan Times, Ranchi ed., 20 Jan.2018].

What a reward for killing people!

How does Supreme Court analyse the ‘naxal’ question?

(1) In the context of a writ against the purchase of tribal land in
violation of CNT Act in Jharkhand the SC observed: “If tribals’ land is
being sold illegally, then they (tribals) will turn into Naxalites…” [SC
verdict on 25 March 2014 on a PIL on illegal transfer of tribal land].

(2) In yet another judgment against Chattisgarh State arming some tribal
youth as Special Police Officers to fight their fellow tribal brothers
under the tag of "Salwa Judum", the SC observed: "The fight against
Maoist/Naxalite violence could not be conducted purely as a mere law and
order problem to be confronted by whatever means the State could
muster…The primordial problem lies deep within the socio-economic policies
pursued by the State on a society that was already endemically, and
horrifically, suffering from gross inequalities. Consequently, the fight
against Maoists/Naxalites is no less a fight for moral, constitutional and
legal authority over the minds and hearts of our people.” [Nandini Sundar
and Ors vs. the State of Chattisgarh SC/0724/2011]

(3) In reference to a case of a young tribal woman being paraded naked by
the powerful section of a village in Maharashtra, the lower courts failed
to give her justice, finally the SC came to her rescue and ordered severe
punishment to the accused.

The apex court observed: “ The most disadvantaged and marginalized in
India are the Adivasis (STs), the descendants of the original inhabitants
of India, and are the most marginalized and living in terrible poverty…
They were slaughtered in large numbers, and the survivors and their
descendants were degraded, humiliated, and all kinds of atrocities
inflicted on them for centuries. They were deprived of their lands, and
pushed into forests and hills where they eke out a miserable existence of
poverty, illiteracy, disease, etc. And now efforts are being made by some
people to deprive them even of their forest and hill land where they are
living, and the forest produce on which they survive.”
[SC: Kailas & Ors vs State Of Maharashtra, Criminal Appeal No. 11/2011]

The above testimonies are self-explanatory. They do not need any further
comment. May the conscience of the nation awake!


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