The Modi government, since rising to Central Power in India, has tremendously weakened the ecological protection of the nation under the pretence of development. Various corporate and government projects have been grabbing land from the tribal people, right from the heart of the nation till its southern boundaries. Whether at Chattisgarh or at Kerala, the rural people whose only source of livelihood depends on land are threatened and face a helpless situation as their fertile agricultural lands get forcefully acquired by multinationals with governmental support in at a price which is far below the available market rates, and are forcefully acquired even before the people agree to the proposal of land acquisition. At Chattisgarh, Tarika Lakra 32, Krishnalal Sao 51 and Raghunath Chaudhry 67 have stood up against JSPL’s land grabbing measures and registered cases in the courts, still having faith in the laws of the country.
A majority of world’s population have land as their sole employer and throughout the colonial history of the world, violent land takeovers have resulted in subjugation of a people whether in India, Africa or in Latin America. This practice still exists in this era of globalization but by a different power entity- the corporate and the government itself, and the people ultimately have to give in under the pressure of power politics, watching as their lands are used for setting up mines or factories , speculative investment or urban spread out, highways and expressways. Strategic land grabbing measures are also frequently applied by getting the farmers entrapped in debt and forcing them to kill themselves, making acquisition easy.
Mafia and government attacks on tribal activists have been rampant where people have stood up against land encroachment by the corporate and government as in the case of Romel Sutariya who had visited the office of Tapi District at Vyara in Gujarat to look into the status of the RTI pleas that he had placed concerning the illegitimate lease of the sand and blackstone mining to the mafia. The protests against land acquisition measures from leaders like Soni Sori,CK Janu, Sister Valsa John in Jharkhand (this reflects the immense power of the coal and granite mafias) and many others were brutally countered leading to death of a few.
The Muthanga incident in the Wayanadu district of Kerala is worth mentioning here , where the Adivasis made hundreds of huts inside the forest land and making Adivasi Gramsabhas, claiming their right over it. This was brutally suppressed by the state using the police force. The Government of India passed the Forest Right Act in 2006; but Kerala known all over the world as the highest literate Indian state , completely bypassed it using force. The state police mercilessly killed many unarmed Adivasi women and children and injured many more , besides imprisoning thousands under false implications. The Government also acts as an agent for multinational companies as has been the case in Singur ,West Bengal, where the proposed project of TATA had been stopped and the ruling government was overthrown by a relatively new opponent after a continual rule of 35 years.
However, people as in the state of Maharashtra, Kerala and Telangana, are also standing up strongly against land grabbing measures, which are often violent and backbreaking. Will the nation stand up to support our tribal brothers and sisters in their fight to claim their rights on their own lands?
Shambu Jayachandran is a young Indian writer and activist who writes on contemporary social issues. reach him at facebook.com/shambuahead