By Stan Swamy
The Supreme Court says: ‘Indian State, with its blinkered vision of development, is responsible’; what does the government do?: create tribal battalions to fight/kill fellow tribals in the garb of fighting extremists.
The Supreme Court in a landmark judgment declared
…A blinkered vision of development, complete apathy towards those who are highly adversely affected by the development process and a cynical unconcern for the enforcement of the laws lead to a situation where the rights and benefits promised and guaranteed under the constitution hardly ever reach the most marginalized citizens…to millions of Indians, development is a dreadful and hateful word that is aimed at denying them even the source of their sustenance…on the path of ‘maldevelopment’ almost every step that we take seems to give rise to insurgency and political extremism
– [SC Special Leave Petition (C) NO.6933 OF 2007, sections 9,7]
Tragically the Cabinet Committee for Security (CCS) has given its nod to recruit 12 tribal battalions for so called ‘Maoist-hit states’ as reported by Express News Service, New Delhi, 25 July 2016.
It must be made loud and clear the government’s decision to set up
‘Anti-Maoist Tribal Battalions’ all over the country
‘Anti-Maoist Paharia Battalions’ in Jharkhand
‘Anti-Maoist Bastar Battalions’ in Chattisgarh
are unjust and unwarranted.
Govt creating a ‘police state’ rather than meeting people’s needs:
Instead of doing some re-thinking about its developmental model and work towards bringing greater equity among its citizens, is determined to add more guns against the poorest of the poor.
This is in addition to the already deployed 5,00,000 police and para-military forces in the 88 ‘naxal affected’ districts with the financial investment of Rs.30 crores per district per year under the ‘Integrated Action Plan’ for infrastructure development. Now this addition of 12 battalions is to be composed of mostly (75%) ‘local youths’. This raises the following questions:
• Question No 1: Who are the “local youths” to be recruited for the Reserve Battalions?
Answer: the ‘local youths’ are Adivasi youths
Answer: they are also Adivasis labeled ‘maoists’
• Question No 3: why should Adivasis be made to fight/kill Adivasis?
Answer: so Adivasi communities can be weakened and unity can be replaced by distrust.
This is a plot to divide Adivasi Community and force Adivasis to fight/kill fellow Adivasis.
Traditional Adivasi Community, as we well know, is characterized by a sense of equality, mutual cooperation, communitarianness, consensus decision making, closeness to nature. The so-called modern society, on the other hand, stands for values which are just the opposite. Respected scholars affirm that if nature and earth are going to be saved it will be only by Indigenous Adivasi peoples. Currently the dominant capitalist society, supported by mighty state power, is waging a war against the economically weakened Adivasi community. Once it is weakened, its social and cultural values will disappear automatically. This process of weakening their economic base is done by foisting one Adivasi against another.
Govt spreading a false picture:
Indian Govt is spreading a serious misconception that Adivasis have come under the sway of Maoists, that they shelter and feed Maoists, they have become by and large supporters of Maoists and many of them have become Maoists themselves. This is far from the truth. The reality is most Maoists are Adivasis but most Adivasis are not Maoists. True, some of them have joined the militant forces mostly because of their rights over jal, jangal, jamin are being snatched away by govt in collusion with big business with hardly any rehabilitation or any alternate means of livelihood. But that does not entitle a govt to blame the whole Adivasi community as being extremist.
Where lies the solution? Certainly not in amassing more and more troops, supported by helicopters. Central Indian states have already become ‘police states’ with more than half a million para-military and police personnel. Practically every village has a police post and people cannot even move around without being stopped, questioned, searched because all the people have become ‘suspects’. This cannot go on indefinitely.
If the government wants to end its self-created extremism, the only way is to honestly acknowledge the traditional rights Adivasi Communities have enjoyed over their natural resources. There are clear constitutional provisions, Parliament enactments, Supreme Court verdicts meant to protect their rights.
To spell out just the most significant of these:
• Abide by the Vth Schedule of the Constitution which empowers the Tribes Advisory Council to approve or disapprove any project meant for the tribal people. It directs the Governors of the ‘Scheduled Areas’ states to seek the advice of the TAC and instruct the government of the respective states to act as per the advice of TAC. Unfortunately no governor has ever acted as per the provisions of the Vth Schedule. It is time they do so.
• Implement the ST/SC (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 by which any non-tribal person/officer infringes on the economic, social rights of tribals are to be punished. Of late this law has been more stringent. It only needs implementation.
• Empower the Gram Sabhas through the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 2006 which authorizes Gram Sabhas as the custodians of their tradition, culture and as consultants when displacement , rehabilitation measures are to be worked out and whose consent is necessary when their land and natural resources are to be alienated from them for specific projects. Tragically these legal provisions are neatly ignored by the govt.
• Supreme Court’s Samata Judgment 2007 should be carried out in letter and spirit because it clearly mandates that coal mining in Scheduled Areas cannot be done by any private company nor even by the govt, but it can only be done by tribal cooperatives and it is govt’s responsibility to functionalize this process. Sadly nobody even thinks of this significant judgment of the SC.
• Forest Rights Act 2006 is an important legislation passed by the Indian parliament in the history of tribal empowerment especially relating to tenure security on forests and forest land. It is a legislation with the intent to recognize, vest and record forest rights of the forest dwellers who have been residing in such forests for generations and whose rights could not be recorded and thus to undo a serious historical injustice. But sadly the injustice continues to be done. At all India level, only about half of applications have been granted rights. Even those who get their patta, only a small portion of what they claim have been given to them. To make matters worse, a recent amendment to the Act does away with the power of Gram Sabhas insofar as their consent is not required to give forest land to companies. So where will poor forest-dwelling Adivasis go?
• ‘Owner of the land is also the owner of sub-soil minerals’ SC 2013 judgment makes it clear that the State/govt is not the owner of sub-soil minerals. If the govt wants that particular mineral, it must buy it from the land owner. That means the respective Gram Sabha can say yes or no to selling its minerals. It also means that Gram Sabhas have the power to excavate and market the minerals to companies whether public or private. This way rural communities can acquire legitimate wealth and become economically independent and well to do. This will lead them to social and political development and enable them to assume their due place in the broader society. Very understandably, the govt, the industrial and business class have chosen to neatly ignore this order of the judiciary for obvious reasons. Gram Sabhas have to take the initiative and assert their natural right over natural resources.
Given the above considerations. . .
The Govt creating Tribal Battalions is unjust and unwarranted. They are meant to weaken tribal communities by making its members fight/kill one another. The ultimate aim is to make them leave their land with all its mineral resources so it can be handed over to corporate houses. This trickery of the govt must be resisted at all costs.