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Archives for : Adivasi

#IndianRepublicDay – Odisha Killer Cops to get Presidents Gallantry Award #WTFnews

We, the undersigned with utmost urgency request you for your immediate intervention in this matter, with respect to the conferment of the Gallantry Medals for the Police from Odisha.On 14th August 2014, the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of India announced police medals on the occasion of Independence Day -2014. Out of the total 15 recipients for President’s Police Medal for Gallantry, eight police officers from Malkangiri in the state of Odisha were recommended to be awarded. The awardees are Satya Sundar Behera (Habildar), Manoj Kumar Parida (Constable), Moti Singh Nayak (Constable), Tribijay Khara (Constable) and Sanat Kumar Patra (Constable).Under Police Medal for Gallantry Santosh Kumar Mall (Addl. Superintendent of Police), Pabitra Mohan Nayak (Constable), Dibyalochan Raj (Sub-Inspector), Chitta Ranjan Jena (Constable), Samodar Kulusika (Constable), Jayanta Kumar Naik (Sub-Inspector), Satyajit Kandankel (Sub-Inspector), Niranjan Sarangi (Constable).The names of IPS Akhileswar Singh (Superintendent of Police), Pabitra Mohan Nayak (Constable) and Siva Sankar Nayak (Constable) were announced under President’s Police Medal for Gallantry and Police Medal for Gallantry.On 13 September 2013, 14 innocent Adivasis were killed in a staged encounter in Malkangiri and the matter is pending with the National Human Rights Commission bearing NHRC Case No. 3324/18/29/2014-AFE, 2171/18/29/2013-AFE. It is also to be noted that Mr. Akhileswar Singh, IPS has been transferred to Sambalpur. It is also learnt that unfortunately one Raju Saha was killed on 2nd October 2014, in a staged encounter by a team led by Superintendent of Police IPS Akhileswar Singh which is also pending with National Human Rights Commission bearing multiple petitions at NHRC vide case details: 4491/18/13/2014-AFE, 4353/18/13/2014-AFE, 4217/18/13/2014-ED and 4144/18/13/2014-AFE.As per Supreme Court guidelines, cops should not be honoured with awards if they are involved in encounter. However, the state government recommended the names of cops without ascertaining the veracity of the encounter. Observing this, a petition was filed and challenging the state government’s announcement of names of police personnel for gallantry awards. Justice Biswanath Rath issued notices to the home secretary, director general of police, Sambalpur superintendent of police and Centre seeking reply within 10 days.We are appalled by the kind of procedure in which these medals are conferred and we request you to immediately withdraw the conferment of these medals.

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First adivasi woman in the Nilgiris District files a case of sexual assault #Vaw

Disquiet in the jungle


On the fringes: An adivasi village near the Mudumalai forest reserve
Courtesy; Accord, Adivasi Cultural Centre, Gudalur, Tamil NaduOn the fringes: An adivasi village near the Mudumalai forest reserve

The first adivasi woman in the Nilgiris District files a case of sexual assault. Her battle tells of a constant tussle between a community known for its gender equality and those in power.

Madi (name changed) is a 23-year-old adivasi girl from the Bettakurumba tribe — traditional hunter-gatherers — famous for their skills as elephant mahouts. She lives in a village inside the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve in the Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu. These forests, rich in biodiversity, are home to one of the largest populations of Asiatic elephants in the world. The adivasis share their home with the elephants and even the occasional tiger. Madi, who had studied till Class XII in a government school, worked as a shop attendant at a Public Distribution Shop within the forest area. Early last month, a forest guard, on the pretext of discussing work, insisted she come to his house. When she arrived, he sexually assaulted her, before she could scream for help.

Not one to be intimidated, Madi decided to fight back and take on the forest official, who continued to harass her with threatening calls and overt gestures. Along with her father she travelled to Ooty, the district headquarters, to report the case to P Sekhar, the District Collector. The collector passed her complaint to the superintendent of police who handed the matter to the women’s cell at the local police station in Gudalur. When she finally reached the police station, she was told that it was too late and since no investigation could be conducted in the night, she should return the next day to submit her compliant. When she met the superintendent of police to register her case under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act (POA, 1995), he asked her inappropriate questions, such as, how could she prove the assault because she was a tribal woman. Statistics tell their own story, the conviction rate for POA cases in Tamil Nadu is 20 per cent lower than the national average.

But Madi, a single mother, and the daughter of a traditional Bettakurumba healer, is staying strong. Suresh, a Bettakurumba leader and member of the Adivasi Munnetra Sangam (an adivasi peoples’ organisation) says, “Madi is the first Bettakurumba woman who has filed such a case, we must stand by her.” Those supporting her have received offers of money from the forest department officials to withdraw the case. But Madi says with determination, “I will not take the case back.”

Madi’s battle against the forest department is part of a larger story about the battles of the adivasis. Their traditional ways are under threat by the forest department. The Kattunayakan — traditional honey gatherers — have not collected much honey this year because of fear of the forest department. Officials harass and threaten to imprison tribals who collect firewood and honey despite the Forest Rights Act (2006). Routine intimidation, in the form of verbal and physical abuse, and general harassment has led to fewer and fewer adivasi women venturing into the forest. This means they can no longer gather the tubers, leaves and berries, which are essential to their diets. They are not allowed to collect the thatch and bamboo from the forest to build their houses. The sexual assault on Madi is the ugliest face of this routine intimidation.

Where women are equals

For Madi, and those of her community, regressive manifestation of patriarchy are absent. For instance, among many adivasi communities, widows have the freedom to live a full and happy life and can remarry if they choose. Dowry is unheard of here. Instead, most adivasi girls receive a bride price (in the form of cattle or grain) during marriage. Unlike the all-too prevalent sense of misfortune associated with the birth of a girl child, unmarried girls are not seen as a burden in adivasi families. Neither is it mandatory for women to be the ones who move to their husbands’ homes after marriage. Older women can be granted the status of the chief of a village while men are sometimes seen cleaning, taking care of children and cooking at homes. Adivasi women do not change their names after marriage and children do not bear the name of their fathers at birth. Traditionally, it was also acceptable for both men and women to have several partners through life, something that would certainly tarnish a ‘chaste’ non-tribal woman.

Clearly, the rest of India has much to learn from adivasi societies. We don’t need to reach out to western feminist traditions or United Nation charters that call for equal rights. Yet those in power are working against these communities and their progressive worldviews. Even today adivasis are commonly understood as ‘primitive’ communities in need of ‘development’. Dominant cultural forces are acting to ‘integrate’ adivasis making them more like the us, in other words less progressive and more misogynistic.

We all know that Madi’s case is one among so many other cases of gender violence in the country. Amidst all this it is hard to imagine that India is also home to communities where women are treated as equals. We often forget that we have many other stories to tell.

The only story we repeatedly hear is that of subservient, helpless girls faced with gruesome forms of violence. In the process other narratives are routinely made invisible. There are also stories of struggle and resistance, like Madi’s, which must be told and celebrated. She like so many others is fighting back. Her fight is for all adivasi women who, despite the odds, have decided to speak out bravely against the violence inflicted upon them.

(Priyashri Mani works at the Adivasi Cultural Centre, Gudalur, Tamil Nadu)


Read more here –

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#RIP- Comrade Dabar, Adivasi Leader of anti-Tata movement in KalingaNagar

One of the greatest Adivasi fighters of recent times is no more due to tragic reasons.
SHOCKING NEWS! TRAGIC LOSS!! Comrade Dabar Kalundia, the brave leader of the anti Tata movement in kalinga nagar passed away a few hours ago because of renal failure! He was one of the most fearless and outspoken activists of the Bisthapan Birodhi Jan Manch and resisted Tata's violent attempts to displace him from Baligotha village. In fact Com Dabar successfully led his village to face many attempts by hundreds of para-military to evict the entire village despite several attempts to kill him. The mafia, the police and para-military tried to kill him on many occasions but Comrade Dabar was an alert and agile person who had somehow managed to escape the closest of encounters. But what the man could not fight like many others in his community is the the diseases that stalk the villages in the polluted Kalinga Nagar area, especially with the district administration, police and bid backed militia cordoning his village for years. Lal Salaam Comrade Dabar Kalundia, you have shown us that it is possible for the most ordinary of people to stop the most powerful opponents... Long Live Com Dabar Kalundia!
Comrade Dabar Kalundia, the brave leader of the anti Tata movement in kalinga nagar passed away  on Jan 30th, 2014  because of renal failure!
He was one of the most fearless and outspoken activists of the Bisthapan Birodhi Jan Manch and resisted Tata’s violent attempts to displace him from Baligotha village. In fact Com Dabar successfully led his village to face many attempts by hundreds of para-military to evict the entire village despite several attempts to kill him.
The mafia, the police and para-military tried to kill him on many occasions but Comrade Dabar was an alert and agile person who had somehow managed to escape the closest of encounters. But what the man could not fight like many others in his community is the the diseases that stalk the villages in the polluted Kalinga Nagar area, especially with the district administration, police and bid backed militia cordoning his village for years.
Lal Salaam Comrade Dabar Kalundia, you have shown us that it is possible for the most ordinary of people to stop the most powerful opponents..
. Long Live Com Dabar Kalundia!
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#India – Why the tribal rape scandal is so unexpected

Santhal childrenThe Santhals are one of India‘s largest tribes and honour punishments are virtually unheard of within the community

“There seems also to be a sentiment of honour among them; for it is said that they use poisoned arrows in hunting, but never against their foes,” wrote Charles Dickens about the Santhals, one of India’s oldest and largest tribal communities in his weekly literary magazine.

“If this be the case – and we hear nothing of the poisoned arrows in the recent conflicts – they are infinitely more respectable than our civilised enemy the Russians, who would most likely consider such forbearance as foolish, and declare that is not war.”

The Santhals had rebelled – the revolt was led by four brothers – against the British in 1855 forcing the rulers to impose martial law after which the movement was ended by the British.

They have remained one of India’s largest and oldest communities. Some 10.5 million of them live today in five states, mainly in eastern India.

The news of Santhal villagers, led by their headman in West Bengal‘s Birbhum district, gang-raping one of their own women for having a relationship with a non-tribal man comes as a shock.

Honour killings sanctioned by unofficial courts that are common in parts of northern India are unheard of in the Santhal community.

Community challengedThe tribe practices clan endogamy, the practice of marrying within the clan.

“But such a heinous incident is unprecedented in our community,” Nityananda Hembrom, the chief of West Bengal’s six million Santhals, told me. “If a man or woman in our community marries outside, the couple is told that they cannot participate in our rituals and festivals.

“If they don’t agree to that, they can live away from the community peacefully. There is no question of unofficial village councils sitting in judgement and ordering any kind of violence against them.”

Santhals have been known for living in peace in closely-knit communities bound by ritualistic codes, with none of the caste-based hierarchies and conflicts which mark India’s majority Hindus.

They eat rice, beef, pork and other animal and bird meat. They are animistic and divided into clans and sub-clans. They select their own village chiefs who work with a small team of villagers – usually three or four – who form a council and operate through organised “self-rule” in settling their disputes.

Santhal womanTribal elders fear their community cohesion and customs are being eroded

“They have a five-tier system of community chiefs for self-rule and settling disputes and resolving conflicts. It is all very civic and democratic. Such violence is unheard of,” says Kunal Deb, a researcher who works with the community.

But, over the last decade, the community has been challenged as it grapples with its traditional values in a fast changing society that often sends out confusing messages about modernity and tradition.

In 2010, at least three Santhal women from Birbhum were stripped and forced to parade naked in front of large crowds for having “close relations” with men from other communities.

There have been some tensions between the Santhals and the Muslim community living in close proximity in Birbhum. “I know of a case when a Santhal woman was paraded naked by her community after she was spotted having lunch with a Muslim man in Birbhum. Santhals have often blamed Muslims for promising to marry their women with an eye on their land. Muslims deny it,” says Mr Deb.

Losing tribal customs?The idyllic, cloistered life that the Santhals used to enjoy is also fraying at the edges.

They work on their parched farms in largely arid regions and are nowadays forced out of their villages to work as construction workers. Traditional livelihoods are being threatened and tribal wisdom is getting lost.

Community elders say that television and video cassette players ushered in the first change as the young community members were exposed to pornography, among other things. Now many Santhals have mobile phones, which they mostly use for listening to music and watching pictures and videos, they say.

“There is a lot of confusion and tension in the community as they come into close proximity with the outside world,” says Mr Deb. “And then there is greed and violence.”

Read more here —
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#India – Attack on an Adivasi community near LB Nagar, Hyderabad- Call ACP

Call or sms – Asst.*Commissioner of Police*: Cell No : 09490617103
History has proved time and again, that the marginalized groups of the
society continue to be tortured by the wealthy class. The violent incident
at the Adivasi Melchi Sedak society behind Kamineni Hospital at LB Nagar in
the wee hours of January 4th was nothing short of yet another gruesome act
of violence perpetrated against the Adivasis. The preliminary investigation
done by the Human Rights Forum (HRF) suggests a clear nexus between the
political establishment and the police department.
*History of the Adivasi colony:*
The Adivasis, most of whom had migrated to the city from Nallamala forests
and other forest areas of Rayalaseema and Telangana regions more than 30
years ago. A majority of the Adivasis belong to Nakkala (Pittalollu) tribe
and they manufacture beautiful artificial-plastic floral arrangements and
‘Gulers’ which are used to hit birds.
They claim that thirty years ago, Ramulu, a freedom fighter, had given them
permission to live on his 10 acre land, which is now known as the Adivasi
Melchisedak Society. However, te extent of land occupied by the tribals
kept shrinking with the passage of time. Thanks to corruption in the
system, the 10 acre land has now shrunk to merely 2 acres, as private
individuals had somehow managed to take ownership of almost 8 acres of
land. Tall buildings were constructed in the periphery of the slum.
There were about 300 Adivasi families living in the slum most recently.
*The political drama to evict the Adivasis:*
For the past several months, the tribals have been alleging that they were
being threatened by J Prabhakar Reddy (local Congress leader), K Narasimha
Reddy (local TDP leader) and some other influential leaders, to alienate
the land. They said that the leaders were claiming ownership of the land.
Most recently, according to the Adivasis, the so-called leaders brought
about a split in the community by offering money to the families for
leaving the property.
Several families left their homes and went to an alternative location shown
by Prabhakar Reddy at RK Puram, not too far away from the slums. The
families who shifted there were assured ‘Pattas’ for the new land they were
being relocated to. However, the families who didn’t vacate claim that the
land where their friends were relocated was a government land which was on
‘Lavani Patta’ and that it couldn’t be sold to a private party legally,
according to the revenue officials. Therefore, they didn’t shift to RK
At present, there are about 60-70 families still living in the Adivasi
However, they say that the so-called leaders continued to harass and
threaten them with dire consequences if they didn’t leave the slum
immediately. Last month, several huts in the slums were demolished by
Prabhakar reddy at ‘gun-point,’ according to the Adivasis.
*Conspiracy about re-settlement:*
When we visited the re-settlement colony at RK Puram 2 weeks ago, there
were more than 1000 people who said they had come from the Adivasi colony
and that they were promised Pattas by Prabhakar Reddy. They seemed fearful
and didn’t divulge many details about the displacement. They said that the
entire Adivasi colony had relocated to RK Puram though. They seemed happy.
The Adivasis at Adivasi colony alleged that the families who relocated had
also invited their friends from the rural areas to take positions at RK
Puram, so that the owner could misguide the revenue authorities, saying the
entire Adivasi colony was rehabilitated ‘in numbers’.
*The Fright Night:*
It was 2 AM on Saturday night, January 4. The Adivasis were in deep sleep.
Hundreds of men and women (from Lambada and Eruka communities) were brought
by the land sharks from Falaknuma area, to attack the Adivasis and to force
them to vacate the land. The following information is echoed by every
single Adivasi victim affected by the inhuman acts of the so-called ‘reddy
leaders’ on Saturday night.
The scene was not much different from the Jalianwala Bagh massacre. The
only difference was that stones, boulders, sticks and knives were used here
instead of bullets and that fortunately, nobody died.
Hundreds of Lambadas and Erukas entered the Adivasi colony through two
entrances, when the two constables deployed to protect the Adivasis that
night went on a mysterious break. Many of the attackers were stationed in
the periphery, where they were put-up to make sure nobody escaped from the
Several attackers were assigned to individual huts so that they could
demolish them and beat-up the sleeping Adivasis. The attackers entered the
huts, woke the Adivasis up and sprayed pepper-spray in their eyes. As the
Adivasis struggled with the unbearable pain, they beat them up black and
blue. The attackers didn’t even leave the children and mothers out of their
violence. They hit the kids with stones and the women with sticks and
knives. At least 6 people were seriously injured on their heads, including
the pastor of the church, which is located in the slums.
Then the attackers dumped them inside the vans they came-in, by holding
their hands and feet and by literally throwing them inside the vans. The
Adivasis were taken to Choutuppal area where they were dropped. On the way,
the attackers tore-away the clothes of a few Adivasi teenage women and
tried to rape them. That is when they jumped-off the moving van. Several
Adivasis were beaten-up badly and were dumped in the Choutuppal forest area.
The Adivasis returned and tried to file a complaint against the so-called
leaders. However, according to the victims, the policemen were reluctant to
register the FIR against the political leaders.
It is still a grey-area as to what is in the FIR. Despite several attempts,
the Sub-Inspector of Police, Sudhakar Naik, the in-charge of the case was
unavailable. The Adivasi women said that the Sub-Inspector, Sudhakar Naik,
had wondered why the Adivasis preferred ‘DEATH’ to relocation.
*Attack on Christianity:*
The attack was not just on the Adivasis. Many of them were
converted-Christians, who had built a Church in the Adivasi Colony slums.
As the Adivasi women hid inside the Church, the attackers broke-open the
door and took away the money inside the ‘safe’ and destroyed the interiors
of the Church. They stole the amplifiers as well. They also broke-into the
room which was adjacent to the Church where the Pastor, Israeli was
sleeping. About 40-50 attackers barged-into his room and attacked him with
iron rods and hit him repeatedly in the head. The Pastor received serious
head-injuries and was admitted to Gandhi Hospital. He received 10 stitches
on his head.
Surprisingly though, the ACP, instead of assuring him safety, tried to act
as a mediator between him and the so-called leaders and tried to convince
him to make his people relocate.
The Church had played a major role in unifying the Adivasis in their
difficult times. Therefore, the attackers targeted it and the Pastor, with
an intention of weakening the movement. The Pastor maintains that he has
not played any role in the political matter. He is not a permanent resident
of the slums and stays elsewhere. Unfortunately, he had decided to sleep in
the slums that fateful night.
Support for the Adivasis:
From what has come in the media, it can be understood that MP Sarve
Satyanarayana, Former MP Aziz Pasha and Ram Mohan Goud (local Congress
leader) have been supporting the Adivasis.
Campaign for Housing and Tenurial Rights (CHATRI), Human Rights Forum
(HRF), Civil Liberties Committee (CLC) and other organizations have
resolved to stand-by the Adivasis during their difficult times.
Questions which are emerging:
· How come a war was waged on the Adivasis when there were
policemen deployed to protect them? Why did they have to go on a break at 2
· Why has Sudheer Reddy, MLA, LB Nagar, not responded to the
· Why is the police department insensitive towards the Adivasis?
· Has SC/ST Atrocities Act or Communal Violence Act been imposed on
the perpetrators of the crime?
· What about the provisions of the Nirbhaya Act?
· Why is there an effort to protect the so-called perpetrators of
the crime from getting arrested immediately?
There are several other doubts, which would be communicated at an
appropriate time.
HRF requests every ‘HUMAN’ to stand by the side of the Adivasis in fighting
this blatant violation of ‘HUMAN RIGHTS’ in a city which claims to have
become a ‘Global Village’. Will our so-called civilized society at least
give a chance to the indigenous population amongst us to live peacefully in
a so-called Global Village?
Vivek Bhoomi

Read more here — B.Karthik Navayan,

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Indigenous Nations Are at the Forefront of the Conflict With Transnational Corporate Powers

Wednesday, 16 October 2013 09:15 By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers Truthout |

January 9, 2013. The Idle No More protests reach Moncton (Canada), as about 200 people march on City Hall in support of First Nations rights. (Photo: <a" target="_blank"> Stephen Downes / Flickr</a>)January 9, 2013. The Idle No More protests reach Moncton (Canada), as about 200 people march on City Hall in support of First Nations rights. (Photo: Stephen Downes / Flickr)

On Monday, October 7, 2013, indigenous nations and their allies held 70 actions throughout the world proclaiming their sovereignty. The call to action was issued by Idle No more and Defenders of the Land to coincide with the 250th anniversary of the British Royal Proclamation of 1763, which was the first document in which an imperial nation recognized indigenous sovereignty and their right to self-determination. As we wrote last week, treaties with First Nations are not being honored, and even the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples does not adequately recognize the sovereignty of indigenous peoples.

In Canada, where the Idle No More movement was founded, an attack is being waged by the Harper government on the rights of the First Nations. A bill referred to as C-45 weakens laws that protect the land and allows transnational corporations to extract resources from First Nations’ lands without their consent. Idle No More was founded on December 10, 2012 (the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), when Chief Theresa Spence began a hunger strike to protest C-45 on an island across from the Canadian Parliament.

The Idle No More (INM) movement has grown exponentially during the past year to become a worldwide movement. At its core, the INM taps into issues that are essential to all people. INM is a struggle against transnational corporations that collude with governments to allow the exploitation of people and the planet for profit, and it is a struggle for a new economic paradigm. INM is also about facing up to the horrific history of the way that colonizers have abused and disrespected indigenous peoples so that there can be reconciliation and justice and so that the peoples of the world can coexist peacefully. And INM is about the recognition that indigenous peoples are stewards of the Earth and must lead the way to protect the Earth and teach others to do the same.

Throughout the year, there have been teach-ins, round dances, flash mobs and rallies to raise awareness of the ongoing racist and exploitative treatment of indigenous nations as well as the continued decimation of their land to extract resources. There have been long walks, rides and canoe trips to call for healing of the Earth and for the recognition of indigenous sovereignty. And there have been blockades and other nonviolent direct actions to stop further degradation of the planet. INM has already achieved some successes.

Idle No More is an indigenous-led movement, but it is not a movement exclusive to indigenous people. As Clayton Thomas-Muller, an organizer with Defenders of the Land and Idle No More, states, “We understand that the rise of the native rights-based strategic framework as an effective legal strategy supported by a social movement strategic framework is the last best effort not just for Indigenous People but for all Canadians and Americans to protect the commons … from the for-profit agenda of the neoliberal free market strategists that have taken over our governments … and indigenous peoples have been thrust into the forefront of global social movements not just because of our connection to the sacredness of Mother Earth and our traditional ecological knowledge and understanding of how to take care of the Earth as part of that sacred circle of life but also because our ancestors … made sure we had the legal instruments to be able to confront the enemies of today and that is what Idle No More is doing in the US and Canada and across the world where Indigenous People continue to live under occupation and oppression.”

Sovereignty is Fundamental in the Struggle for Global Justice

The United States and Canada are two of the wealthiest nations in the world. Much of this wealth comes from the extraction of resources on land that belongs by treaty to Native Indians. Rather than honoring these treaties, the governments of the US and Canada have a long history, which continues today, of using laws and even manipulating the process of creating the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to exterminate indigenous sovereignty.

As the extraction of resources becomes more extreme through processes such as hydro-fracking and tar sands excavation and the serious consequences this has on the health of people and the Earth become more apparent, indigenous nations have realized that their struggle for sovereignty must intensify. The INM movement is one manifestation of this effort.

One of the six core demands of the INM movement is to “Honour the spirit and intent of the historic Treaties. Officially repudiate the racist Doctrine of Discovery and the Doctrine of Terra Nullius, and abandon their use to justify the seizure of Indigenous Nations lands and wealth.” This is a particularly appropriate time to reflect on these doctrines as some in the United States celebrate Columbus Day.

Columbus used the Doctrine of Conquest to legitimize seizure of land in the Americas. This doctrine “grants invaders legal title to the lands they conquer.” Additionally, the Doctrine of Discovery from the early 1800s allowed colonizers to occupy and claim title to any lands, and their resources, that were not part of the European Christian monarchy. And the Doctrine of Terra Nullius similarly permitted colonizers to occupy and claim land that was not settled according to European standards, such as having an established township.

These doctrines continue today. The Doctrine of Discovery was codified into law by the Supreme Court decision of Johnson v. McIntosh in 1823, which left Native Indians “with the mere ‘right’ to occupy their ancestral lands, subject to U.S. dominion.” And so it is that Native Indians are subjected to policies that continue to allow corporations to extract resources and poison the air, land and water without their consent.

Although the INM movement began in Canada, it has also taken off in the US. And solidarity between Indian Nations in the US and Canada is developing. This summer, the Dakota Nation Unity Ride from Manitoba met up with the Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign canoe trip in Woodstock, New York, to travel together to the United Nations in New York City. Two Row Wampum is the oldest treaty in North America between an Indian nation, the Haudenosaunee, and a European nation. This summer marked the 400th anniversary, which they highlighted with an epic canoe trip down the Hudson River.

The Two Row Wampum treaty “outlines a mutual, three-part commitment to friendship, peace between peoples, and living in parallel forever (as long as the grass is green, as long as the rivers flow downhill and as long as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west).” The Two Row Wampum campaign seeks to uphold the treaty by creating friendship and peace between all peoples and by working together for a sustainable future, as outlined in their campaign goals. They seek recognition of their laws, the right to self-determination, including living in accordance with their culture and laws, and to be leaders in restoration and stewardship of the Earth.

The Dakota Unity Ride and the Two Row Wampum canoe trip landed in New York City on August 9, which is the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. They walked together to the United Nations building, where they met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, representatives of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and other officials. The UN press statement describes the theme of the meeting as “Indigenous peoples building alliances: honouring treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements.”

This is a positive step, but the fight for sovereignty continues. Sylvia Mcadam, a founder of Idle No More and a professor and author, teaches that sovereignty includes “land, language and culture.” It is not just land that has been taken from indigenous peoples but also their language and culture through the forced attendance at residential schools and barriers to access their traditional foods. Mcadam states that her involvement in Idle No More began when she returned to her traditional land with her parents to do research for her current book. She was shocked to see how the land had been developed without consent of the people.

Mcadam reminds us that the First Nations are not a lawless people but that the Creator’s Laws are “expressed in everything we do.” Colonizers have a lot to learn from Native Indians – not only about caring for the Earth and living in ways that preserve resources for future generations but also about governance. Native Indians are matriarchal societies that practice deep democracy.

While indigenous people describe themselves as people who follow laws, they have suffered injustice on their lands. Last week, a panel of judges at the International Peoples Tribunal on Leonard Peltier issued an executive summary and preliminary findings following three days of testimony from Native Indians who described abuse inflicted by the US government and FBI agents. The tribunal concluded that US laws must be changed in order for FBI agents to be charged for their crimes of assault and murder on Pine Ridge Indian land in South Dakota and elsewhere. Further, the tribunal said justice is dependent on the immediate release of Leonard Peltier.

Non-indigenous groups are working in solidarity with Idle No More and other indigenous groups. For example, the Two Row Wampum campaign, led by the Onondaga Nation, works with Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation. This collaboration is particularly evident in the environmental movement.

Stewardship of the Land, Air and Water

Central to the Idle No More movement is protection of the land, air and water from corporations that steal resources without any regard for the environmental effects. Indigenous Peoples believe that many harmful substances, such as uranium and oils and gases, were put in the ground because they were meant to stay there. They oppose the extreme methods of extraction being used today.

During the past year, often with leadership from indigenous nations, the environmental movements in the US and Canada (and elsewhere around the world) have escalated their tactics to protect the Earth. Their focus has primarily been on stopping the pipelines that carry bitumen from the Alberta Tar Sands and stopping fracking for oil and gas. Throughout the summer, there were numerous direct action campaigns, including Sovereignty Summer and Fearless Summer, which collaborated to blockade roads and equipment to prevent pipeline construction.

We highlight three active campaigns that are being led by indigenous nations: The Red Nation’s efforts against an Enbridge pipeline, the Nez Perce fight to stop Megaloads from carrying humongous pieces of equipment through their lands and the Mi’kmaq Warrior Society, which evicted a fracking company, SWN Resources, from its land.

On February 28, Marty Cobenais from the Indigenous Environmental Network led the beginning of an occupation, which included building a sacred fire on top of a pipeline that runs across Red Lake Tribal land in Leonard, Minnesota. The pipeline carries bitumen from the Alberta Tar Sands, which is being mined and poisoning the land of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation in Canada without their consent. The pipeline is owned by Enbridge, and the Red Lake tribal members say that it is illegal. They understood that there was a requirement that if there were a permanent structure over the pipeline it would have to be shut down. Unfortunately, that has not happened, and in fact the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously this summer to allow the pipeline to be expanded to carry more tar sands bitumen even though hundreds attended the hearing in opposition to it.

The occupation is ongoing and is being supported by indigenous and non-indigenous environmental organizations. In October 2013, Winona LaDuke and the Indigo Girls led a weeklong Honour the Earth horseback ride along the route of the pipeline to raise awareness. They are very concerned about spills from the pipeline, which are inevitable. Enbridge has a poor safety record.

Spills have occurred already. In 2002, 48,000 gallons spilled near Cass Lake, Minnesota, and continues to pollute the water table. In 2010, more than 800,000 gallons spilled into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, and nearly 300,000 gallons remain today. And last year, 50,000 gallons spilled near Grand Marsh, Wisconsin. The pipeline runs through the Straits of Mackinac, which connect Lakes Huron and Michigan, and so it threatens to contaminate large supplies of fresh water.

The Holders of the Light held several Idle No More water-related messages in front of the 2013 Indian Summer Festival's Tipi, prominently located on the State Park Island in front of the Indian Summer grounds. (Photo: <a" target="_blank"> Light Brigading / Flickr</a>)The Holders of the Light held several Idle No More water-related messages in front of the 2013 Indian Summer Festival’s tipi, prominently located on the State Park Island in front of the Indian Summer grounds. (Photo:Light Brigading / Flickr)

A very similar battle is occurring between the Yinka Dene Alliance in British Columbia and Enbridge. There the Yinka Dene is accusing the British Columbia government of violating international law by issuing permits to Enbridge Inc. for drilling and tree removal in their territories along the proposed path for the Northern Gateway pipeline, despite their opposition and the lack of consultation on the proposed pipeline. They made the accusations in a 15-page submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Read  Original article here-


This article is the second in a two-part series on the ongoing struggle for indigenous rights. The first article was It Is Time to Recognize the National Sovereignty and Human Rights of Native Indians.

To hear Margaret Flowers interview with Clayton Thomas Muller, Sylvia Mcadam and SuZanne MoniQue Patels of Idle No More on Indigenous Nations Around the World Proclaim Sovereignty clic.

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#India – How to deal with Maosim, put poor behind bars #Chhattsigarh #WTFnews

Face to Face: Vrinda Grover

The conviction rate in Dantewada and Jagdalpur is one and three per cent. The entire objective appears to be to keep them in jail
Souzeina Mushtaq Delhi

The brutal assault on tribal school teacher Soni Sori by policemen led by an officer in Chhattisgarh, involving stones inserted in her private parts, had shocked the nation. Her continued imprisonment, after being branded a Maoist, on “false charges and fabricated evidence”, has been widely criticized by civil society and human rights groups in Indiaand abroad. Eminent lawyer Vrinda Grover, who is representing the case of Soni Sori and her nephew, Lingaram Kodopi, recently met them when they were brought to the court in Dantewada, and also in Jagdalpur jail, Chhattisgarh. Excerpts from an interview with Hardnews:

You met Soni Sori and her nephew, Lingaram Kodopi, in jail. What is the status of their cases?

I had gone to Chhattisgarh, particularly to Jagdalpur and Dantewada, to argue on behalf of Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi. Soni Sori was facing six cases; she has been acquitted in four of them, in one case she has got bail. This particular case is the last one, and is still going on. Lingaram Kodopi was facing two criminal cases. He has been acquitted in one, the other is pending.

It is important to underline that in all these cases, the chargesheets filed had serious criminal charges against both of them, such as attacks on an MLA’s house or burning of trucks or being part of a larger Naxal crowd that has attacked some place. The sections invoked in those chargesheets were of a very serious nature, including the Arms Act, the Explosive Substances Act, and serious sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). However, in all of the cases, they have been acquitted. The attempt was to project them as dangerous, dreaded Naxal leaders, and they were not given bail in any of them. Since there was no evidence against them, the court had no option but to acquit them.

However, they have been in custody since 2011. So, two years are over. In this particular case, the allegations were that a contractor, BK Lala, on behalf of Essar company, was paying off the Naxals not to disrupt their work. And that Soni and Lingaram were the conduits and they had come to take the money and pass it on to the Naxals.

Ironically, in this case, the seizure memo says that Lala was in possession of Rs 15 lakh; but he is out on bail. The Essar manager, who is alleged to have benefitted from this, is also out on bail. The only two people in jail are Lingaram Kodopi and Soni Sori, who stood to gain nothing in this entire so-called transaction. I am not even for a minute saying that the transaction is true; the whole case is totally fabricated and false.

Soni’s father, who came to meet her in the Dantewada court, was on crutches.  His right foot was severely swollen and he had tied a little rag around it. The foot was in a very bad shape. I am not sure, if, medically, his foot can be retrieved anymore. He received this injury because Naxals shot him, as he refused to become a Naxal informer. So that is the real story of this family which is playing itself out, and which actually illustrates the story of the adivasis in Chhattisgarh who are today facing multiple assaults by the State.

How do you call these cases false and fabricated?

Take this case as an example. Framing the charge is the first stage of a criminal trial. The two people who stood to gain from this so-called financial transaction are out on bail. They do not care if the case trials drag on. In fact, it is in their interest to delay and drag the case. The evidence, if at all, is against them. There is no evidence against Soni and Linga. So they are interested in delaying and protracting the issue before the court. The judge herself told me that, for the last one-and-a-half years, Lala and his counsel did not argue. Even this time, his counsel did not argue. He did not turn up. He put in some
medical application.

This incident happened in September 2011. By October-November, the chargesheet should have been filed. From 2011 to 2013, why have the charges not been framed? What is the explanation for this? Why is nobody in the entire legal system worried or concerned that two people are in jail for no fault of theirs?

The maximum punishment under the sections that they are being accused under in the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act is two years. In this case, they will get acquitted because there is no legal evidence against them. However, they have already served a punishment. What kind of legal system allows this? Why is the court allowing these kinds of delays to happen?  Why does the court allow these adjournments?

Why do you think this is happening all the time? Surely, Soni Sori’s case is not the only one…

This is a much bigger story. Perhaps the case of Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi reachedDelhibecause they happened to be here and know some people. But this is a story of a large number of vulnerable, poor adivasis inSouth Chhattisgarhtoday. To my mind, it is part of a State project, and it is extremely horrific that a democratic State deliberately allows this kind of State project in the name of controlling some Naxalite activity, which is an armed group, and is throwing a challenge to certain policies, particularly economic policies, land acquisitions, mining activities. The State wants to send a chilling message to the entire community that anybody who protests, anybody who dissents from the policy that the Centre and the State government have decided — which is only meant to profit certain private and other business houses — those people will be put away. This is what is happening. The most frightening part of the story is that this is actually playing out in front of the judiciary. The courts are seeing these cases before them. A court can make out that there is no evidence because the entire case is false and fabricated. Yet, the police and the prosecution continue to file such cases.  And courts are not discharging them, not granting them bail.

The entire chargesheet before the trial court in Dantewada does not have one single piece of evidence to show that either Linga or Soni have anything to do with Naxals. It is a perfect case for discharge. It is a story that has been concocted. The story was made up because they wanted to project Linga and Soni as dangerous Naxal leaders. Like all the other cases have collapsed so will this. Clearly, what the police, the prosecution, and the State are determined to do is to punish them through the legal process by incarcerating them.

I also want to point out that, invariably, the adivasis, who are jailed in all these so-called Naxal cases, are not even produced before the court because they are given ‘administrative excuses’ that vehicles or security guards are not available. Since they are branded in so-called ‘Naxal cases’, therefore, a larger contingent of CRPF, and so on, needs to accompany them. It is another matter that these cases collapse like a house of cards each time. I am told that Soni had to argue, request and plead with the jail superintendent of Jagdalpur to allow her and Linga to be taken to the Dantewada court. She had told them that her lawyer had come all the way fromDelhi. The jail superintendent made special efforts, contacted the police, and saw that Soni and Linga were produced before the court.

What is the condition of the adivasis in the area?

There are Naxals operating in some parts ofSouth Chhattisgarhand the State is not able to pick up most of the Naxal leadership. What they are doing is picking up large numbers of adivasis during search operations. They are nabbed, and thrown into jails; all kinds of totally fabricated cases are made against them.

In this particular case, for instance, they have also invoked other serious sections like waging war against the State, sedition, Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, Chhattisgarh Public Safety Act — all these are meant to over-awe the mind of the court when the judge considers a bail application or has to decide if this is an appropriate stage of discharge. The very fact that these are very serious sections would obviously have an impact on the court — although it should not. And the court should be able to see the deliberate, devious plan that the State is playing in order to keep these ordinary, very poor, marginalized, vulnerable people in jail.

Most adivasis in Jagdalpur and Dantewada do not have private lawyers. They cannot afford them. Legal Aid lawyers represent them. We all know and it is an established fact across the country that Legal Aid lawyers do not provide effective legal representation. For many of them, their families do not come to visit them because the jails and the courts are too far. They are also insecure. For instance, if someone from the village comes to meet them, they are abused, called names, picked up by the police, further harassed. They are told: ‘You are also Naxal informers; therefore, you have come to meet him.’ All this is happening very far away from the capital. Jagdalpur and Dantewada are faraway places. Nobody is going to see what is happening in these courts, what is the condition of adivasis in jail — why are they being incarcerated in jail for so many years?

I have been informed that the conviction rate in Dantewada and Jagdalpur is one and three per cent, respectively. So, the entire objective appears to be to keep them in jail for three to four years. Trials drag on for very long and eventually everybody knows that they will get acquitted. But who is going to compensate these people for their loss of liberty, for the agony that they are suffering, for the trauma that the family suffers, for the impact that their incarceration is having on the family? There is absolutely no accountability for this.

Why do the courts keep them inside prisons?

I think the answer lies in what the lady prosecutor said in a very brief argument in the court. Her argument was that all the offences were made out against the accused. Second, these were grave crimes. Third, it was a Naxal-affected area. As far as I see it, the first one is her legal opinion. The second one is a statement of fact. The third one is not a statement that can be made in a court of law. A statement saying this is a Naxal-affected area is a very underhand attempt to over-awe the judiciary. The judiciary of Chhattisgarh should not allow this State project of completely crushing the adivasis. It places a very huge responsibility on the judiciary.

Have the jail conditions improved?

When I met both of them, they looked much weaker. In Indian prisons, it is high time that we raise the issue of what kind of diet is given to the prisoners. To give a person, day in and day out, only one dal and one vegetable, it is obviously going to affect their health. However, it is not the fault of the jail. The diet that is permitted by law for undertrials and convicted prisoners is in itself a poor diet. That is what the law of this land is. I am saying the law is wrong. The jail manual is wrong. You have to have a better diet for people who are in your custody. Let us not allow the State to escape its responsibility by saying that these are poor people and at least they are getting two meals a day. These are hardworking people and they have multiple sources of nutrition when they are living on their own in their villages. They understand the vegetables and nutrition way better, which the jail manual completely loses out on. Therefore, everybody’s health condition is going to deteriorate inside the jail.

Has any action been taken against Ankit Garg, the police officer who has been accused in the alleged sexual torture of Soni Sori?

Yes. The President of India has awarded him a gallantry award for the sexual torture of Soni Sori. That is a statement of fact. The petition saying that torture had taken place has been pending in the Supreme Court for two years. The apex court has not thought of it as a matter that needs to be taken up urgently. Soni has said repeatedly that, under the directions of Ankit Garg, she was stripped, tortured in custody, and the torture was of a sexualized nature. It is perhaps the most heinous offence that can be committed against a woman. At a time, post-December 16, 2012, when the whole country spoke out about violence against women, it is extremely regrettable that the highest court has still not decided this matter. Ankit Garg’s President’s Gallantry Award should have been snatched away, at least while the matter is pending.

The issue was repeatedly highlighted by women’s rights groups; the National Commission for Women (NCW) conducted a jail visit. They went to Jagdalpur jail to see the condition of women prisoners. They met Soni Sori and others. But over maybe two years, the NCW report, despite repeated reminders, requests, meetings by women rights groups, has not been made public. They had talked to Soni, and Soni had told them about the kind of torture she had faced in Raipur. She and other prisoners would be stripped and searched; she narrated the humiliation they had to suffer. But NCW has till date not made its report public.

Is it true that women prisoners have organized themselves in jail?

Well, they have not organized themselves. They are seeking their rights as prisoners and undertrials. For instance, the food that they were being served earlier often had worms and other insects. So they went on a hunger strike and demanded that they be given a separate kitchen where they can cook their food. After they went on a hunger strike, the jail superintendent agreed to their demands.

Now there is a separate kitchen where they cook their own food. However, they still have complaints. The quality of the raw material, whether it is dal or flour, is bad; there are often worms and insects in it. Clearly, it is the responsibility of the jail authorities and the State to ensure that proper quality food is given to them.

How do Soni and Lingaram see their future?

When I met Linga, he asked me if he would be rearrested again after his release. Such is the future he is staring at. Here is an educated young man from the adivasi community who, if allowed, and if not persecuted and tortured by the police, can provide true leadership to the adivasi community. He has equipped himself to be a young voice from his community. But the State has targeted him.

It is the case with Soni as well. I do not understand why theIndianStateis afraid of such people who can bring about a positive change in their communities, in democratic ways, without taking up arms.

Pic: Joe Athialy

From the print issue of Hardnews


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#India- ‘In Soni Sori’s case, the state project of victimising adivasis has reached inhuman levels’ #Vaw


Vrinda Grover, who is representing imprisoned adivasi teacher Soni Sori in a Dantewada court, speaks on the flaws in the cases against her

September 18, 2013

Vrinda Grover Photo: Baba Tamim

You recently met . How is she coping with her situation? Where does the case stand now?

I met  as well as her nephew – the  adivasi journalist,  – both in Jagdalpur jail as well as  court. Soni had six cases against her. She has been acquitted in four for lack of evidence and she’s already got bail in one case. There’s one more left though, where bail is pending. Ironically, in this case too, B K Lala, the alleged contractor who was to give the money to get his work done, as well as the manager of Essar company who is supposed to gain if there is such money are out on bail. The only two people who are still in jail in this case are and , who have no evidence against themselves. To my mind, as a lawyer, even if we admit the entire chargesheet – there’s no case to be made against either  or Lingaram. They are being falsely implicated and framed.

I speak for Linga and Soni, and they are asking, “Why are we being targeted, why are we being abandoned?” I think the answer lies in what the lady prosecutor said in a very brief argument in the court. Her argument was that all the offences were  made out against the accused. Secondly, that these were grave crimes. Thirdly, that it was a -affected area. As far I see it, the first one is her legal opinion. Second one is a statement of fact. Third one is not a statement that can be made in the court of law. Whether it is a -affected area or not should not influence a court of law. Each case has to stand on the basis of evidence presented to the court. In this case, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act as well as the charge of waging war against the state have been used to overwhelm the court – to make the court think that these are  leaders. They are only interested in continued incarceration.

Her husband Anil Futane died last month. There were allegations that he had suffered torture…

In Soni’s case especially, this state project of victimising adivasis has reached inhuman levels. At the court, I met her father, who had come walking on crutches. He had tied a piece of cloth on his foot, which had swollen. He has a bullet wound on his leg, which is not healing and the fate of the leg is not looking good. He was shot in the leg by Naxals as he had refused to be a  informer. ’s husband Anil Futane also had several cases against him before he got acquitted and released. He spent several years in jail and suffered torture. He died of ill-health – which must have deteriorated during his time in jail, owing to the poor diet.  wasn’t even granted an interim bail when her husband’s funeral was performed. They were all projected as Naxalites. Here’s a family that’s playing out the human tragedy that adivasis in Chhattisgarh are experiencing. They have three children – who have been destituted and are without any parental care.

In Soni’s case, how do we understand the way courts behaved and ask questions without inviting contempt?

I will not comment on the court that’s currently seeing the particular case. But in Jagdalpur, I met with a few judges and prosecutors to understand the situation here. I also met a lot of undertrials in jail. After conversations with judicial officers, lawyers, undertrials and prison officials, it’s clear that observations are the same – most of the adivasis in these prisons have been charged under what are called ‘ cases’. Off the record, these people will tell you, these adivasi villagers, whose village the Naxals visit, are not Naxalites. It’s undeniable that Naxals operate in those areas. The forces do not go into interiors and they do not risk keeping proximity to Naxals as they fear loss of life. The villagers are later picked up in large numbers. Witnesses don’t turn up to give evidence – not because they are petrified of adivasis – but because most witnesses are police and public officials. Hence these cases drag on and on for years. In south Chhattisgarh, the conviction rate in all cases is 3 percent. In this case too, what is the link the prosecution is making between Lingaram,  and the Naxals? Where is the criminal conspiracy? There is a line in the chargesheet without evidence or witness statement. It goes, “They have other  cases against them.” How can a court say I will convict you here because you have other cases elsewhere? The irony here is that they have been acquitted in all other cases. The two, who have nothing to do with the case, are languishing in jail.

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Note of dissent against Tehelka’s newly announced Tarun Sehrawat Award for Journalism of Courage and Conscience

courtesy- Tehelka


Pratik Kumar- Facebook

Why make a martyr out of Tarun Sehrawat? The young departed soul deserves an apology, and not memorials or an award in his name. His colleagues say that he died brave and strong. I believe it. When Tarun was in hospital grappling with cerebral malaria, the award page says, his camera was the only thing he had asked for in brief moments of consciousness. I feel sorry for Tarun. His journey with the camera had been cut short. And part of it was due to criminal negligence of Tehelka.


The organisation failed to take into account the dangers involved in sending a 23-year-old to the jungles of Chhattisgarh, a Naxal stronghold, and the so-called playground for all serious journalists and photographers in the making. Our more experienced and accomplished colleagues in the industry were left with only notes of lamentations and cautions. (I am sure most of them had learnt the rules of conflict reporting they cited following Tarun’s death, the real hard way.) But the eternal knowledge of ‘safety first’ gets passed on only in the times of distress. In some rare cases, it takes a Tarun to make us see the rot in human values, and the lack of mutual respect, within our own ever-so-restless journalism community.


Tehelka by announcing an award in the memory of Tarun is paying obedience to the culture of neglect. I am also afraid that the award hails the spirit of Tarun, journalism, courage and conscience in the same (foul) breath. All journalists, young or old, who are true to their profession will do all it takes to report good stories — that touches lives, but who would want to die and become a martyr like this? Especially so for Tehelka’s newly announced annual bravery award for young journalists, with a prize money of 1.5 lakh. I can only thank their unusual generosity.


I know quite a few ‘exposé journalists’ in my industry, most of whom started their careers with Tehelka. To put it the other way, several young journalists got to test their limits at Tehelka, some flourished, some went off limit, while some paid a price. I graduated last year, almost the same time when Tarun died, with a hope that editors do have a heart and are willing to back their journalists. In the discussions that ensued after Tarun’s death, I learnt how reporters and photographers are sent backpacking to cover sexy jungle exposés, without much preparedness. What now irks the most is a citation for Tarun’s bravery on the award page.


“In death, as in his life, Tarun exposed a crucial story: the almost criminal absence of health care in huge swathes of India.” 


The greatest of all ironies is that I and many of my friends who graduated last year were dying to get a reporting job with Tehelka.


P.S. I know what I would have done had I been the editor of Tehelka. I could have announced something like a Tarun Sehrawat Foundation to create free safety resources for journalists and photographers who report on conflict issues; in my way a befitting, yet silent method of paying a penance.


Links to the Tarun Sehrawat Award for Journalism of Courage and Conscience:


Articles on Tarun Sehrawat and jounalist’s safety:


How do Tehelka editors see Tarun’s death:



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#India -‘Tribals turn extremists because states are too busy making money from land’

 Down to Earth
Date:Jun 13, 2013

The world’s largest democracy is facing a surge in tribal uprisings. The recent killings of Mahendra Karma and other Congress leaders in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh  has prompted the government to address issues of land dispossession and socioeconomic deprivations of tribals. These are the key issues that have been precipitating recurring violence across various parts of the country. Union Minister of Tribal Affairs Kishore Chandra Deo speaks to Sonum Gayatri Malhotra about the obstacles hindering effective governance of tribal communities in Schedule Five areas and how to overcome them. Edited excerpts from the interview

Kishore Chandra DeoKishore Chandra DeoTribals of Bastar are protesting against the provisions of the Fifth Schedule. With elections nearing, they are demanding tribal autonomy in the district as provided under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. Do you think the Sixth Schedule is working better in protecting tribal rights?

The Fifth Schedule of the Constitution has no dearth of laws in protecting the tribal rights. Bastar’s demand to introduce Sixth Schedule provisions in a Fifth Schedule area is not pragmatic and is definitely not well thought through.

Hypothetically, introduction of Sixth Schedule in Fifth Schedule areas would need a statutory amendment to the Constitution. This is an interminable process. Moreover, amending the composition of the Constitution is a process that first needs to be addressed by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs. The Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs is relatively a new ministry, which came into existence 12 years ago. Before that, scheduled tribes came under the purview of the home ministry. Unfortunately, not all powers have been transferred to the tribal affairs ministry yet. This is a problem. I have limitations as a Union minister. I can only guide the governors of Schedule Five states to evoke their discretionary powers and inform the President of the situation.

But there is confusion over the role of governors in Schedule Five areas. In 2009, then President Pratibha Patil said that the Fifth Schedule devolves special responsibility on the governors in administering scheduled areas and ensuring peace and good governance among tribal communities. But recently, Assistant Solicitor General (ASG) Fouzia Mirza in her submission to the Bilaspur High Court said that a governor under the Fifth Schedule has no discretionary power. Based on her submission, the court dismissed a petition challenging constitutionality of the Tribes Advisory Council and powers of the governor under this schedule. Tribal rights activists have now approached the Centre seeking Presidential reference to the Supreme Court on interpretation of the Fifth Schedule.

The case was recently brought to my notice in response to letters I had sent out to all governors holding posts in Fifth Scheduled states.

The powers exercised by the governor especially under the Fifth Schedule are discretionary powers. The governor is not only the administrative and executive head of the state but also represents the Centre at the state. Fouzia Mirza has got it wrong. I am sad that an ASG, a top government official, erred on such a critical matter.

Most scholars and opposition parties also think that governors are of partisan nature, considering they have never evoked their powers given under the Fifth Schedule. Former governor of Odisha M C Bhandare had said “governors’ role constitutionally exists on paper but actually there is no existing support on ground”.

It is time governors started taking responsibility and invoked the powers which have been conferred on them under the provisions of Article 244 under the Fifth Schedule. It is time for a wake-up call. We are talking about the most marginalised sections. If the government of a state is not directing laws to benefit scheduled tribes, it is the role of the governor to intervene and set things right. When the Constitution was being framed, it was decided that a representative would ensure equality for indigenous communities that would protect them from the burgeoning globalising expansions and secure their fundamental rights. That’s why the governor is not bound by the aid and advice of the Tribes Advisory Council but can direct executive orders in his own discretion.

M C Bhandare has done wrong by not doing anything for the tribal communities of Odisha, where mining has been a critical issue. Constitutionally, the governor is to administer, legislate and execute directives for Fifth Schedule areas. Implementation of development programmes are channelled through the state department, however, the governors can direct laws for areas inhabited by scheduled tribes.

I am ready to take charge of the Fifth Schedule states that have seen governors neglecting their duties. The nodal ministry can empower to assign themselves the powers that have been conferred under the Fifth Schedule for the peace and good governance in tribal regions.

Don’t you think the contentious conflicts between ministries have only imploded to create mistrust among the tribals towards the government? In the latest such instance, the Union environment ministry headed by Jayanthi Natarajan has sought dilution of power of the gram sabha

Today, the growing mining sector is the main threat in Schedule Five areas. This has shaken the confidence and faith of the people in these regions in our democratic system. In many cases, powerful lobbies are trying to encourage mining in a flagrant violation of Constitutional provisions. The variant ideologies of ministries seem to have stemmed from market incitement. Ministries are working at cross-purposes. This is a turf war, lamentably in a social sector which is the most unfortunate.

Fifth Schedule areas in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand are governed by the Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act. Such areas are meant to be lightly policed. But the government’s emphasis on policing and militarism is evident. Your comment

Deployment of forces in areas inhabited by tribal communities is sending out a message that can only provoke disorder other than what is desired. Sending military or paramilitary forces to these areas will not help contain the uprisings as these are not merely law and order problems. Having said that, one should address the core issue of these uprisings; these areas do not have adequate development. Basic human amenities like food, drinking water and healthcare are lacking. It is the duty of the state government to develop the regions responsibly in accordance with the communities’ requirement.

Most people from the tribal communities end up joining extremists’ movement because the state is too busy concentrating on how to use land in the most profitable way. Lashkar-e-Toiba is funding the Naxalite Movement. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has alleged that the biggest internal threats to the country are its tribal communities. Inevitable alien militant forces triggering hostility in Fifth Schedule Areas, especially bordering states, is bound to undermine the very national integrity.

Sonum Gayatri Malhotra works with Centre for Policy Research, Delhi


Kishore Chandra Deo


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