By Raja Das,


Asserting that the Tribal community in Chhattisgarh is suffering from sexual harassment, land grabbing and human trafficking, Phoolman Chaudhary, Vice-Chairman and Asia Regional Representative, United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), said it is necessary that all organisations working for the upliftment of Tribal community and departments concerned from Government of India should pay attention to these issues.

Chaudhary said Government of India is yet to recognise Tribal as Indigenous Peoples. Until and unless, the country recognises the tribal communities as Indigenous Peoples, the tribal population will continue to suffer as their rights can’t be ensured according to the United National Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Phoolman Chaudhary, Vice-Chairman and Asia Regional Representative, UNPFII who is also Chairperson of Asian Indigenous International Network (AIIN), is on a three day visit to Chhattisgarh.

During an exclusive conversion with The Hitavada in the VIP Lounge at the Swami Vivekananda Airport, Raipur, Phoolman Chaudhary said in order to ensure rights of tribals, it is necessary that the Government of India should at first recognise them as Indigenous People and then implement the provisions laid down in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

He said his visit to Chhattisgarh is mainly to study whether the provisions of United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNRDIP) are being implemented properly in true letter and spirit or not. He said India being a UN signatory, it is binding for it to implement the same.

Phoolman Chaudhary while answering a query said as per the provisions of UNRDIP, it is obvious that whatever earning is coming from mining of minerals in scheduled areas, it should go directly to the tribal population residing those areas. Quoting UNRDIP, he said indigenous people and individuals are free and equal to all other peoples and have the right to be free from any kind of discrimination, in the exercise of their rights, in particular that based on their indigenous origin or identity. He added that indigenous people have the right to self-determination and by virtue of that they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. They have the right to autonomy of self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs.

Chaudhary stressed that Tribal or indigenous people should not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent. When he was queried that he is visiting Bastar, which is Left Wing Extremism affected area and that the Tribal population living there are trapped between the cross-fire of security forces and Maoists, Chaudhary said it is more or less a political as well as socio-economic problem, which has to be tackled effectively while bringing into compliance the provisions laid down in the Constitution of India.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNRDIP) was made on September 13, 2007. Ten years have passed since then. Along with India, all other United Nations signatories had then agreed to bring into compliance the provisions laid under UNRDIP. My visit to Chhattisgarh can be seen rather as a research on the various problems being faced by Tribals at the grass-root level here and at the same time implementation of UNRDIP provisions, said Chaudhary.

This year United Nations will be celebrating the tenth anniversary of UNRDIP declaration and hence it is needs to be researched how best these problems could be solved with the help of state as well as central government. On his arrival to capital Raipur on Sunday from Kathmandu, Phoolman Chaudhary was given a rousing welcome by members and office-bearers of Sarva Adivasi Samaj, Chhattisgarh at Swami Vivekananda Airport. From the airport, Chaudhari left for Jagdalpur. From Jagdalpur he will proceed to Dantewada on Monday, where he will address a gathering on Indigenous Peoples issues.

Thereafter, he will return to Kanker via Jagdalpur and again he will be addressing a gathering there. On Tuesday, Chaudhary will be meeting human rights activists from states of Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh in Raipur. Those present on the occasion were Jai Lakhsmi Thakur President Sarva Adivasi Samaj, G S Dhananjay, Kamladevi Netam, Shishupapl Sori President National Gondwana Gond Mahasabha, S R Netam President Chhattisgarh Adivasi Kalyan Sansthan; Shanker Kunjam, Vinod Nagwanshi, Naval Singh President Gond Mahasabha, Ashwini Kange, Babita Kachap, Bijay Kujur, etc.