Activists say that the displacement occurred because Chhattisgarh supported the Salwa Judum; Union minister Arjun Munda says Centre trying to rehabilitate tribals NEXT NEWS ❯

By Shuchita Jha
Published: Wednesday 13 April 2022
Most tribals displaced by the Maoist-Salwa Judum conflict no longer wish to go back to Chhattisgarh

Most tribals displaced by the Maoist-Salwa Judum conflict no longer wish to go back to Chhattisgarh Most tribals displaced by the Maoist-Salwa Judum conflict no longer wish to go back to Chhattisgar

Around 50,000 tribals from Chhattisgarh, who were forced to flee to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana due to the Maoist-Salwa Judum conflict in 2005, are not eligible for land entitlements, the Union Minister for Tribal Affairs has told Down To Earth.

The tribals have been categorised as Internally Displaced People (IDP). Section 3.1.m of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act or FRA, 2006, gives rights to in situ or alternative land to those who have been displaced.

The section states:

Right to in situ rehabilitation including alternative land in cases where the Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers have been illegally evicted or displaced from forest land of any description without receiving their legal entitlement to rehabilitation prior to the 13th day of December, 2005.

The Chhattisgarh IDPs are struggling to get land titles in the states they migrated to, under this section. Some 109 people from the two states staged a day-long protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi April 6, 2022.

However, minister Arjun Munda, in a conversation with DTE said the IDPs cannot be granted land under this section of the FRA as they were not displaced because of a government project.

“The section 3.1.m of FRA is applicable to the tribal people who were displaced because of diversion of government land for development and industrial projects, not for those who fled because of conflict,” Munda told DTE in a telephonic conversation.

Activists, on the other hand, say that while the tribals may have been displaced due to conflict, the displacement occurred because the Chhattisgarh government extended support to the Salwa Judum, a state-sponsored militia. Hence, technically, the line ‘illegally evicted or displaced’ stands true here.

“Maoists have been present in Chhattisgarh since the last five decades, but what happened in 2005 that forced so many people to seek shelter in other states?” Shubhranshu Choudhary, an activist and founder of The New Peace Process, a non-profit working for tribal rights in Chhattisgarh, said.

“Besides, the section does not mention that the displacement has to be due to a government project,” he added.

He added that if it was a question of whether the tribals were displaced by the government or not, one can refer to the Supreme Court Order issued for the petition filed by Nandini Sundar and Others versus the State of Chhattisgarh in 2011.

The order asked the state to withdraw support to the Salwa Judum or Special Police Officers (SPOs), whom the state was paying an honorarium of Rs 3,000.

The 2011 SC order states:

It is now clear to us, as alleged by the petitioners, that thousands of tribal youth are being appointed by the State of Chhattisgarh, with the consent of the Union of India, to engage in armed conflict with the Maoists / Naxalites.

The Union Ministry for Tribal Affairs (MoTA) was framing guidelines for this particular section in 2019 to get more clarity on the issue. However, Munda told DTE that no progress had been made on the guidelines so far.

“We have not made a lot of progress on the guidelines and it will take time,” Munda said. “When there is a question of allotting land titles in their native state, it is fairly easy. But allotting titles to natives of a different state who wish to settle in another state is very complicated under FRA.”

Munda added that the MoTA has asked the government of Chhattisgarh for the list of IDPs, so that they can be rehabilitated within the same state.

“We are trying to give them their land rights in Chhattisgarh, their home state. If Chhattisgarh is unable to do so, then we will initiate talks with the state governments of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. We are discussing the issue with Chhattisgarh first and have asked them to make a list of the IDPs,” he said.

An official statement released by the government of Chhattisgarh April 4, 2020, said the state will welcome the tribals who were displaced from it 15 years back due to the conflict and provide them with safe areas for their rehabilitation.

The Commissioner of Bastar Division has been appointed as the nodal officer for rehabilitation and coordination with different states for the rehabilitation of IDPs of the Bastar region.

This was done on the instruction of Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel after a meeting with activists working for the welfare of tribals

But the IDPs do not want to migrate back to their home-state as they have started their lives from scratch in the new settlements in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

“We have identified 262 villages in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh with around 6,721 IDP families. They are mostly in East and West Godawari districts of AP and Bhadradri Kothagudem and Mulugu districts of Telangana,” Choudhary said.

He added that around 1,086 people have filled the forms under the section 3.1.m of the FRA and are demanding land in the two states as they do not wish to go back to Chhattisgarh.

“My friends from the village were shot by the local youth who joined Salwa Judum. They were innocent farmers but were branded as Naxalites by the youth and killed for no reason,” Dudhi Ganga, an IDP, said.

“I, with my aged parents ran away from Sukma out of fear. Now, I have my family here. My children speak Telugu and consider Telangana as their own. This is a peaceful area and we wish to settle here permanently,” Ganga added.

courtesy down to earth