Guest Post by CONCERNED STUDENTS OF TATA INSTITUTE OF SOCIAL SCIENCES, MUMBAI
We, the concerned students of Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai condemn the continuing state repression of adivasis and recent attack on human rights activist Bela Bhatia in Bastar, Chhattisgarh.
On the 23rd of January, 2017, a group of 30-odd men attacked Bela where they barged into her house in Parpa, near Jagdalpur violently and threatened to burn the building down if she did not leave immediately. The mob also attacked her landlords and their children, threatening them with dire consequences if Bela was not evicted immediately. Despite Bela’s assurances that she would leave, the mob continued to be belligerent, in the presence of the police, and the Sarpanch. The mob has been identified with the right-wing vigilante group Action Group for National Integrity (AGNI). Continue reading In Solidarity with Adivasis in Bastar, Human Rights Defenders and Bela Bhatia in Bastar: Concerned Students in TISS, Mumbai
Guest post by SHASHANK KELA
The aim of this essay is to make connections between things that are usually studied separately – environmental history, political economy, conservation practice and adivasi politics – and I apologize in advance for the demands it makes upon the reader’s attention. The belief that this potential convergence could do with wider discussion is my sole justification for putting it up here.
Environmental history in India is not a very old discipline – the first mongraphs began appearing in the 1980s, and more and more books and papers have been added to the historiography since 2000. Let us examine certain themes as outlined in a cross-section of recent scholarship.
One key debate centers upon whether the colonial period can be regarded as an ecological watershed. An influential book by Ramchandra Guha and Madhav Gadgil argued that, before the advent of colonialism, there existed a harmonizing tendency between human beings and the environment, a balance between resource use and preservation mediated largely through the caste system: colonialism shattered this equilibrium and the values associated with it. This idealizing view, eliding different time periods and state structures, was bound to come under attack and much subsequent scholarship has been devoted to unpicking its conclusions.
Sumit Guha shows how at least one natural resource, namely wild grass for fodder, had become scarce in the Deccan by the Maratha period thanks to the demands of armies, nobles and zamindars, who engrossed it by enclosing tracts of common land. This fierce arbitrariness fostered a system of free grazing and discouraged sustainable management through collective protection of the commons. Meanwhile the argument that sacred groves are strands of untouched forest – repositories of biodiversity – is refuted by Claude Garcia and J-P Pascal in their study of Kodagu. Far from being untouched, groves there are heavily used and managed, and show clear signs of degradation associated with use. Continue reading Staking the Terrain – Political Economy, Environmental History and Nature Conservation: Shashank Kela
Guest Post by KAMAL NAYAN CHOUBEY
Election manifestos of political parties have a distinct and vital role in the parliamentary elections. Parties present their policies on crucial issues of the country and their programmes to address the problems of the country. These elections, however, have seen minimal discussions on the contents of the manifestos of different parties because perhaps these elections are less policy centric and more individual centric. That is why the principal opposition party in the Parliament, BJP had not released its manifesto till the first day of polling. Election manifestos of all parties explain their policy and programme for the each and every section of society. It would be useful to consider that what kind of policies and programmes are promised for adivasis in the manifestos of prominent political parties. This is also necessary because these people have paid the price of the ‘development’ based on the extraction of natural resources and the use of corporate capital for this purpose. (Here I want to clarify that I will not focus on the issue of adivasis of North East India, because their problems are very different from the adivasis of the rest of India and one cannot do full justice by analyzing them as one unit).
In last twenty years this expropriation of resources has increased in the forest areas of the country. In each tribal dominated state, State Governments have signed hundreds of Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with many national, international and multinational companies. These are the areas where Maoists have strong influence as the ‘biggest internal security threat’ of the country. So, it is important to ask what the policies of various political parties for adivasis are and is there any continuation in their policies and their actual performance as the ruling party in the Centre or in the States? Can adivasis expect, on the basis of these policies and programmes, that next government would follow more sensitive approach towards their problems? Continue reading Unbroken History of Broken Promises – Adivasis and Election Manifestos: Kamal Nayan Choubey
This is a guest post by R UMA MAHESHWARI
The Andhra Pradesh ministers are fighting like the hooligans they show in Telugu films (one is reminded, in particular, of an old Telugu film aptly named Assembly Rowdy). The fight is all over, and about, investments in Hyderabad and elsewhere. As it is about money. The Parliament fight is with pepper sprays and knives. Back there, on the ground, in tribal villages in AP (yet to be declared as either Seemandhra or Telangana), absolutely unarmed Koyas, Kondareddis, and a few other tribal communities are opposing the construction of the Polavaram dam. And have been marking their protests with dharnas, rasta rooks and burning of effigies of leaders of all political parties. The former have some plum real estate and business interests to protect; the latter have their everything to fight for – homes, land and histories. Not for a while, in the entire debate and fighting over the state of either unification or creation of Telangana have any of these picketers in the Parliament have sought the opinions of the tribal people whose land is today a battleground for investment. One has no qualms of using the peculiar Sanskritic terminology, in the Vedic sense of sacrificial rituals, conducted by the wealthy and upper castes for their benefits, in the name of the ‘common good’. A Former Chief Minister of the state of Andhra Pradesh, YSR, too, used the same Sanskritic term (in spite of his being a Christian) for the irrigation projects (or contractor businesses) he initiated (86 nos.) under jalayagam. Today the sacrificial ritual continues, and it is a human sacrifice, of more than three hundred thousand tribal people (as it is the sacrifice of animals and birds and every visible or invisible organism), in return for the illusory real-estate-driven world called ‘Greater’ Hyderabad; what if it is going to be a “joint capital for ten years” (and who has seen what the world will look like after ten years, any way? Or what shape it will assume? But these are matters of philosophy and metaphysics, I guess, talking of who knows where we will be, what will be…). Continue reading Adivasi-yagna, The Great Sacrifice – Tribal Communities for ‘Greater’ Hyderabad? R Uma Maheshwari
Away from the obscenity of a parade of tanks, nuclear missiles, and military might, the citizens of Delhi, once again (yesterday, the 26th of January, Republic Day) demonstrated that their re-definition of citizenship and the idea of a republic does not necessarily need an army, the AFSPA, restrictive laws like section 377, moral policing, censorship and assaults on workers, gay, lesbian and transgender people, women, the young, pensioners, minorities, Africans and other non-Indian inhabitants of Delhi, disabled people, or discrimination against people from the North East and Kashmir. Since last year, in the wake of the anti-rape protests, the 26th of January, which is nominally observed as the day when the Indian state performs its show of strength on New Delhi’s Rajpath has now been liberated by many of Delhi’s citizens groups as an occasion for us to turn away from the spectacle of the state and walk towards a liberated future. This is how the Republic gets Reclaimed on 26th January in Delhi.
Continue reading Reclaim the Republic 2014
Guest post by AGRIMA BHASIN
“We won’t beat you at your house, we will beat you in the bazaar, in front of everyone!” A common caveat, often hurled at a dalit by an upper caste. But in this case, they were dalit men who spat this warning at a tribal family. A group of dalits in Alampur village, Sagar district, Madhya Pradesh are forcefully asserting their rights (since 2003) over a belt of forest land belonging to Balram, a tribal resident and his family. The family have farmed the five acres of land for 40 years and were finally awarded forest rights over it by the state government of Madhya Pradesh in 2009. Continue reading A Case of Dalit Assertion Over Adivasi Land: Agrima Bhasin
This press release was put out by the SC/ST BUDGET ADHIKAR ANDOLAN after a large protest in Delhi on 24 April
Massive uproar and agitation by over a thousand SC/ST’s marked the initiation of the campaign “Sau Mein Pachees Haq Hamara” at Jantar Mantar on 24 April, 2012. The protesters flooded the roads of Jantar Mantar as they marched along the high pitch drum beats, adding to the rhythm of the march. Even the scorching heat did not deter those who joined the protest march from several other states. They hooted in unison, “Hamara Haq Idhar Rakho!” Continue reading ‘Sau Mein Pachees Haq Hamara’: Caste of a Scam