Friday, May 16, 2008

Tribals will not survive without land: Bandi Oraon

Ranchi: "Today is a historical day as we are celebrating the 100 years of accomplishment of the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act 1908. But at the same time, we are under the threat as the Jharkhand government has signed 65 MoUs with the corporate houses and they need lakhs of acres of land for it. If the lands are taken away from the tribals, they will not survive because their lives, culture, identity, autonomy, social system and economy are based on land and forest", said Bandi Oraon the former vice president of National Commission for Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe, member of Bhuriya committee and a noted tribal activist while inaugurating the three days "Jharkhand Aahwan" (A Call for Jharkhand) organized by Creaj Jan Mukti Andolan in Ranchi on the occasion of 100 years of CNT Act.
He said that the tribal land alienation is a very serious issue in Jhakhand. The Chotanagpur Tenancy Act 1908 was enacted with the prime objective of preventing sale and transfer of tribal land to a non-tribal because the land is a major livelihood resource of tribals. But 22 lakh acres of land were illegally taken away from them. If land is there then tribals are there but if land is taken away, you would find any tribal in Jharkhand. Tribals can not get alternative livelihood like others. A few of them went to business but they could not do it because it''''s against of their culture and ethos. Land has a special status in tribal community as they treat it as mother and land is sustainable for them.

He said that there is a dangerous situation for Jharkhandis and especially for tribals today. How would you save your land because land snatchers are stand in front of you with gun, money and government? They are ready to buy people and the government is also against you? How would you fight with these people? Traditional systems are there to run villages. If you have to save these you have to fight with governments, politicians, officials, brokers and goons. The Jharkhand government has also offered salary of Rs. 1000 to Mundas to control and cheat them so that land can be taken away. CNT Act is not able to protect the tribals land because the law is not implemented honestly and the people who enacted the laws are non-tribals. You need the people's power to fight with the power who wants to grab your land.

The convenor of Crej Jan Mukti Andolan K.C. Mardi while speaking about the objectives of "Jharkhand Aahwan" said that the today we are in a serious threat because the state government has signed 65 MoU and they need huge land for it. Where shall tribals go if they land and livelihood resources are taken away? The first Chief Minister of Jharkhand Babulal Marandi has started signing of MoU and brought the industrial policy in the state. He also advocated for the amendment of CNT Act to sale the tribal land. His successor Arjun Munda went much further and singed MoU with 43 companies, which created upheaval in Jharkhand. UPA came to the power and we were hopping that these MoUs would be revised and rejected but our demands of rejection of MoU was accepted and they are also promoting the same thing which NDA government did.

He said that in this situation there is a thrust need of one more Birsa Ulgulan (movement) to save our ancestors land, which we are not owners but protectors. Therefore the "Jharkhand Aahwan" is being organized, where we will discuss and make strategy of people's movement to save our land. People are fighting against Jindal steel, Bhushan steel, Essar steel, Mital Steel in various places of Jharkhand. People are not ready to give land at any cost therefore we must bring new strategies to go ahead. The govt has not able to provide land to the companies because of our struggle at every level. We have given slogan that "We shall neither give land nor life".

A noted academician and social activist Sanjay Bosu Mullik said that there is a huge difference between the land of Jharkhand and other states like Bengal, Bihar or UP, where the land is being used as commodity but it considered like a mother in Jharkhnaa and not commodity. People have emotional relationship with the land. The tribal legend leaders Sidhu Kandu, Birsa Muda never demanded for laws to protect their land but they challenged the British government and asked them to leave the vicinity with their Jamindars. But when they lost the claim then they came to an agreement of making a treaty that is how the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act 1908 came up. They accepted some rights of tribals but also made some loophole so that when you become week all the rights will slip through it. In the initial period 446 Mundari Khutkatti villages were identified in the CNT Act but it came down to 156 Khutkatti villages and still declining. Therefore People who were in the Jharkhand movement had demanded that these treaties should be made permanent because it's not a treaty but it is the matter of our rights.

He said that the tribals have been cheated in the Indian democracy by all the parties and leaders. They tell something in the Parliament and do something else in the grassroots. Law protector and law makers say that your act is for land but what will you do with the land? See the developed countries, people are shifting from agriculture to industry and service sector therefore if you want the development then leave cultivation and make industry. It is coined that the developed country means more and more people in industry and service sector and less and less people in the agriculture sector. They says that why do you need Tenancy Act? Therefore we will have huge fight to save our land. Every fight can not be won by muscle power but with the strategy and logic. Youth are being told about corporate development model therefore we must take the challenge and tell them that why our land is more precious then the money of corporate houses.

A senior advocate Rashmi Katyayan said that the Land Reform was started in 1950 but it was not enforced in the Mundari Khutkati and Bhuyhati land. Tribals were made law by the British government. People tried to impose their idea like Vananchal but they lost and came to Jharkhand. In 1908 CNT Act was enacted which says that tribal land can not be sold and transferred to non tribals. We have given lots of land for the national development but what we get therefore now we are not ready to give land in the name of 'development'.

He said that the elections were conducted in 8 states under the PESA Act 1996 but why it is not done in Jharkhand? It is because more minerals are here. The tribals' traditional system of self convergence is so strong in Jharkhand therefore the government can not take away the natural resource if election takes place under the PESA Act. The state governments can not make any law against the PESA Act but it was done in Jharkhand. They don't want to get the permission from Gram Sabh before acquiring land but want to shoot people and get their land. This is the first land act of India, which advocates for the tribals' ownership over land therefore our prime goal must be to protect the CNT act at any cost.

Senior Journalist and social activist Fasal Anurag said that we must have to understand that in which circumstances the CNT and SPT acts were made because today situation has change and tribals have lost their land, which their ancestors had protected for them. Why did the British come to India? British had not come to give us justice. They had come for business. British said that we can not fight with tribals therefore Wilkilson's Rules, SPT Act and CNT Act were made, which are result of sacrifice and struggle. When the government brings new laws, the PESA Act is not considered which gives right to gram sabha over natural resources. A fight can not be win through legal way only therefore we must have to come up with the people's power.

Social activist Arun Anand said that Jharkhand is known for the community culture. It was also seen during the Mughal period. After the independence, laws were not implemented, which are in favour of people. We have to think that why policies and laws were not enacted? To break the community living, permanent settlement act was brought because the British government was not able to snatch the resources. All the laws were enacted due to the community influence on the British government. During the British period, tribals pressurized to bring laws but after the independence, we are not even able to amend the act. Therefore we need to promote people's movement in two ways - one with legal and another with people's power then only we would be able to save our land.

Member of NAFRE Central Secretary Lakhi Das facilitated the programme and Tara Kranti gave the vote of thanks. More than 300 people from 18 district of Jharkhand participated in the the Jharkhand Aahwan. The programme will culminate with the "Dharna" sit in protest in from of Raj Bhawan on May 17.

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