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Updated: June 22, 2012 10:01 IST

Engage, don’t encroach

Vinaya Deshpande
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Forest as home: Industry has been encroaching on tribal land. Photo: Sumit Bhattacharjee
The Hindu Forest as home: Industry has been encroaching on tribal land. Photo: Sumit Bhattacharjee

Activists plan to walk from Gwalior to New Delhi on October 2 to demand protection of tribal rights

In the past three decades, 92,000 villages have been destroyed from the map of India; there are no graveyards in 29,000 villages today, rights activist P.V. Rajagopal said in Mumbai while talking about the aggressive land acquisition process for industrialisation and mining, which has been encroaching on the land rights of the tribals. He demanded an effective Land Acquisition Act during the meeting.

Mr Rajagopal is member of the National Land Reforms Council headed by the Prime Minister.

“The government itself is violating its laws meant for the protection of tribals, farmers and nomads; and it is not enough to mobilise only the victims now,” he said while talking during an event to declare Jansatyagrah on October 2, when around one lakh people are slated to walk for over a month from Gwalior to New Delhi to put forth their grievances.

He said it was time for the middle class to rise for the rights of their rural and tribal brethren. “Since their land, their mode of survival is taken away from them, people migrate. But our cities are not planned for such migration. Still, the urban population will not engage with the state, saying that don’t push so many persons in the cities.”

Mr Rajagopal said that there is huge interest not just in India, but across the world about the controlling and regulating of unbridled land ownership. And that it is seen that land grabbing is prominent in countries which have weak governance.

The activist’s major concern is that the process of dialogue is not working. “The Government of India is not engaging with non-violent protesters. It is avoiding such issues. This will lead to more violence in the country. The situation in the rural areas is becoming worse by the day. Nobody is safe if violence spreads at this pace. It is time that the urban people stand up and say that it is not allowed,” he said.

Having completed a Samvad yatra across 16 states and 235 districts, Mr Rajagopal said, “I saw that the tribals are stuck in a triangle. On one side there is transfer of resources; on the other, the naxalites are moving in and on the third side, the security forces are moving in. There is no healthy debate on adivasi rights.”

He said the Land Acquisition Act in the present form has made it more difficult for the landless to get land. “In Kerala, the land went to the middle level, not to the poor. The managers of the land got it, but the tillers are still fighting for it,” he said.

He said that even the Forest Rights Act has been implemented at places where people are active. “In many places like Chhattisgarh, organising people is very difficult because organised people are called naxal-supporters,” he said.

When asked why he was organising the Jansatyagrah despite being a member of the National Land Reforms Council, he said he has waited for too long. “The council was formed in 2007. I waited long enough before taking up the national march. I found that there is no political will. Whenever I talked to politicians, they said they are under tremendous pressure from above. Now, we need to build equal pressure from the ground,” he said.

His aim is to join all the movements happening within the country against the injustices. “There are hundreds of struggles happening everywhere. Our social movements are divided into ideologies and I am trying to be a bridge,” he said.

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