People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXX

No. 53

December 31, 2006

CELEBRATION TIME FOR TRIBALS

 

Huge CPI(M) Rally After Tribal Billís Passage

 

IT was after a very long and arduous struggles over decades that the tribal people of the country, including Maharashtra, have established their rights over what they have been possessing over generations. Struggles for reclaiming these peopleís rights over forestland has been a vital part of our freedom struggle all over the country. This, in some states, took the form of adivasi revolts, like the one in Maharashtra which started in 1945. The passage of the tribal bill, which restores the rights of the tribal people over forestland, is a solemn homage paid to the stalwarts who led the historical adivasi revolt in Maharashtra in and around the areas which are now known as Thane district. 

 

To commemorating the passage of the tribal bill, the CPI(M)ís Maharashtra state unit organised a huge rally in Thane on December 22, and the success of this rally had its own relevance because of the limited time at hand --- the state committee decided to organise this public meeting only four days ago. Yet, even at a very short time notice, the adivasi people of Thane district, who had revolted against the oppression and for land rights way back in 1945, magnificently responded to the call. 

 

This rally has its own background. Tribal people all over the state started facing severe trouble after the enactment of the Conservation of Forest Act 1980, which gave prominence to so-called conservation over the protection of people living in the forests. Since then the forests had been witnessing a kind of jungle raj where the Forest Reserve Police and the State machinery ruled the roost while colluding with the forest mafia. Thus, after 33 years of independence, adivasi people began to experience hardships and oppression at the hands of an administration that was empowered by the Conservation Act. Moreover, the administration became more violent after the NDA government issued a circular in 2002 to evict the tribal people from forestland. 
The CPI(M), which had been spearheading the struggle for restoration of land rights to the tribal people in forest areas, protested this circular as well. In Maharashtra, the party organised a jail bharo agitation in which 1.5 lakh tribals went to jail throughout the state. 

 

Incidentally, that was also the birth centenary year of late Comrade Shamrao Parulekar who, along with his illustrious wife, late Comrade Godavari Parulekar, had led the Warli adivasi revolt of 1945. Comrade Shamrao was also one of the members of the first Central Committee after the party was reorganised as the CPI(M) in 1964. 

 

And now the year 2006, in which the central government has adopted a new law to protect the land rights of the adivasi people, is being celebrated in Maharashtra as the birth centenary year of Comrade Godavari Parulekar. 

 

The CPI(M) has all the reasons to rejoice over this victory. It has all the way been demanding land rights for the tribals who had been cultivating the forestland for generations all over the country. And the latest law is the product of that arduous struggle. 

 

THE LEFT PRESSURE

 

Addressing a huge public meeting in Thane on December 22, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and Rajya Sabha member Sitaram Yechury outlined the major factors which contributed to the enactment of this historic bill. The first reason was the struggle spearheaded by the CPI(M) and the Left all over the country, while another reason is the Left pressure on the UPA government and the life support system the Left parties are providing to this coalition, without which it cannot survive for a single day. 

 

Yechury said the change of overall political environment at the national level following the 2004 general elections has created a situation where the Left parties are in a position to influence, to some extent, the policy decisions of the UPA. He lashed out at the Congress and BJP for their total apathy to the tribal problem, and reminded the gathering that they never turned up to this issue despite the majority they had had in parliament. He informed the audience about the steps initiated by the BJP MPs and some of the Congress MPs who tried to sabotage this bill, by raising issues like the sustenance of tiger reserves and environmental problems like degradation. Yechury revealed how the environmentalist lobby tried to juxtapose environmental sustainability to the issue of protection of land rights of the adivasi people. He cautioned that the Left needs support from mass movements in order to put forward the peopleís agenda and get over this kind of impediments. Yechury also narrated how the Left in general and the CPI(M) in particular had thrown the governmentís weight behind the peopleís struggles in the states ruled by them, viz West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura. The result is that, he told the gathering, tribals in these states are more secure than in any other state.

 

LEFT: THE ONLY ALTERNATIVE

 

CPI(M) state secretary Ashok Dhawale urged the people to support the CPI(M) candidates in the forthcoming local bodiesí elections in the state. Citing the work done by CPI(M) representatives at various forums, he asked them to associate with the party in future struggles. Dhawale told the gathering that building up strong movements at state level would strengthen the hands of the Left at the centre to forcefully intervene in favour of the peopleís agenda, as only Left can provide a real pro-people alternative to the bourgeois-landlord policies. 

 

Senior party leader and Central Committee member Prabhakar Sanzgiri, former member of parliament Lohanu Kom, state secretariat member P B Chauhan and the CPI(M)ís Thane district secretary Raja Ozare also addressed the public meeting. (INN)