(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
June 20, 2010
NATIONAL CONVENTION ON TRIBAL RIGHTS
for Tribal Rights Formed
Call for Militant Agitation in July
IN response to the clarion call given by the historic National Convention on Tribal Rights at its conclusive session on June 13, 2010 in New Delhi, tribals across the country are going to conduct a militant agitation during July 25-31, 2010 against the anti-tribal neo-liberal policies of the bourgeois-landlord governments. They will also raise their just and pressing demands for their livelihood privileges. Comrade Bajuban Riyan, the elected chairman of the National Platform for Tribal Rights, reiterated the urgent need of widespread revolutionary struggles to counter the pro-imperialist, pro-capitalist policies of the UPA government in order to redress the discrimination heaped on the most vulnerable sections of our society.
The National Convention on Tribal Rights was held on June, 12-13, 2010 at Banga Bhavan in New Delhi in which 176 delegates from various tribal areas in 19 states participated with great enthusiasm. All the delegates paid solemn homage to the martyrs who laid their lives in tribal areas while struggling against the exploitative and oppressive order of the ruling classes. CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat, Polit Bureau members M K Pandhe, Biman Basu, Sitaram Yechury attended the inaugural session of the convention.
In the inaugural session while delivering his welcome address Bajuban Riyan, CPI(M) MP from Tripura, explained the aggravating plight of the tribal populace due to the rampant exploitation of mineral resources in tribal areas in the name of so-called development projects and SEZs, which basically serve the rapacious interests of the MNCs and the big capitalists in India. The ever-growing spectre of displacement forces the tribals to migrate as bonded labour. He pointed out the significant departure from this general trend that has been witnessed only in the Left-ruled states of Tripura, West Bengal and Kerala. These Left-led governments have shown the political will and the commitment to radically alter the living conditions of the tribal people and have striven to ensure that their access to land, forest and food is enhanced as well as strengthened. Special programmes for providing quality education, health care and housing have also been implemented in these states.
Bajuban severely criticised the violent activities of the 'Maoists' and their extortions that have rendered the tribal people in an unenviable position. Innocent tribal people are being forcibly recruited into the 'Maoist' armed squads and in violation of the basic norms of combat in the civilised world, children are also being abducted. Any opposition is met with barbaric punishments by kangaroo courts. Many tribal people have been brutally killed for opposing the 'Maoists'. He also lambasted the State repression in tribal areas in some states like Chhattisgarh in the name of fighting 'Maoists' and causing hardship to tribal people. Innocent tribals are caught between the 'Maoist' and State repression leading to displacement of thousands of tribal families. At the same time Bajuban opposed the approach of the central government to deploy defense forces like Army and Air Force for direct action in the affected areas. This move, he said, would lead to a high toll of killing of ordinary tribals caught between the State and the 'Maoists'.
He urged the government to desist from any plan for deployment of the armed forces in tribal areas. Instead, he urged for coordinated action with the state governments in a better way in all 'Maoist' affected areas. Special development plans for all tribal compact areas irrespective of whether they are 'Maoist' affected or not is the essential need of the day. He emphasised on the need for ideological and political fight against the 'Maoists'. In conclusion, he expressed confidence in heralding a new beginning after the successful holding of the National Convention. He appealed to all the delegates to concentrate all efforts to unite every section of tribal people for launching struggles for protecting and strengthening the rights of the tribal people while building firm alliance with non-tribal working masses to advance the revolutionary democratic movement in India.
After the inaugural session, Brinda Karat, the main organiser of the National Platform for Tribal Rights, presented the Report before the convention. Placing forth the important document she set the tone of the convention by highlighting key issues in tribal areas emerging as a consequence of the capitalist path of development pursued by successive bourgeois-landlord central governments and the valuable experiences of the struggles waged by the tribal people across the country. Citing many examples at the ground level of the all pervasive predatory attack of the neo-liberal policies on the lives and livelihood of the tribal people, the Report takes note of the socio-economic changes that occurred since the all India Tribal Convention held in Ranchi in 2002. Karat said that tribals are tribals and they do have their own history, identity, heritage, languages/local dialects, culture and ways of life. The homogeneous and egalitarian practices among the tribal communities demarcate them from the rest of the caste-ridden society in our country. But tribals are also kisans, landless agricultural labourers and workers bonded in organised and unorganised sectors as unpaid or underpaid cheap labour.
Brinda Karat stressed the major problem of displacement faced by tribals from their forests, cultivable land, habitat and environment. From 2000 to 2008, 4.5 million hectares of forest land has been diverted for the so-called development projects at the rate of 50,000 hectares per year, which is nearly double the rate of diversion of forest land during 1980 to 2000. The central government and many state governments, except for the Left-led ones, grant licenses to big corporates and MNCs for setting up industry or mining of minerals in tribal areas. While doing so they bulldoze the mandatory no-objection and consent of Gram Sabhas in affected areas, granted by the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution. The nexus of capitalist-trader-contractor-corrupt forest department officials has now been joined by touts of MNCs to facilitate forcible takeover of tribal land leading to massive displacement. The outright violation of the Constitutional provisions in the Scheduled Areas and the non-implementation of PESA has to be resisted by the accelerated united militant agitations following the inspiring exemplary struggles led by comrades in Andhra Pradesh along with the commendable work done by our Jharkhand comrades to get justice by moving the Apex Court.
Elaborating on the basic trend of the anti-tribal capitalist policies, she cited the reversal of land reforms, illegal alienation of tribal lands, curtailment of funds for tribal areas in budgetary allocations, non-availability of credit facilities at low interest rates, withdrawal of the State from the market mechanism, absence of purchasing centers for their agricultural produce and halting of extension services. All these factors have created acute conditions for the tribal peasants who mainly depend on dry-land farming without any substantial support of assured irrigation.
A substantial section of tribal families depend on the collection and sale of small forest produce for their livelihood. Tribal women in particular spend hours gathering the MFP. But the traders and contractors exploit them by purchasing MFP at meagre prices. A proper Mimimum Support Price with Inter-State standardisation for all MFP and assured procurement at accessible network collection points is the need of the hour. Karat gave detailed account of the increasing number of tribal people joining the ranks of the working class and their brutal exploitation in sugarcane cutting, brick kilns, stone quarries, salt lakes, sand excavation sites, construction sites, chemical firms, collieries and mining. The women migrants face multifaceted hardships, including sexual harassment. The tribals are exploited as casual contract labour having no legal protection of any labour acts like the Inter State Migrant Labour Act, Abolition of Contract Labour Act, Minimum Wages Act etc. The recurring starvation and malnutrition deaths in tribal areas are increasing as a result of the central government’s discriminatory food policy of dismantling the PDS and cutting down artificially the number of BPL families. The Saxena Committee set up by the Supreme Court has suggested the extending of BPL recognition to the tribal community as a whole, excluding government employees. But for few states, this suggestion has been overlooked and neglected. She also dealt with the appalling situation regarding education and health in tribal areas and the efforts our comrades are taking to improve the situation.
Brinda Karat analysed the discordant trends in tribal areas triggered by the fundamentalists in the name of religion working under the aegis of the RSS. She explained how the BJP and NDA in power displayed utter callousness to tribal communities while opening wide the gates of tribal areas to exploitation by corporates and MNCs with no protection whatsoever for tribal rights. The RSS and its parivar made targeted attacks on Christian tribals and tried to destroy tribal cultures through the imposition of Hindutva caste culture. On the other hand there are certain NGOs that are funded by imperialist forces and other political forces who are promoting different variants of identity politics and seek to fragment and separate the tribal communities from their proletarian character, isolating them from the joint struggles of workers and peasants. It is the most important task before us to counter and fight out all these divisive forces damaging our democratic movement for securing the tribal rights.
At the end of her presentation of the Report, Brinda Karat focused on the vital necessity of formation of an 'Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch' (National Platform for Tribal Rights). She said, “now we have identified the political forces who are the friends of tribal communities and who are the foes. We have rich experience of the struggles since the time of pre-Independence under the leadership of Comrade Dasharath Deb, the legendary leadership of Telangana armed revolt, the Warli revolt etc. Tripura had a long tradition of separate tribal organisation named ‘Ganamukti Parishad’. Since the Ranchi convention, several states have set up separate tribal organisations. At present such organisations are working in Andhra Pradesh – Girijan Sngam, Kerala – Adivasi Kshema Samithy, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgadh – Adivasi Ekata Mahasabha, Orissa – Adivasi Mahasabha, Tamilnadu – Hill Tribals’ Association and recently, organisations have been formed in Jharkhand and Rajasthan. We have highlighted the achievements of our struggles to further strengthen them and also identified our weaknesses so as to remove them and work out a plan for struggle on the urgent issues and demands based on our concrete study and detailed survey of the concrete reality at the ground level. Now we have to take steps towards expansion and consolidation of organised work among the tribal people.
“To give the struggles a national character and scope, this National Convention sets up an Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch. It will help develop a comprehensive understanding and intervention on policy issues concerning tribal citizens, to build a more coordinated and effective nationwide struggle in defence of tribal rights and for their advancement, to share experiences of different states and to support and organise solidarity with the state and local struggles of tribal masses.”
During the discussion session, a total of 44 delegate comrades contributed to the Report on the basis of the advance made in their tribal areas since the Ranchi convention in 2002. In Ranchi, they discussed more on issues but in the present Delhi convention they dealt with more on their experiences of struggles and organisational aspects and how they have intervened in the situation created by the ruthless impact of imperialist sponsored neo-liberal policies. The women delegates especially contributed many positive points. Though the delegates articulated their unhappiness for the delay in organising the National Convention, they unanimously agreed and supported the main thrust and the essential direction of the Report document. Comrades from West Bengal narrated the experiences of their brave and undaunted fight against the violent attacks by the 'Maoists' and their Trinamul ally.
Comrade delegate from Chhattisgadh who comes from the extinguishing ‘Pahadia’ tribe, the most vulnerable primitive tribal community, pointed out how his community is suffering malnutrition deaths and how the population of this tribal group is declining due to the anti-tribal policies. Delegates from almost all the states complained about the obstacles in getting the ST certificates for the genuine tribal persons, the rampant corruption and the issuance of false ST certificates to non-tribals. They gave many examples of the tribes that are recognized as STs in one state while denied that status in another state. They expressed the imperative need for the time bound formation of a Commission by the central government for the scheduling of the STs, the simplification of the procedure in issuance of the ST certificates and stringent punishment for issue of bogus certificates. Many delegates raised the issue of extending Sixth Schedule Area status to the Fifth Schedule Areas. Delegates across the states praised the commendable work done in tribal areas in Tripura, West Bengal and Kerala by the Left-led state governments for the upliftment of tribal communities. They especially hailed the Tripura government's initiative in the implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) while criticising severely the reluctance shown by the Congress/BJP led governments. They gave many examples of the repression by the forest department officials and the police, indiscriminate evictions and false criminal cases being foisted against the tribals ignoring the prohibitory provisions in the FRA and its Rules. Delegates mentioned about the apathy in the administrative machinery in implementation of NREGA schemes and pledged to organise struggles for its proper implementation linking NREGA with FRA Rights.
While replying to the lively discussion, Brinda Karat welcomed the positive suggestions made by the delegates. She emphasised the importance of survey and study of the concrete situation on the spot, formulating demands on the analysis of the data collected, planning and conducting sustained local level struggles linked with the effective intervention in policy making decisions in Gram Sabhas. She called to organise militant agitation at the end of July focusing on the following main issues: Displacement and FRA implementation; BPL cards and foodgrains at Antyodaya rates; Time bound filling of vacancies and reservation in private sectors; Special Package for tribal farmers and MFP collecting tribals; and NREGA implementation.
The Report document was unanimously adopted by the National Convention. The call for the July end agitation was hailed with roaring applause. The Convention hall in Banga Bhavan reverberated with the rousing slogans and clappings manifesting the enthused delegates resolve to go back with inbuilt confidence to Unite, Organise and Struggle.
The Convention unanimously elected a 42-member central committee of Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch. The central committee met immediately after its election and decided to have Bajuban Riyan as its chairman and Upen Kisku and Babu Rao as its joint conveners.
Resolutions moved in the Convention included the following: On Development in Tribal Areas and increased Allocation on Funds under TSP; On Speedy and Time-Bound filling of Vacancies in Public Services; On Special Package for Tribal Farmers; BPL cards and Food Security.
In his valedictory address, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Biman Basu expressed his deep satisfaction at the formation of the first ever 'National Platform for Tribal Rights' representing 8.5 crore tribal population in India. He reminded the 1969 incident when Comrade P Sundarayya gave a memorandum to the National Integration Council regarding regional imbalances and wide gaps in areas where development is very poor, particularly in tribal areas. Basu lamented that after so many years the tribal areas remained still most backward. He pointed out the special efforts of the Left Front government in West Bengal to improve the quality of life of the tribal people implementing land reforms, giving land rights and pattas to adivasis, pension of Rs 750 per month to 1.65 lakh tribals, educational infrastructure creating 3000 posts for Santhali teachers etc. Basu advised the delegates to follow the example of Tripura comrades to build unity of tribals and non-tribals and strengthen the revolutionary democratic movement in our country to emancipate all the toiling masses chained in various types of bonds of exploitation, oppression and discrimination. He congratulated all those who made the National Convention successful and said that it would prove to be a milestone for the entire democratic movement in our country.
The Convention was presided by a presidium comprising of Bajuban Riyan, Dr Babu Rao, Upen Kisku, Indira Bhil, Rajedar Singh and K C Kunhiraman.