People's Democracy

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


No. 49

December 04, 2011




First State Convention of

Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch


Mariam Dhawale


THE first Maharashtra state convention of the Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch (AARM) was held on November 19-20, 2011 at Comrade B T Ranadive Smarak Bhavan at Belapur in New Mumbai. It was attended by 124 leading activists from nine districts, most of whom were adivasis.


After the introduction by the AIKS state vice president Lahanu Kom, ex-MP, where he explained the objectives of this convention, a five-member presidium comprising Jaising Mali, Hemant Waghere, Vasant Dhadga, Sangeeta Ozare and Bharati Khode was elected.


The convention was inaugurated by AARM national convenor Bajuban Riyan, MP from Tripura. He recalled the big struggles of tribals from the pre-independence days, especially in Tripura and the Warli Adivasi revolt in Maharashtra. Due to the policies of successive central governments, the basic problems of the tribals concerning land, food, employment, education etc remained unaddressed. With the neo-liberal policies, tribal land was forcibly taken over for industries and mining. Opportunities for education and employment were not given in proportion to the tribal population. Bogus caste certificates usurped by non-tribals worsened the situation. It was as a result of concerted Left pressure that the UPA–1 regime was forced to enact the Forest Rights Act (FRA), but its implementation over the last few years is pathetic in most parts of the country. Maharashtra, he said, has led the way in tribal struggles since the days of Godavari Parulekar, but the time has now come to expand our base to new areas. He outlined the substantial work for tribal uplift carried out by the Left Front government of Tripura. With the AARM spreading across the country, he was confident that the voice of the tribals would be raised through struggles all over India.


AARM and AIDWA leader Brinda Karat, while addressing the convention as the chief guest, explained the need for forming the AARM as a separate all India organisation of the tribals. Although the capitalist path of development pursued by the ruling classes has impoverished large sections of people across the board, she said that it was the socially oppressed sections like the adivasis, dalits, minorities and women who bore the brunt of government policies. She gave figures testifying to the discrimination in every sphere faced by the tribals. That is why their special problems must be taken up in right earnest, since that is the only way that they can be brought into the mainstream of the struggles of the working people. She gave several examples of tribal backwardness in agriculture, industry, education and employment and the particularly miserable status of tribal women and girls. The AARM was formed to oppose the tremendous exploitation of the tribals in our country, and to influence and pressurise the government to change its policies related to the tribals. One important issue she stressed was the need to ensure that government expenditure at the centre and in the states for the tribals be commensurate to the proportion of the tribal population. She stressed the need to counter communal and extremist forces in the tribal areas. She complimented the tribal movement in Maharashtra that is over six decades old, and expressed confidence that it would advance further in the days ahead, both in terms of expansion and also in terms of taking up issues.


AIKS state president J P Gavit, ex-MLA, then placed the draft resolution of the convention. The resolution gave a concise account of the situation and the problems faced by the adivasis in Maharashtra. Adivasis comprise 9.5 per cent of the total population of Maharashtra, which means that they number over one crore. There are as many as 47 main tribes in the state. The myriad and severe problems that they face relate to forest land, irrigation, displacement, employment, minimum wages, migration, food security, public distribution system, severe malnutrition leading to death of children, dearth of public health facilities, backlog in jobs, bogus caste certificates, lack of access to education, miserable plight of tribal hostels and hostel-schools and tremendous under-development of all tribal areas in the state in every sector. The two main bases of the tribal movement in the state are in Thane and Nashik districts, followed by Nandurbar district. But in the last few years, work among the tribals has spread to districts like Nanded, Yavatmal, Amravati, Ahmednagar, Pune, Jalgaon and Buldana. Gavit referred to the two massive agitations led by the AIKS in Maharashtra earlier this year – one on the implementation of the Forest Rights Act and the other on the inclusion of the poor in the below poverty line (BPL) lists – both of which mobilised over one lakh people each in the state. He concluded by calling upon the delegates to discuss the resolution and to launch big struggles to expand our base and increase our political influence.   


In the rich discussion that followed, 23 delegates from all the districts took part. They placed not only the various problems faced by the adivasis, but also placed inspiring accounts of the struggles that they had waged on these issues. They gave several suggestions for expanding work to new areas. After the reply by J P Gavit, where he set out the immediate tasks of taking up the issues of tribal students in hostels and hostel-schools and submitting a comprehensive memorandum on tribal issues to the state government, the resolution was unanimously adopted.


The convention adopted three resolutions on burning issues. The first, on the stringent implementation of the FRA was moved by Rajaram Ozare, MLA, and it was seconded by Ratan Budhar and Hemant Waghere. The second, on food security and BPL was moved by Jaising Mali and it was seconded by Tulshiram Katore. The third, on filling of ST reservation backlogs in jobs and education was moved by Shankar Sidam and it was seconded by Dr Sanjay Dabhade.


Veteran AIKS leader L B Dhangar, who has worked in the tribal belt of Thane district for over 60 years, greeted the convention and related his rich experiences of struggle. The convention was also greeted by leaders of all the mass organisations: CITU – Vinod Nikole; AIKS – Kisan Gujar; AIAWU – Prakash Choudhari; AIDWA – Mariam Dhawale; DYFI – Vansha Dumada; and SFI – Prashant Vidhate. All of them pledged their full support to strengthening the AARM in the days ahead.


Laxman Gaikwad placed the credentials report. Of the 124 delegates, Nashik, Thane and Nandurbar had brought the three largest delegations. Next to them were Ahmednagar, Pune, Amravati, Nanded, Buldana and Jalgaon. There were 12 women delegates. One hundred and thirteen of the delegates were adivasis, and they came from 13 different tribes. Two delegates were dalits and 11 were from the non-ST/SC category. Seventeen were matriculates, 18 were graduates and 9 were post-graduates. Eighty delegates were from AIKS, 10 from DYFI, 9 from AIDWA, 9 from SFI, 7 from AIAWU, 2 from CITU and 7 from others.


The convention elected a 25-member state committee, with representatives from the districts and also from all the mass organisations. It elected J P Gavit as the convenor, and Kumar Shiralkar, Lahanu Kom, Rajaram Ozare and Jaising Mali as joint convenors.


After educative concluding speeches by Dr Ashok Dhawale, Bajuban Riyan and Brinda Karat, the convention ended with resounding slogans laced with the determination to forge ahead.