Day 3: Highlighting Govt policies which neglect interests of farmers & indigenous peoples Print E-mail
 Sunday November 12, 2006

Adivasi struggles need to forge new political alliances

Aarti Dhar

Benares silk weavers, fishermen in the south, farmers speak of atrocities
Agro-crisis reaching a flash point Economic progress, but indigenous groups neglected


SPEAKING UP FOR TRIBALS: NBA activist Medha Patkar prepares for her session on `Adivasi rights' at the India Social Forum in New Delhi on Saturday. - PHOTO: V.V. KRISHNAN

NEW DELHI: The common thread running through people's movements, whether violent or peaceful, is the assertion of not only civil and political rights, but also economic, social and cultural rights of Adivasis by the Adivasis themselves, according to speakers at the "Adivasi rights now: towards asserting economic, social and cultural Rights of Adivasis," organised by Amnesty International India at the India Social Forum over the weekend.

In post-Independent India, despite the special provisions in the Constitution, the turbulence of the indigenous regions is manifested in many forms.

On the one hand, there is an enormous rise of the organised radical Left movement, inspired by naxalism, using violence as strategic means for achieving its objectives, which has turned the regions into conflict zones. On the other hand, the country is witnessing a large number of people's struggles at the local level against the indiscriminate violation of the fundamental rights of the Adivasis.

In some regions, the unrest takes the form of protest against the Forest Department, which has become one of the worst exploiter and violator of rights, in other parts, it takes the form of struggle against the displacement due to mining or large industrial projects or a movement for land rights.

The de facto situation does not match up to the lofty ideals of the framers of our Constitution and the Adivasi regions have remained completely underdeveloped in terms of Human Development Index with extremely high incidence of poverty with no recognition of Adivasi rights for self-rule over their natural resources.

The speakers, including Mukul Sharma, Amitabh Behar, Medha Patkar and Indu Netam, stressed the need to recognise the global dimension of local struggles. There is a growing realisation in tribal India that to strengthen the people's battle for their rights, the Adivasi struggles need to forge new political alliances to counter the impact of imperialist globalisation in these regions, the speakers said.

Loss of livelihood
Speaking at a workshop on "Endangered livelihood," participants gave evidence on the loss of livelihood because of developmental projects taken up by the Government. Silk weavers from Benares (Varanasi), fishermen and tribals from the southern part of the country and farmers from Maharashtra spoke of police atrocities heaped on them in the name of development.

Economist Jayati Ghosh said outwardly India was showing progress on the economic front but it was totally negative when it came to indigenous groups, as development under globalisation was not helping them. She accused the judiciary, executive, media and political representatives of "supporting" globalisation and suggested that the voice of the "people should prevail to check this trend."

A colloquium on "Agrarian crisis and survival of marginal farmers and workers" said the post-globalisation agro-crisis was reaching a flash point of "global livelihood crisis" in all the developing countries.

All rural-based major agro-production sectors were now under the control of neo-colonial economic globalisation and liberalisation forces driven by a powerful global mean minority. The poor were being denied even their basic rights to survive as dignified human beings.

The speakers said the Indian agro-economy, where about 70 per cent of the more than a hundred million people survive on rural-based agriculture, was no exception to the phenomenon.

The crisis was more acute in India with regard to its varied food and cash crop production sectors scattered over different agro-climatic zones and biomass resources.