Tribals rally in Delhi protests land grab

New Delhi, April 30 (IANS) Dressed in their traditional attire, thousands of tribals, including women, from 10 states staged a joint rally here Tuesday to protest what they called loot of natural resources.

Carrying bows and arrows and flags signifying each tribal community, thousands of them marched from Jantar Mantar on Parliament Street and raised their voice against how lakhs of hectares of land and forest lands have been “stolen” from this country’s poorest people.

“The debate on the coal scam has focused only on the government’s exchequer. Today’s rally showed that the scam extends to more than just money – lakhs of hectares of land and forests have been stolen from this country’s poorest people,” said Bijaybhai, convenor of the Joint Morcha of Tribal Organisations, in Delhi.

“This protest is to showcase that the loot of natural resources is growing and the government ignores it at its own peril,” Bijaybhai said.

“Tomorrow (Wednesday) a delegation of tribal leaders will meet the president and will submit a memorandum against the violations of the PESA Act (Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996), the Forest Rights Act, among other issues,” Bijaybhai said.

Participating in the rally, Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Brinda Karat said: “The state machinery has betrayed the rights of adivasis at every turn. The Congress and the Bharatiya Janta Party are crushing tribal rights in the Land Acquisition Bill and the Mining Bill.” She argued that the way forward would only emerge from an alternative politics and the struggle for it.

The tribals, who constitute eight percent of India’s population, came from states like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Jharkhand.

“The only way to stop this loot of the natural resources is to respect democracy and the rights of local communities as provided in law, in particular in the PESA Act and Forest Rights Act. At present the rule of bureaucracy is riding roughshod over law, national interest and people’s rights,” Bijaybhai added.

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