As we know, land is the one and only source of livelihood to the ingenious people and with the loss of land they will loose their economic independence. They will be compelled to depend on the outsiders who are trying to exploit them in many ways. The indigenous communities are deprived of their land if land is taken away from them which also means they are deprived of life. Agriculture is the only source of livelihood for the tribes. Apart from a natural asset, land is imperishable endowment from which these communities derive sustenance, social status, and permanent place of abode and source of work. In addition they lose their freedom, language, customs, way of life and their distinct identity and if forced to migrate to a different place, lose their status as Scheduled Tribes. Thus the displacement of indigenous people amounts to ethnocide and annihilation of the most disadvantaged group of the society.
Through displacements, human rights and the constitutional rights are being violated blatantly, though the 5th and the 6th schedules of the constitution of India was meant to protect the indiginious communities and the Governor is accountable to the Government and the people as the guardian of these communities. Has the government courage to and will to comply with this land-tribe relationship? What have the state and central government done? They have deprived millions of indigenous people from their land thoughtlessly. The proposed pilot project in Netarhat area in Jharkhand will require displacement of people of a great magnitude, even bigger than that of sardar sarovar dam with consequent untold human misery, and nearly 90% of the victims being ingenious people. The question is of the double standard and the hypocrisy. On the one hand the tribals are being discriminated against and on the other, despite the constitutional provision, overtly purported to be the for the protection of indigenous people, these are being consciously and conveniently violated. The result is before everyone to see. More than 18.2 million Indigenous people have already been displaced without any qualms and scruples in the name of ‘development’ and ‘national interest’. It is the time for the government for self-introspection and the duty to reverse the dangerous and inhuman policy of indiscriminate displacement of Indigenous people. Towards protecting of Indigenous people who are under the threat of displacement, effective steps need to be ensured as per the provisions of Vth schedule to the Constitution on schedules areas ans the PESA Act 1996.
The survey of land had started in the year 1993 but it was put on hold because of stiff and non-voilent resistance of the affected people. The field firing area of the old Netarhat field firing range was about 38 sq.km. but the the newly notified area is 1471 sq.km. There are sixteen high schools and three colleges in the notified area. There are atleast 7 Block development areas and growth centres, which will be affected by Netarhat field firing range. What are Central and State government upto in notifying such an areas asnotified area of firing range. The entire notified area of 1471 sq.km. of the Netarhat field firing range is the ‘sacred habitat of the tribals. The said area contains hundreds of Sarnas(place of worship of the tribals), churches,graveyards and exclusive habitat of the primitive tribeswhich are on the verge of extinction.it is their ‘ancestral domain’, which is considered to be a pre-condition for their survival.
The district administration have never visited the firing range to listen to the woes of the people during the last thirty years, yet they were found willing, contrary to give clean chit to the army. At present, the district administration are looking for the leaders for their detention under any pretext as and when necessary. The D.C. of Gumla has even branded the non-voilent peoples’ movement as an extremist movement. That is indicative of the manipulation, co-potion and subversion of the administration to suit the army against a non-voilent movement of the people .A disinformation campaign has started. Above all, the attitudes and the utterances of the administration smacks deep conspiracy at some level. From all indications, it appears that some political forces, to serve their own covert objectives, have hijacked the field firing range. To them ‘nationalism’ means complete subjugation their wierd ideology and those not subscribing to it are, according to them , renegades, traitors and anti-nationals, fir to be harassed, attacked and destroyed. Thousands of tribals from this area served and are still serving in the army as valiant soldiers in protecting the nation. A dangerous game play is emerging in Netarhat field firing range.
22nd -23rd March, 2017(Netarhat Field Firing Range Protest)
Netarhat is a town in Latehar district, 156 kms west of Ranchi in Indian state of Jharkhand. Referred to as the “Queen of Chottanagpur”, it is a popular hill station. Place is famous for its glorious sunrises and sunsets during the summer months. It is a place of tourist interest.
We started our trip from 22nd March from Ranchi with 400 aicufers from different units, Advisor Fr. Vinod Bilung, full timer JohnPankaj Kujur, our state team and National Advisor Fr. Emmanuel S.J., National Full timer Alban Dickqrose and West Bengal aicufers as guest participants. Travelling for approx. 5 hours we reached the protest site where programme had already started. We made place for ourselves to settle on site ground surrounded with blossoming Sal trees. In wake of the proposal to develop the periodic field firing as a permanent pilot project people were visibly restless.this time protest has acquired additional significance since it was the 25th anniversary of the protest marked by the presence of thousand of villagers. The historic Netarhat resolve has since thrived with rare vitality and determination. Anniversary celebration of the event was held at dharna site with seamless discipline to express peoples’ firm resolve.
In evening we had a group planning on nukkad which was to be performed by aicufers the next day and we also practised some awareness songs to regenerate the mood of protest. For supper we had what villagers served us. At night our bed was the ground with rocks and our blanket was an open sky full of stars. Programme continued till late night though the atmosphere was growing cold. At night they showed documentary ‘Kiski raksha’ which is based on Netarhat field firing range and shows the plight of villagers. This documentary has been filmed by Biju Toppo for which he has received national award also.
We rose early morning to freshen ourselves in the dam which was at distance, after that we went to sunrise point to enjoy the beautiful of sceneric sunrise. We had our breakfast in market and went back to protest site. Programme started at 8am in the morning i.e.23rd March. There were many student groups present including aicuf. Brave tribal ladies marshalled the show, when army Lorries strayed in the firing spot during March 1994 dharna. The disillusioned troops had to retreat. Womens indomitable grit since then became the lifeblood of Netarhat movement. Through years they have demonstrated much more consistency than men. From fiercly powerful orators to grass root workers, the movement has them all. Various resource persons were invited were invited and engaged to provide with necessary information. That may be one of the reasons that political parties could not hijack the movement despite repeated attempts.. Though this year some politicians like Babulal Marandi, Charles Marandi etc. were also invited as speakers. The hot issue of Jharkhand now is ‘Jharkhand Momentum’ which is again a kind of plot by government to acquse the land of aadiwasis. On 27th, March Chief Minister Raghuvar Das along with investorsis coming to see the land of Netarhat for their dream projects. Now the people are so alert and informed about their problem that they can make appropriate decisions and moves on their own.Aicuf took the stage for performing Nukkad (street play) based on the all the plights faced by tribals and again we took chance to sing awareness songs and shout aloud naraas(slogans) mesmerizing all the villagers present. Before the end of this protest ceremony there was a small protest rally all joined together shouting aloud naaras in unifying voice like jaan denge jameen nahi (we will lay down our lives but not part with our land)denge, ham hamara haq maangte nahi kisi se bheekh maangte(we are asking for our rights not for alms), jal jungle jameen hamara hai(water, land ,forest is ours),abua dishum abua raj (our rule on our land),jai aadiwasi etc. There was an oath taking also in which we were determined to fight for ancestral motherland until this Netarhat field firing range pilot project is deactivated or taken back.
Written by Alban Dickrose – National Coordinator AICUF