[Reader-list] Why Adivasis’ Soldier is Silent? by Gladson Dungdung

anupam chakravartty c.anupam at gmail.com
Thu Nov 11 18:47:08 IST 2010

Why Adivasis’ Soldier is Silent?

By Gladson Dungdung
11 November, 2010

On August 26, 2010, the Congress leader and self-proclaimed soldier of
the Adivasis, Rahul Gandhi visited to Niyamgiri in Orissa just two
days after the Indian government denied clearance to the Vedanta
Resource’s Rs.4500 crore bauxite mining project in Niyamgiri Hills.
While addressing to a rally of 3000 colourfully dressed Dongria Kondh
and other Adivasis at Jagannathpur village who have been fighting to
save their holy mountain he said, “I am your soldier in Delhi.
Whenever you need me, I will be there for you.” He got a huge clapping
when he said, “True development takes place by respecting the
interests of the poor and Adivasis.” However, just after two months,
the migrant Jharkhandi Adivasis were attacked by the Forest Department
in Assam but the Adivasis’ soldier is still silent. Therefore, the
Adivasis want to know why their soldier is silent. Is he shocked on
the incident or he is silent because if he opens his mouth the
Congress Government may face severe problems in Assam?

The State sponsored attack on the migrant Adivasis took place on
October 30, 2010, when a gang of 200 people in form of ‘eviction team’
comprising of Boro youth (deployed by Haltugaon Divisional Forest
Officer), Forest Protection Force and Task Force entered into Lungsung
Forest Block of Gaurang Range under Haltugaon Forest Division to evict
the Adivasis alleging them of encroaching the Forest lands. This area
comes under Bismuri police station of Kokrajhar district in Assam. The
eviction team started abusing, threatening and frightening the
adivasis, and asked them to leave the areas and when they denied it
the eviction team started chasing them, beating them and set fire in
their houses. Consequently, within a few hours, the hundreds of houses
with movable properties like paddy, rice, utensils, bicycles,
ploughing instruments and clothes were burnt into ashes.

The Forest Department carried on attacks on the Adivasis till October
31. Besides, burning the houses and properties, the eviction team cut
down the trees of mango, banana, bamboo, battle nut and papaya. The
eviction team hunted the livestock like hens, ducks, pigs and goats
and took away those with them during the eviction. The family members
who were found in the houses including men, women and children were
physically and mentally tortured during the eviction. The women who
protested against the atrocities were molested and beaten by the
eviction team. The eviction team did not even spare the children. Many
small kids were half burnt and got injury in their bodies and heads.
When the atrocities crossed the limit, the Adivasis started protesting
against the Forest Department. As a result, the men who led the
protest against the atrocities were arrested by the Police.

The Forest Department with the help of Boro youth burnt down 400
houses of 53 villages into ashes. Consequently, 5975 Adivasis of 1143
families became homeless and 33 Adivasi village heads of Santal and
Oraon communities were arrested and sent to Kokrajhar jail. Besides, 9
Primary Schools, 1 Manjhi Than (place of worship), 6 Churches and 7
Lakhi Mandirs were also burnt into ashes. The vegetables and other
crops were also destroyed in the move. The Adivasis were tortured,
their houses burnt to ashes and they were thrown behind the bars in
the name of eviction. They were portrayed as encroachers of the forest
land though they have been living in the vicinity since 1964, much
before the enactment of the forest conservation Act 1980. Ironically,
the Forest Rights Act 2006 emphasises on righting the historical
wrongs done to the Adivasis but in Assam the historical injustice is
still continuing with the Adivasis merely for the vote bank politics
of the Congress government. Is the Forest Rights Act not enforceable
in Assam or the Act is brought to ensure lands to the corporate sharks
after dividing the Adivasis and other forest dweller communities in
the name of giving them rights over the forest and forest land? The
Adivasis are living in the state of uncertainty in Assam.

The ancestors of Jharkhandi Adivasis mostly the Oraons and the Santals
had been taken to Assam by the Britishers to work in the tea garden
approximately 150 years ago. Later on when the population increased,
they scattered and some of them settled down in Lungsung forest after
clearing the land in 1964. The Forest Department had evicted the
Adivasi and Bodo people from the area in 1977. The district
administration rehabilitated the Bodo people in different places of
Kokrajhar district but the Adivasis were left out and they remained in
adjacent vicinity. In course of time, when the Adivasis faced
livelihood crisis they again went back to Lungsung forest and settled
down. In July 1996 the Adivasis were driven out from the forest by
Bodo extremists and took shelter in different relief camps, where they
were given merely 400 gram rice per person for 10 days, which thrown
them in the livelihood crisis. Consequently, they again went back to
the Lungsung forest to earn their livelihood and settled down in their
old villages.

Perhaps, the Forest Department is very bias, arrogant and
undemocratic. Firstly, the Forest Department didn’t issue any
notification before evicting the Adivasis as per the eviction
procedure. Secondly, Bodos, Nepalis and Adivasis have been living in
Lungsung forest since 1964 but the Forest Department took action only
against the migrant Jharkhandi Adivasis. Ironically, the Assam
Government and the Boroland Territorial Council justified the inhuman
acts of the Forest Department. The Congress lead UPA government counts
the Forest Rights Act 2006 as one of its biggest achievements but the
question is why the Jharkhandi migrant Adivasis were not given
entitlements of the lands they have been cultivating for years? How
does the Forest Department become protector of the forests and the
Adivasis encroachers, whose life, livelihood, economy, culture and
identity are based on it?

The Member of Parliament of Kokrajhar S.K. Bwiswmuthiary alleged Ram
Dayal Munda, Babulal Marandi and other Adivasi leaders, who visited to
the affected areas of Assam, of attempting to create a mini Jharkhand
and bringing in the Maoists in the forests of Bodoland. According to
Joy Raj Tudu the leader of Jharkhand Initiatives Desk, who met the
victims, S.K. Bwiswmuthiary has been playing a biased politics towards
the Adivasis, in his third term being an M.P of Kokrajhar, has been
successful in denying the existence of Adivasis in the region and has
been the staunch enemy of the Adivasi sentiment. In fact, he was the
ring master in instigating the ethnic violence between Adivasis and
Bodos in 1996 and 1998.

In fact, the whole dispute of Assam is based on the issues of the
land, the migrant Adivasis’ demand for ST status and sharing of the
power. The migrant Adivasis have occupied very fertile lands, which
the Boros are eying to capture therefore they don’t want the land to
be regularized to the Adivasis. Secondly, there are 70 lakh migrant
Adivasis in Assam, which comprises of 25 percent of the total
population of the state. In that case, if the migrant Adivasis are
given ST status they can acquire many posts and positions through
reservation. The Boro and other Assami Adivasis see it as cutting in
their share. Therefore, the Boros are against to the migrant Adivasis
be given the status of Schedule Tribe in Assam. Thirdly, there are
only 15 percent Adivasis in Assam. If the migrant Adivasis are given
ST status the total Adivasi population would come to 40 percent, which
can make a huge difference in the political arena of Assam therefore
the non-Adivasis do not want the migrant Adivasis be given the status
of ‘Scheduled Tribe’.

However, the migrant Adivasis are demanding for the ‘Scheduled Tribe’
status, which will ensure their constitutional rights. In these
circumstances, if the Assam government gives ST status to the migrant
Adivasis and entitlements of land, the Assami Adivasis and
non-Adivasis both may go against of the Congress Party therefore the
Assam government is not only reluctant to give the ST status to the
migrant Adivasis but it has been also sponsoring the exploitation,
torture and forcefully eviction of the migrant Adivasis of Assam for

Though most of the Adivasis of India have voted in favour of the
Congress Party for decades but the party has been betraying them even
today. For instance, If all the migrants Adivasis who have settled
down in different states of the country were honestly counted in one
category, the numbers of the Adivasis might have reached to 12 crore
in India whereas only 8 crore is mentioned in the Census 2001 and rest
of them were put either in OBC or general categories. Of course, it is
one of the biggest injustices done to the Adivasis by those who called
themselves as soldiers of the Adivasis. Ironically, when the elite
Indians are targeted in Australia, UK or US, it becomes the issue of
racism for the Indian State and the national Media, whereas the Indian
state has been racially discriminating the Adivasis for decades but
nobody is bothered about it. Can the Adivasis’ soldier tell us why?
Why 70 lakh migrant Adivasis of Jharkhand are counted in OBC category
in Assam? Why the upper caste people get the same status across the
country and the Adivasis don’t?

Perhaps, Rahul Gandhi is much worried on the matter of Adivasis
deserting the Congress Party rather than protection of their rights
therefore he intends to get back the lost Adivasi vote bank by
projecting himself as their soldier. The relevant question here is if
he is Adivasis’ soldier then whose government has been carrying on
eviction of the migrant Adivasis in Assam, Salwa Judum in Chhatisgarh
and Operation Green Hunt in the so-called Red Corridor? However, if
Rahul Gandhi still wants to become a real soldier of the Adivasis, he
should ask his government to give ST status and land entitlements to
the migrant Adivasis of Assam, to enforce the United Nations
declaration on the rights of the Indigenous People 2007, to recognize
the Adivasis as indigenous people of India, to protect their
constitutional & traditional rights and stop their alienation from the
natural resources. The question may remain unanswered is will he
listen our voices or beat around the bush in delusion of becoming a
soldier of the Adivasis?

Gladson Dungdung is a Human Rights Activist and Writer based in
Jharkhand. He can be reached at gladsonhractivist at gmail.com

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