Wednesday, April 19, 2017

MHA report links Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti of Dongria Kondh adivasis with ‘Maoists’

NB: This is the latest example of the surreptitious defiance of law by the Modi government. People should take note of it and resist by all peaceful means possible. Behind the language of 'development' this government is undermining the constitutional protections available to Indian citizens: DS

Dear friends 
In a very disturbing development, the following reference is made in the 2016-17 Annual Report of the Indian Union Ministry of Home Affairs to Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti, an organisation of the the Dongria Kondh community who have valiantly resisted mining by Vedanta in the thickly forested and sacred Niyamgiri hills of Orissa: 

"2.8 The Maoists tried to strengthen coordination between its mass organizations and other like-minded organizations to undertake programmes against alleged state violence and for protection of democratic rights. In 2016, the issue of displacement of local communities remained the main plank of mobilization by the mass organisations. In Niyamgiri Hills area (Districts Rayagada and Kalahandi, Odisha), the outfit continued to guide the activities of the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti."

In protest, please find enclosed a letter addressed to the President of India, endorsed by a wide range of peoples movements, social and environmental justice groups and individuals, urging him to "direct the MHA to retract the statements made about the NSS in its report, to stop the intimidation of the adivasis and attempts to restart the mining, and to allow the Dongria Kondh and other communities of the Niyamgiri hills to live a dignified life of self-determination for their present and future."

In solidarity with the struggle of Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti, we appeal to you to send this or a similar letter to the President of India. We reiterate our support for the struggle of the Dongria Kondh, and of the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti, in safeguarding their habitat, livelihoods, identity, and dignity.

*****************

To: 

Shri Pranab Mukherjee
The President of India
Rashtrapati Bhavan
New Delhi
19 April 2017

Sub: Concern regarding MHA report linking Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti of Dongria Kondh adivasis with ‘Maoists’

Dear Shri Pranab Mukherjee,

We are writing to express our concern and anguish at the recently released Annual Report 2016-17 of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), which has linked the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti (NSS) with ‘Maoist’ organizations. The report states that Maoists ‘guide’ the activities of the NSS.

The Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti is a collective of the Dongria Kondh adivasi people and other local communities who have been organizing themselves for more than a decade against bauxite mining in Niyamgiri hills (Odisha), which is their only home. The continued targeting of the Dongria Kondh community (with a population of less than ten thousand people) in reports like these, and in continued state actions on the ground, raises serious doubts: is this being purposely done to break their continued resolve to oppose the mining of the Niyamgiri hills?

The resistance of the Dongria Kondh to the mining proposal is based on several grounds: Niyamgiri is their traditional and ancestral home, it is a sacred landscape, it is the source of their livelihood and culture, they have special rights guaranteed in the Constitution, and they have full rights to it under the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act and the Forest Rights Act, both laws passed by the Indian Parliament. In fact under the Forest Rights Act, the community has the right and is empowered to protect their habitat, and natural ecosystems in it, which is precisely what they are doing in resisting the mining. All this was recognized by the NC Saxena Committee set up by the Government of India in 2010, which strongly recommended against mining in the hills.1 Subsequently the Supreme Court too recognized these aspects.

However, since the Supreme Court ordered that the Dongria Kondh need to be consulted about mining in the region in April 2013, and the subsequent unanimous rejection by the Dongria Kondh gram sabhas of the mining proposal, we have observed with great perturbation the repeated attempts by the state government to reintroduce the proposal and to start mining in the region. Recently, the Odisha Mining Corporation filed a petition in the Supreme Court to reopen the mining. The Supreme Court refused to admit the petition.

Apart from these attempts, there has been constant intimidation and violence on the community by security forces. In the last 2-3 years, several Dongria Kondh youth and elders have been arrested, harassed, and killed, and one has committed suicide after repeated harassment and alleged torture by security forces. In none of these cases, have the forces been able to produce evidence linking them to so-called Maoists.

The Ministry of Home Affairs appears to have ignored the overwhelming response of the Dongria Kondh, when Maoist organisations told them to oppose or boycott the gram sabha meetings organised by the state at the behest of the Supreme Court order of April 2013. Hundreds of Dongria Kondh had flocked from village to village to take part in the meetings, openly defying this call.2

The Government should also pay heed to the wisdom of the Supreme Court expressed in the case of Nandini Sundar and Ors vs The State of Chhattisgarh (WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 250 OF 2007), also referred to as the Salwa Judum Judgement. In this it reiterated that the current social order which treats any person speaking for human rights and questioning the current paradigm of the State, as a ‘Maoist’ or a ‘Maoist’ sympathizer, has become a serious problem affecting our nation. It noted that any peaceful dissent or dissatisfaction which is a positive feature of democracy, is often not recognized by the authorities and is met with severe repression.

The MHA appears to be questioning the credibility of the Supreme Court’s orders and observations in the above matters; and additionally of the Indian Parliament by ignoring the Dongria Kondh’s rights under PESA and FRA.

Actions such as what the state is doing in the Niyamgiri hills, and language such as that used in the MHA report, only serve to undermine democracy. Apart from the suffering and injustice that the state’s repressive actions cause, they also push people who are peacefully exercising their freedom of speech to turn to violence, which helps no one.

We therefore urge you to use your responsibility of upholding the Constitution, and in particular the safeguards for adivasis contained in it, noting also that the Dongria Kondh are a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group with special safeguards. We urge you to direct the MHA to retract the statements made about the NSS in its report, to stop the intimidation of the adivasis and attempts to restart the mining, and to allow the Dongria Kondh and other communities of the Niyamgiri hills to live a dignified life of self-determination for their present and future.

We reiterate our support for the struggle of the Dongria Kondh, and of the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti, in safeguarding their habitat, livelihoods, identity, and dignity.

(Meenal Tatpati / Ashish Kothari, Kalpavriksh)

on behalf of the undersigned organisations and individuals

Copy to:
Prime Minister's Office
Ministry of Tribal Affairs
Ministry of Home Affairs
Governor of Odisha
CM of Odisha
Commissioner of STs

Endorsing organisations
 Samir Mehta, River Basin Friends, and International Rivers South Asia, Mumbai
Tultul Biswas, Madhya Pradesh Mahila Manch, Bhopal
Sudha Bharadwaj, General Secretary, Chhattisgarh People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL)
Binayak Sen and Kavita Srivastava, PUCL
Nitin Rai, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), Bangalore
Ananya Mehta, Karnataka Alliance for Safe Food, and Buffalo Back Collective
Shripad Dharmadhikary, Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, Pune
Viren Lobo, Convenor, Community Control of Natural Resources and Indian Community
Activists Network
Sangram Mallik, Ambedkar Lohia Bichar Manch, Bhubaneswar
Seema Kulkarni, Mahila Kisan Adhikar Manch (MAKAAM) and Society for Promoting
Participatory Ecosystem Management (SOPPECOM), Pune
Joy K J, SOPPECOM, Pune
Soma KP and Rukmini Rao, MAKAAM
Teesta Setalvad, Citizens for Justice and Peace, Mumbai
Bittu Karthik, Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression
Prashant Paikray, Spokesperson, Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), Odisha
Aakar Patel, Amnesty International, India
Ananthoo, Safe Food Alliance, Tamil Nadu
Gopi Deva, Organic Farmers Market, Chennai
Balaji Sankar, Tharcharbu Iyakkam, Sirkali
Radhika Rammohan, reStore, Chennai
Pamayan, Thalanmai Uzhavar Iyakkam
Medha Patkar, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) and National Alliance of People’s Movement (NAPM)
Suhas Kolhekar, Suniti SR, and Prasad Bagwe, NAPM Maharashtra
Meera Sanghamitra, NAPM Telangana and Andhra Pradesh
Sudhir Vombatkere, Senior Activist, NAPM, Karnataka
Gabriele Dietrich, Penn Urimay Iyakkam, Madurai, Tamil Nadu
Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, and Shankar Singh, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) and
National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI)
Anjali Bharadwaj, NCPRI
Prafulla Samantara, Lok Shakti Abhiyan, Odisha
Sandeep Pandey, Socialist Party, Uttar Pradesh
Geetha Ramakrishnan, Unorganised Sector Workers Federation, Tamil Nadu
Arul Doss, NAPM Tamil Nadu
Arundhati Dhuru, Nandlal Master, and Manesh Gupta, NAPM Uttar Pradesh
Richa Singh, Sangathit Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan, Uttar Pradesh
Vilayodi Venugopal, CR Neelakandan, and Prof. Kusumam, NAPM Kerala
Vimal Bhai, Matu Jan Sangathan, Uttarakhand
Jabar Singh, NAPM Uttarakhand
Sister Celia, Domestic Workers Union, Karnataka
Rukmini V.P., Garment Labour Union, Karnataka
Anand Mazgaonkar and Krishnakant, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, Gujarat
Kamayani Swami and Ashish Ranjan, Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan, Bihar
Mahendra Yadav, Kosi Navnirman Manch, Bihar
Sister Dorothy, NAPM Bihar
Dayamani Barla, Aadivasi-Moolnivasi Astivtva Raksha Samiti, Jharkhand
Dr. Sunilam and Adv. Aradhna Bhargava, Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, Madhya Pradesh
Bhupender Singh Rawat, Jan Sangharsh Vahini, Delhi
Rajendra Ravi, Nanu Prasad, Madhuresh Kumar, Amit Kumar, Himnshi Singh, Uma Kapari, Zaved Mazumder, NAPM Delhi
Faisal Khan, Khudai Khidmatgar and J S Walia, NAPM Haryana
Kailash Meena, NAPM Rajasthan;
Samar Bagchi, Amitava Mitra, and Avik Saha, NAPM West Bengal
P. Chennaiah, Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruttidarulua Union (APVVU), Andhra Pradesh
Ramakrishnam Raju, United Forum for RTI, Andhra Pradesh
Gautam Bandopadhyay, NAPM, Chhattisgarh
Kaladas Dahariya, Relaa Collective, Chhattisgarh
Bilal Khan, Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan, Mumbai
K. Sajaja, Freelance journalist and documentary film maker, Caring Citizens Collective,
Hyderabad
Prabhat Kumar Sinha, Convenor, All India Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Samiti
Prahlad Singh Shekhawat, Director, Alternative Development and Research Centre, Jaipur
Rajesh Yedida, Jeevan Kumar, and Jayasree Kakumani, Human Rights Forum, Telangana and
Andhra Pradesh
Vissa Kiran Kumar and Ajay Kumar, Rythu Swarajya Vedika, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh
V. Rukmini Rao, Executive Director, Gramya Resource Centre for Women
Shivani Chaudhry, Housing and Land Rights Network, Delhi
Babloo Loitongbam, Human Rights Alert, Manipur
Leo Saldanha, Environment Support Group, Bangalore
P. Shankar, Dalit Bahujana Front, Telangana
Chakri, Samalochana
Adv. MA Shakeel, Centre for Study of Constitution and Society, Hyderabad, Telangana.
S.Q. Masood, Centre for Peace Studies, Hyderabad, Telangana.
V.A. Ramesh Nathan, General Secretary, National Dalit Movement For Justice-
NDMJ (NCDHR), New Delhi
Henri Tiphagne, People’s Watch, All India Network of Individuals and NGOs working with
National and State Human Rights Institutions (AiNNI), and Human Rights
Defenders’ Alert – India (HRDA)
Indira Jaisingh, Lawyers Collective
Meenal Tatpati and Ashish Kothari, Kalpavriksh
K. Ramnarayan, Himal Prakriti, Munsiari
Malika Virdi, Maati Sangathan, Munsiari
Priya Pillai, Mahan Sangarsh Samiti , Singrauli , Madhya Pradesh

Endorsing individuals

N P Chekkutty, Chief Editor, Thejas Daily, Calicut
Rajinder Chaudhary, Former Professor, Department of Economics, M.D. University, Rohtak, Haryana
Dr. G. Vijay, Assistant Professor School of Economics, Adjunct Faculty Centre for Human Rights and Secretary, Centre for Social Concerns, University of Hyderabad
S. Durga Bhavani, Associate Professor, School of Computer and Information Sciences University of Hyderabad
Sujit Sinha, Faculty, Azim Premji University, Bangalore
Manasi Karthik, SOAS, University of London
Sanjana Kumari, MPhil Research Scholar, Ambedkar University Delhi (AUD)
Chitra Ravi, Azim Premji University, Bangalore
Rakesh Ranjan, University of Delhi
Felix Padel, Anthropologist, Activist
Miloon Kothari, former United Nations Special Rapporteur for Housing Rights, Delhi
Rahul Maganti, Independent Journalist, Vijayawada
Gutta Rohit, Human Rights Activist
Vimala Morthala, Independent Writer, Activist, Hyderabad
Usha Seethalaksmi, Independent Researcher
Adv. Ravi, High Court of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh
Shobha, Theatre Artist and Human Rights Activist, Bangalore
Aruna Chandrasekhar, Researcher and Independent journalist
Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Feminist and Human Rights Activist, Mumbai
Divya Narain, Independent Researcher
Admiral L. Ramdas (Retd.), Former Chief of Naval Staff, Alibag , Maharashtra
Lalita Ramdas, Social Activist, Hyderabad, India
Tara Murali, Architect
Deba Ranjan, Filmmaker
Surya Dash, Filmmaker, Bhubaneshwar
Asad R. Rahmani, Conservationist, Mumbai
Mona Mishra, Social activist, Delhi
Ashim Choudhury, Communications Consultant
Usha Rai, Senior journalist, New Delhi
Achin Vanaik, Delhi
Aravinda Potluri, Hyderabad
Nikita Gandhi, Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu
Anupama Potluri, Hyderabad
Harini Nagendra, Bangalore
K.S. Manjunath, Bangalore
Ravishankar B.T., Bangalore
Prasenjit Dasgupta, Ghaziabad (Delhi NCR)
Abhilash C.A, Chikkabalapur
Adnan Khan, Bangalore
Sunita Rao, Sirsi
Ratheesh Pisharody, Bangalore
Sharada Ganesh, Bangalore
Priti Rao, Bangalore
Ranu Garg, Bangalore
Arvind Kumar, Kanpur
Ajaya Kumar Singh, Bhubaneswar
Sandeep Kumar Pattnaik, Bhubaneshwar
E. Theophilus, Munsiari
Chhaya Datar
Samhita Barooah
Arundathi Vishwanath
Uma Shankari Narendranath
Swagato Sarkar



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