Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Forest Men

Witnessing an "Adivasi Morcha" could be a lifetime experience for it could change your personality in and out. Hundreds and thousands of Adivasis from nearby villages participate in this morcha. They generally come from the nearby villages and sacrifice a day's income to fight for their living. Their ragged clothes and innocent eyes narrate the saga of their endless struggle for life. Yet they seem to have no complaint against anybody. Amidst the scorching sun or heavy rain, with the Bhakri (bread) and Chutney wrapped in an old cloth, they fearlessly march ahead with the morcha in search of a better future.

In the past, during the British Raj before Independence, the forest department was established to have timbre wood from forest. It was intended to complement the need of wood for the making of the Indian Railways. But for this the British locally called the 'Gora Sahib' effortlessly denied the Adivasi's land rights. The British policy resulted in forced eviction of Adivasis from their traditional land. Since then Adivasis in India are the consistent victims of insecurity and deprivation. Unfortunately the Forest Department of India religiously follows the colonial heritage of British administration till today. Many times they are worse than their British counter parts in corruption, bribery and torture to the Adivasis. Often the Adivasis fall prey in the hands of forest guards who suddenly attack their habitats, set ablaze their huts and take away their cattle in the name of conservation of forest.

In the state of Madhya Pradesh, the "Baiga Adivasi Community" in Mahakoshal takes optimum care for forest land conservation. So the state government declared this community as the "Rashtriya Manav". But the Baiga Mukhiya, Hiralal laments that the government has so many schemes to protect the wildlife but they do not have a single scheme to protect this state recognised traditional human race.

Since the past twelve years the Adivasis have fought with non-violence for their right to forest. Babu Adivasi, Birju Baiga and many unknown Adivasis became shahid in this battle.
Finally in January 2007, the Adivasi's Right to Forest Land and Forest Resources has been passed by the Central Government in the Parliament. Then is it a time for jubilation? No, certainly not. There is no scope for jubilation over the victory. Another battle is in the offing. The battle for the implementation of the parliament's verdict. With the hullabaloo of globalisation and privatisation who would listen to these poor Adivasis? The Rajsthan Government is already keen to bring Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in South Rajsthan to give away the Adivasi land to private companies.

Therefore the struggle never ends. Innumerable Adivasis continue to march in the morcha for they know as long as there is life; there is fight for their living.

No comments: