Monday, December 14, 2009

Threat to the livelihood of Dalits and tribals in Tarai

‘Tarai main Dalit Adivasi Asmita pe badhata Sankat’
‘Threat to Dalit-Adivasi livelihood in Tarai’

A documentary by Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Language: Hindi
Duration : 35 minutes

Land Rights activists belonging to National Land Alliance went on a Padyatra to highlight the issue of land rights of dalits and tribals in the Tarai region of Uttar-Pradesh and Uttarakhand in December last year. Tarai is a fertile belt on the foothills of Himayalas and consist of districts like Shaheed Udham Singh Nagar, Lakhimpur Khiri, Pilibhit, Baharaich, Gonda districts of Uttarakhand and Uttar-Pradesh states. The Padyatra started from Golbohji forest village in Palia district of Uttar-Pradesh on December 13th, 2008. After traveling 20-25 kilometer a day, the Padyatra finally culminated at Harinagar village in Kundeswari (kashipur), Shaheed Udham Singh Nagar today on December 28th, 2008. During these 16 days, the marchers did social audits of various villages, addressed village community meetings and talked to students in different colleges and schools. They talked about human rights, humanism and challenge of climate change and threat to our environment. Some of the activists well trained in miracle exposure programmes also displayed their skills in these educational institutions and village Panchayats. During these 16 days, the Padyatris stayed at village Panchayat Bhavans, slept in the tribal areas and visited large part of those villages which are still facing discrimination and exclusion in their daily lives either from social system or from the government departments.

The main reason of this Padyatra was to highlight the importance of land and livelihood issues of the Dalit-tribal communities in tribal region of Uttarakhand and Uttar-Pradesh. Communities such as Tharus, Boxas (a Primitive Tribal Group), Tongiyas is a matter of great concern as they remain isolated and excluded in the general set up of both the states. The condition of these communities is particularly alarming in Uttarakhand because of lack of understanding of Dalit-tribal culture and popular mass support. In the Tarai region the sale-purchase of tribal land is prohibited yet most the tribal land today has been transferred to dominant communities here. The tense peace exist here as these communities are so well oppressed that they find it difficult to explain their conditions to outsider as the goons of the powerful communities and land mafias always spy upon them. Both the Tharus and Boxas are victim of the forest department also and border police also.

In its last leg, the Padyatra reached Harinagar ( Kundeshwari) today. After 16 days and crossing over 350 kilometer of Uttarakhand and Uttar-Pradesh state, the reason of culminating the Padyatra in Harinagar, Kundeswari was to support the demand of over 150 landless Dalit families who have been fighting for their land rights for the past 20 odd years when they were brutally thrown away from the land they had been tilling for many years and which was declared ceiling surplus by the Commissioner of Kumaon, Nainital. Despite favorable verdict from the highest courts of the land, the government of the state did not have the courage to implement the ceiling act there and provide land to these peace loving people who had shown their faith in the constitution of India and did not resort to any unlawful activities. Social Development Foundation has gone to Supreme Court against the empathy of the Uttarakhand government against these people but shockingly the government of the state in a brazenly shameless way suggested that the Dalits do not hail from the district. In the same affidavit the government justify giving land to those Sikhs who were declared encroachers by the Supreme Court and who actually were responsible for excluding and discriminating against the Dalits. We ask the question to the state government as how come these people got land under ceiling act and what was the criteria used for them ?

Now, based on our experiences and fact finding during the Padyatra, we have produced a 35 minute documentary ‘ Tarai main Dalit Adivasi asmita per badhta sankat’ i.e. ‘Threat to Dalit-Adivasi livelihood in Tarai’. The documentary is based on direct interviews with victims who have lost their land to various dominant forces in the region including land mafia, forest department and irrigation department. It gives you a live picture how Tharu, Boxa villages are on the verge of extinction and how the Dalits despite court’s order have not been able to get their legitimate due.

The struggle for social justice continues in this hostile region of India where political parties, social action groups, media have kept conspicuous silence on non implementation of land laws including redistribution of land and implementation of land ceiling act. Our effort is to bring these ugly facts to you so that as activists, jurists, media persons, government officials, political leaders, you would be able to take it further. It is a voluntary effort hence we have not been able to create more CDs. We request your support for it. Those who would be interested can write to me for CDs and DVDs. The contributory price for CD would be Rs 200/- and for DVD Rs 500/-.

We would be screening the documentary at different places including colleges, social action group’s programmes. Friends, who would be interested to organize any event or discussion on issue are welcome and can contact me for the same.

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