Language Sites
  • UCAN China
  • UCAN India
  • UCAN Indonesia
  • UCAN Vietnam

India's indigenous people fight land law amendment

Tribals fear changes will weaken protection safeguarding their rights

India's indigenous people fight land law amendment
Hundreds of tribal people gather in Jharkhand capital Ranchi on Sept. 17 to protest law amendments, which they say will weaken provisions to protect their land (Photo by Saji Thomas)
ucanews.com reporter, Ranchi
India

September 26, 2016

Mail This Article
(For more than one recipient, type addresses separated by commas)


Tribal people across Jharkhand state in eastern India are protesting a local government proposal that will weaken legal protection against others buying and selling indigenous people's land.

The state’s proposal to amend two laws "is a major threat to the very survival of tribal people," said Auxiliary Bishop Telesphore Bilung of Ranchi.

Jharkhand has some 9 million tribal people, who form 26 percent of the state’s 33 million population. About 1.5 million people in the state are Christians, at least half of them Catholics.

The church supports their public demonstrations, said Bishop Bilung. 

Jesuit Father Xavier Sorent, a social activist, said that church people are involved in creating awareness among tribal communities "about the need to rise to the occasion [and] protect their land."

"The people are turning up in huge numbers [to] public protest meetings. It is a major worry for the government," he said, adding that the government is also planning programs to drum up support for the amendment.

Hundreds of tribal people gathered in Jharkhand capital Ranchi on Sept. 17 to protest (Photo by Saji Thomas)

 

Jharkahnd state was created by carving out tribal-dominated areas of Bihar state 16 years ago to protect their interests. 

The proposed amendments will change laws that prohibit the sale or purchase of indigenous land by non-tribal people. They will also make protected land available for mining and industrial development.

Bishop Bilung said tribal life was "centered [on] water, forest and land. The moment they are deprived of their land, they are bound to perish," said the prelate, who comes from an indigenous community himself.

The state government, run by the Hindu nationalist, Bharatiya Janata Party, proposed the amendments in the legislature in July, kick-starting protests from tribal groups.

The government wants to "hand over the vast swathes of tribal land with coal, bauxite and other minerals to industrial houses. That is why we say the amendments strike at the very root of tribal life," said Jesuit Father Tom Kavala.

The indigenous people are "generally unaware of their rights and constitutional safeguards.… The government is taking advantage of it," said Father Kavala.

However, state Chief Minister Raghubar Das told media that the amendments will empower the people with better financial and employment opportunities. 

He also blamed Christians for inflaming protests. Those behind "conversions" are also behind the protests, he told New Delhi’s Economic Times.

"There are parties that do not want tribals to progress; they want the tribals to remain poor, with no electricity. We are planning to bring development and progress however those involved in conversions are opposed to this as they want the tribals to remain in the state that they are. If people remain poor, they can be easily converted," he told the newspaper on Sept. 21.

 

UCAN needs your support to continue our independent journalism
Access to UCAN stories is completely free of charge - however it costs a significant amount of money to provide our unique content. UCAN relies almost entirely on donations from our readers and donor organizations that support our mission. If you are a regular reader and are able to support us financially, please consider making a donation. Click here to donate now.
La Civiltà Cattolica
 

LATEST

Support Our Journalism

Access to UCAN stories is completely free of charge - however it costs a significant amount of money to provide our unique content. UCAN relies almost entirely on donations from our readers and donor organizations that support our mission. If you are a regular reader and are able to support us financially, please consider making a donation.

Quick Donate

Or choose your own donation amount