Doublespeak has reached its pinnacle with the BJP leadership. In 2016, BJP Prime Minister Modi said: ‘‘Nobody in this country should have the right to snatch the land of tribals, nobody should get a chance (to do this).
This is our commitment. The government is in favour of taking the strongest possible action in that direction and we are also doing that…Similarly, tribals should also get the right to land (aadivaasiyon ko jameen kaa haq bhi milna chaahiye) because land is their life, forest is their life.’’ However, the same Modi-led BJP government has now devised new rules to let private developers cut down forests without first ensuring the consent of the forest dwellers. The new rules allow the union government to permit the clearing of a forest before consulting the people living in it, forcing the hand of the concerned state government to secure consent from tribal and other forest-dwelling communities.
Earlier, the union government was required to verify the consent of the forest dwellers and ensure recognition of their rights over the forestland before approving handovers for private projects. Now, it can approve the handover of the forest and collect payment for compensatory afforestation from the private developer even before the state government has settled forest dwellers’ rights and ensured their consent for the project. This rule goes against the tribal affairs ministry’s advice in December 2015: ‘‘It is essential that the Gram Sabha’s decision under the FRA, as well as its certificate that the forest rights recognition process is complete, be taken into account prior to Stage II clearances which will inform and enrich the decision-making process of the MOEFCC.’’
It bears recall that in Hasdeo Aranya forest in Chhattisgarh, plots of 32 villagers — who held Individual Forest Rights (IFR)— had been taken away by the Adani Group by getting tribal farmers to sign on notary affidavits in 2020.
Amid the ongoing resistance against mining in the region, villagers of the Hasdeo Aranya forest in Chhattisgarh alleged that their land was acquired illegally. The area, which falls in Surguja district and spans over 1,70,000 hectares of rich biodiversity, had been coveted by the Adani Group for coal mining. The forests had not been listed as a protected area – a conservation reserve or a wildlife sanctuary —giving corporates a chance to stake their claim in the region. An investigation conducted by a team of the Surguja district administration also admitted that Adani group had illegally acquired the land of 32 farmers of Ghatbarra in Udaipur tehsil.
Perhaps for facilitating tribal land grab by the Adani group, stated to be very close to the BJP PM, the rule is now going to be changed much to the detriment of the interest of the poor tribal people and in a show of clear volte face by the BJP leadership. Is it for this reason, among others, that the ruling BJP and its leaders are pretending caring bonhomie with the oppressed tribal people by highlighting nomination of Draupadi Murmu, born in a tribal family but aligned with reactionary bourgeois politics as President of the country?
(Source : Indian Express 26-10-16, Newsclick-07-09-20, Newslaundry 07-07-22)