A war against
Dalits & Adivasis
By Goldy M. George
10 November, 2004
and Adivasis (Indigenous people) have never been the part of the conventional
trade systems in India. Today they are faced with the horrible hostility
of trade and market policies. In recent times trade entered the scene
on mass scale through the principles of globalisation, liberalisation
and privatisation. Mega industrial production still plays the key role
in all trade deal not only at the national level but also at the international
which made a colourful and dreamy entry, is turning out to be the worst
form of human development. The steady economic growth of industries
with active support from the state machinery is directly proportional
to the unchecked exploitation of masses. Most of them belong to marginalized
communities such as Dalits, Adivasis, women, working class, etc. Though
during the independence struggle land to the tillers and
factory to the workers prominently came on to the national
agenda, nowhere in India had we witnessed the later one being implemented
in the post independence era. Resultant displacement, migration, repercussion
of workers, loss of land and livelihood, pilfering state revenue, forest
resources, etc. has outgrown to monstrous level.
This has amplified
particularly with WTO taking the centre stage of all sorts of trade
related agreements and transactions at the international level. Trade
is no longer buying and selling of goods and services but it encompasses
issues like Intellectual Property Rights. With this the global market
has wide open for exploration and exploitation of resources under the
aegis of free trade. Industrialised nations found their tools to maintain
supremacy on world trade. Prophets of trade and commerce argue that
free trade maximises world economic output. This is what is considered
to be progress. But what we have been witnessing with the Dalits and
Adivasis in India is diametrically opposite to these claims.
Decline of peoples
rights on Natural Resources:
The symbiotic relationship
between the forest-dwelling communities, especially the Adivasis and
the forest Eco-system is an eternal truth. They had traditional system
of preserving the forest and wild life. Many of the indigenous communities
worship the forest; give offerings to the forest-gods, forest-goddess
and even the wild animals. Their life cannot be segregated into watertight
compartments such as social, economic, political, religious, cultural,
administrative, intellectual, spiritual, etc. Life is a single organic
whole. Because of the fast changing socio-economic trends, social values
and traditional life style is vastly being diverted. The degrees of
change vary from rural to urban, urban to metropolitan, poverty to affluence
etc. Today industrialisation, urbanisation induced with the modern education
had adversely affected the integrity of mankind. Spread of the modern
education, effect of media and expansion of rural bureaucracy has induced
an element of elitism in rural areas.
live in close relationship with the forest and have the greater dependency
on it. There are many Dalit communities who are also quite dependent
on forests and natural resources for their survival. Artisan and craftsman
Dalit communities like Kurava in Kerala, Mala communities in Andhra
Pradesh, Basod in Madhya Pradesh are to greater extent dependent on
the forest resources. Various projects have already ousted them from
land and property on many occasions in order to eke out a marginal living.
Due to their emotional attachment with the forest, they always search
for resembling locality. So whenever they are victimised in the name
of progress and development they settle down in a similar environment.
It is because of this past that the Adivasis and Dalits in many parts
of the country are branded as encroachers. Apparently their customary
and traditional rights were either curtailed or ignored by every ruler
both by the Colonial and National ruler.
The past policies
of the state had seriously disturbed the close and lively relationship
between people and natural resources leading to the unrestricted
destruction of forest wealth, affecting their wholesome life style and
stuck at their very survival. The rule of globalisation added extra
intensity on the question of natural resources.
These policies were
directly or indirectly related to capture the resources throughout the
world, which includes the natural resources too. One of the greatest
failures of this period was the scantiness of unified attempts from
the third world to resist this move. The segmentation of the third world
and their internal fighting to established power ensured enthusiasm
and enriched the exploiter camp to manipulate the situation. Nevertheless,
this reduced Peoples control over Natural Resources.
over Natural Resources was further reduced with the direct intervention
of IMF, World Bank, WTO, etc. Several World Bank funded projects have
already deteriorated the condition of the forests and forest dwelling
communities. The capitalistic nation foresaw the treasure of wealth
in forest, the rich biodiversity, bionetwork genealogy, natural knowledge
systems, medicinal value of herbs in Indian forests, etc. Accordingly
modifying the operative formula of globalisation, liberalisation, privatisation
and open market economy were the inevitable innovation of these agencies,
even in forest-based regions. The major intention was not just to capture
the resources from the indigenous people, but also to establish an unquestionable
political and social control over the world.
For the indigenous
communities like the Adivasis and Dalits their dependency on land and
forest is not just as a productive asset but as a symbol of their self-determination,
co-existence, community feeling and dignity. Now this became a tradable
YES! Peoples rights NO!
Forests, the nurturer
of thousands of Adivasis and other forest workers, are well under inspection
of the corporate investors. This is what the principle of open market
economy and international trade policies demands. The government along
with the forest department has been engaged in dispossessing the forest-based
communities under the pretext of forest conservation and wildlife protection.
On the contrary it is opened for industrial purpose like mining, power,
dams, etc., defence projects, so-called wilflife management, botanical
gardens, bio-experiments, eco-tourism and so on.
For example in Chhattisgarh
itself almost 17 lakh acres of land has been demarcated as protected
area for the sake of wildlife conservation, where people face the threat
of eviction. According to government sources there are more than 250
villages with a population above 35 thousand. The majority of them are
Adivasis and Dalits. Adivasis and Dalits living in forest regions are
almost bonded labourers of the forest department.
Let me present the
example of Chhattisgarh. This zone has high potential in terms of forest
resources. In fact it covered nearly 45% of the total forests in the
erstwhile Madhya Pradesh. Baster alone can serve at least 10% of the
national requirement of forest. But in the last two decades due to irresponsible
approach of the government it is on the downslide; the forest have gradually
10 major projects have already been completed, for which 257032.585
acres of land have been lost. In all 238 villages have been affected
by these dams and their rehabilitation has not yet been done. In addition
to this there are 30 medium projects affecting 123 villages, for which
32745.13 acres of land have been acquired. Further there are 8 projects
pending and 6 medium projects have been proposed affecting 150 villages
for which 261314.59 acres of land is to be occupied. Majority of the
land lost is either forests land or fueled the destruction of forests.
These are the statistics in 2000 when the state was about to be created.
This chart has probably grown much higher.
Another major reason
of forest destruction is the mass felling of trees for commercial purpose.
In many areas of Chhattisgarh there are cases of coop felling of trees
and this happens through the forest department. A powerful lobby of
timber contractors, politicians, bureaucrats are actively operating
the illegal felling. One major case of similar character was exposed
in Bastar. This case drew a lot of attention and the Supreme Court ordered
a CBI investigation.
There already exists
an unfair line created by the unjust socio-political divide. Under this
circumstance what it would be meant by free trade?
war against indigenous people!
War because the
indigenous people are thrown out of their resource zones and livelihoods.
Forceful change in life style, culture and eco-friendly ethos is reversed
through this process. Land and forests turned to be a commodity of consumption,
with concentration on private and individual (corporate) capital; it
is not meant for the welfare of all.
War because their
right to land, water and forests are yet to be defined by the nation
state. Although there are sufficient facts to realise the symbiotic
relationship of Adivasis and Dalits with forest environment and the
eco-system at large they are systematically and strategically
bypassed, excluded and isolated. They are not recognised as the original
inhabitants and owners of land. Many so-called development projects
resulted in mass displacement and migration creating an army of domestic
refugees. And let us not forget free trade is also considered to be
a part of economic growth and development. Hence the historical omission
of the already betrayed and battered continues in higher degree and
War because their
skills and knowledge are patented under the newly coined phenomenon
of IPRs. The wealth of Indian natural zones and skills and knowledge
of indigenous communities are immense. Once this is transferred it could
easily brought under the IPRs.
War because everything
is now in the market. But the Dalits and Adivasis are nowhere in the
market. Other production-based communities have a minimum right to enter
the market, but the indigenous people have no right to market. Is it
not really silly that the inherited ones are out of livelihood, profession,
trade and even market? Rank of Dalits & Adivasis in Trade process
is nothing more than a big cipher.
War because the
exploitation of non-renewable resources is diametrically opposite to
the man-resource relationship. This at large disturbs eco-system and
erupts major ecological problems, which threatens the life of the mother
earth to unpredictable magnitude. In other words life on earth is and
will be at stake if the present process continues. This is particularly
related to the question of mining. In fact the communities have no right
to mining on their own. The mining and mineral policy has contributed
a lot to this process in tune with the principles of market and trade
for the MNCs.
War because the
jargons like ecological democracy and ecological equity wont go
hand in hand with globalisation and market. Both are wholly opposite
to each other.
War because the
corporate house needs resources whereas people need their livelihood.
It is a war between surplus vs. survival. Thus the subsistent economy
is transferred into market economy.
War because in an
age of free trade and market the life values sustained through the community
life and love are constantly diffusing and substituted with competition.
War because those
who resist and "refuse to disappear," as the Zapatistas say,
are routinely arrested, beaten and even killed.
War because when
this kind of low-intensity repression fails to clear the path to corporate
liberation, the real wars begin. This is the war being witnessed in
Kashipur, Nagarnar, Mehendikheda, Koelkaro, Umbergoan and many other
places. Perhaps free trade flows from the barrel of gun and tip of lathis
Many pundits state
it as TINA meaning There Is No Alternative. This is not
true, nor it is the right approach. Our approach should begin from two
primary viewpoints. One is that globalisation is not development. Second
is that trade and financial liberalisation does not raise social and
labour standards. Once again globalisation continues to colonise the
poor, women, ecosystem and environment as an integral part of this development.
The greatest enemies of terror never lose sight of the economic interests
served by violence, or the violence of capitalism itself. If trade is
To identify viable
alternatives, one must understand that the root causes of todays
predicament lie in the devastating development based on industrialism
and wasteful growth, development packages, spread by colonialism
capitalism. Developing countries must be allowed the policy flexibility
and the political space to create national development strategies that
increase incomes and secure livelihoods. Policies, which create employment
and raise productivity especially in the agricultural and natural
resources, and informal sector linked with a progressive taxation
system, land reform and equitable access to assets such as education,
health, credit and technology, are the best means of raising social
and labour standards.
has to campaign for to recognise and support the identity, culture and
rights of Indigenous Peoples; and promote appropriate conditions for
Indigenous Peoples so they can benefit from forest use, maintain their
cultural identity, and achieve adequate levels of livelihood through,
inter alia, land tenure arrangements which serve as incentives for the
sustainable management of forests.
Right to land when
not recognised leads to land alienation. In case of the indigenous communities
it at large leads to depeasantisation. Since land alienation is the
crux of the depeasantisation of the indigenous people, the concept assumes
utmost importance in the analysis of their rights as a part of human
rights discourse. The problem of land alienation is a much deeply connected
phenomenon with full of contradictions related to the existing socio-economic
order. The separation of land from the indigenous communities can be
understood in a more scientific way with the assistance of the theoretical
formulations of the concept of alienation.
build a campaign:
It is vital that
the Dalit and Adivasi communities build a campaign against the politics
of free-trade and market economy. However this needs to come as a bottom-top
model other than the top-bottom model that we had been witnessing for
the past many years. This is essential not only to protect the Dalits
and Adivasis in India but also the indigenous and ethnic minorities
as well as the aboriginals across the world.
No one is going
to escape this trap in any way. This one should understand from the
historical viewpoint of the functioning of capitalism. By all means
it is the re-establishment of the capitalistic regime through the imperialist
formula of globalisation, liberalisation and privatisation. Attaining
absoluteness of capitalism is the primary intention of open market and
free trade in the current phase. Essentially this needs to be blocked
at all levels with urgency. To start with one need to think in terms
of building a campaign against trade, trade related policies and market
economy at large.
What could be
the core of the campaign?
- Reorienting our
economies from the emphasis on production for export to production for
the local market.
the local market and its mechanisms through appropriate interventions.
communitys base on natural resources ensuring rights over land,
water and forest.
- Reinforcing the
traditional systems of community life in an organic manner with rights
- In cases of exploration
of minerals, the Adivasi & Dalit communities should be actively
involved in it. Free trade wont take place without taking the
local community into serious consideration. Since the land belongs or
belonged to them they have a legitimate right on these resources.
- Transfer of mining
lease without Adivasis has been prohibited with the Samata Judgment.
Basically banned the mining! Such verdict needs to be upheld.
- Drawing most of
our financial resources for development from within rather than becoming
dependent on foreign investment and foreign financial markets.
- Carrying out the
long-postponed measures of income redistribution and land redistribution
to create a vibrant internal market that would be the anchor of the
growth and maximising equity in order to radically reduce environmental
- Not leaving strategic
economic decisions to the market but making them subject to democratic
- Subjecting the
private sector and the state to constant monitoring by civil society.
- Creating a new
production and exchange complex that includes community cooperatives,
private enterprises, and state enterprises, and excludes TNCs.
- Enshrining the
principle of subsidiary in economic life by encouraging production of
goods to take place at the community and national level if it can be
done so at reasonable cost in order to preserve community.
The author could
be contacted at [email protected].
He is a Dalit-Adivasi activist in Chhattisgarh, India.