10 December 2016: The tribal state of Jharkhand has been gripped by a number of strikes which are being led by the opposition and several tribal groups demanding the repeal of the amendments brought about by the ruling BJP government in CNT-SPT Acts. The Chotanagpur Tenancy (CNT) and Santhal Paragana Tenancy (SPT) Amendment Bill 2016, which was passed on November 23 endeavors to ease the transfer of lands owned by Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes, including the conversion of agricultural lands to commercial use to boost trade, investment, and revenue. On Saturday, December 10 the Delhi Chapter of CNT SPT Bachao Andolan staged a protest at Jantar Mantar. A number of students from JNU participated in the protest meeting and took turns to criticize the amendments.
Phoolkeria Minz, the President of the Chotanagpur Working Women’s Society who started with a tribal song from the state that called for a unity amongst people who have been divided by those in power, moved on to deliver a passionate speech where she questioned the nexus of the government and capitalists: “The rights of the oppressed, the marginalised are been overlooked. The industrialists come and take away our lands, and this is taking place with the connivance of the BJP government.”
Decrying the human rights violations in the tribal regions of the country, she exhorted the crowd to fight for their lands till death.
“… the land belongs to our ancestors , the land is made up of ashes of our forefathers, we shall die but not let the government take it away from us. The BJP has goaded the tribals like animals, we shall now rise like tigers to defend our territory.”
Anubhuti Agnes Bara, a Ph.D. student emphasized on the relevance of the song amidst growing rates of migration of tribals from their native lands to cities, leading to a vicious cycle of exploitations and no escape. Another student, Dawa Sherpa from Nagaland focused on the history of land laws and brought into light the similarities of tribal oppression in Jharkhand, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, and the north-east. He questioned the high-handedness of the state government and raised the dichotomy between current dispensation and the British-rule. He observed: “Historic rebellions by the Adivasis were successful in the enforcement of these legislations; these were not handouts by the British. The current CM wants to take away these rights for which tribal men and women have sacrificed their lives. We must judge: which system is more oppressive for us?” Several other speakers talked about the relation between Adivasis and land and on how land is a symbol of power, and that “state of landlessness” is a “state of powerlessness.” Representatives from JTSA, Collective, DSF, DSU and United OBC Forum attended the protest meeting.
A memorandum was later read out that listed the demands of the protestors and is supposed to be sent to the President of India. Apart from the with drawl of the amendments, the memorandum also seeks the release of protestors in jail in Jharkhand and the inclusion of three key areas under the purview of tenacity laws. The memorandum collected around two hundred signatures.
The Informer Report.