Kolkata: Tribal Communities Hold Huge Rally, Protest Against UCC, Forest Act Changes
Kolkata: Calling for protests against imposition of the Uniform Civil Code or UCC, as proposed by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Central government, and for immediate implementation of the Forest Rights Act -2006, tens of thousands of people from the tribal communities gathered in the Shahid Minar grounds here on Friday.
Many protesters displayed their ritualistic weapons -- bows and arrows -- and Dhamsa Madol, their singing instruments. Several tribal leaders at the rally claimed that their rights over water, land and forest resources were being restricted by the policies of the Union government. The rally also decided to flag their demands before India’s first tribal President, Droupadi Murmu, and simultaneously build a mass movement throughout the country.
The rally was convened by the United Forum of all Adivasi organisations, an umbrella of 44 other organisations, including the Paschimbanga Adivasi Adhikar Manch.
Speakers at the massive rally by the tribal community here also alleged a ‘conspiracy’ being hatched in West Bengal to include the Kurmi and Mahato communities in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) list. They said they would oppose the move “tooth and nail”. They also alleged that several people in the state had been given duplicate ST certificates, and demanded that these be cancelled.
Demanding that the e-tender of the Thurga project and the Forest Conservation Act 2023 should be cancelled, the rallyists also raised against the “anti-tribal mayhem” in Manipur and the attacks on women in the Northeastern state. Claiming that the UCC would hamper the identities of all Indians, the rallyists they demanded withdrawal of any such proposal.
Implementation of UCC would mean that the pluralistic identities of tribals will be compromised, said speakers at the rally, declaring that the tribal communities would not comply if such a decision is taken by the Central government.
Speaking with Newsclick, Pulinbehari Baskey, former MP and leader of Adivasi Adhikar Manch, said due to the policies of the BJP-led Union government and Trinamool Congress state government the rights of tribals were being curbed.
“Projects like Deucha Pachami and Thurga in Purulia are being taken up. These are hampering the interests of the tribal population of the area and are leading to large-scale dislocation of the community. This cannot be accepted,” he said.
Baskey alleged that in West Bengal, crimes against women were on a rise, with several attacks on tribal women, too. On the economic condition of the community, he said the price of kendu leaves, on which the livelihood of many tribal dwellers depends, was at an all-time low.
“The government is destroying the forest protection committees, Getting an Adivasi certificate is a Herculean task in the state, rules regarding ST reservation are not being adhered to leading to non-availability of jobs for the reserved category,” he said, adding that “resource allocation for tribal development was extremely scarce and claimed that the earlier Left Front government, with limited resources, had performed better for the communities’ development.
The United Forum of all Adivasi organisations also lashed out at “corporate looting” of tribal peoples’ resources, which had been done on a “pandemic scale”. Against this aggression, the rallyist decided to intensify their protest movement in the coming days.
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