With the ongoing protests across India against the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act and the proposed National Register of Citizens, the tribals of Madhya Pradesh’s Burhanpur kicked off a protest on January 23. This is the first of such protests which are scheduled to take place in other regions of the state. Further agitations have been planned at Nimad region of MP. Protests have also been planned for Barwani on January 27 and in Khargone on 28. The tribal groups are demanding that the state Assembly should pass a resolution rejecting CAA and NRC.
The demonstration took place outside the District Collector’s Headquarters, organised under the banner ‘Save the Constitution’. The main slogan raised by the tribals is, "Our land and our hard work is our proof; Earth is our mother, and the forest is our father."
Speaking to NewsClick, Nitin from Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS), said, “This was the first in a series of protests that are to be launched across cities and villages.” The tribals on the ground are asserting their troubled relationship with documentation. The major issue they are raising is that they the government which is elected on their vote is now asking them to prove whether they belong to this land. They said that they do not even have caste certificates, ration cards or a defined religion, and in such a scenario, their very existence in the society comes under question.
Nitin added, “Religious beliefs of adivasis vary from tribe to tribe and it is a known fact that their religious beliefs and practices vary to a considerable extent, from the mainstream religions practised in India; specifically, those which are mentioned in CAA. Given the the socio-economic conditions of adivasis, the possibility of them getting excluded from a countrywide NRC will be much more than any other group. Moreover, to protect themselves from being excluded, they might be compelled to convert into those religions which are mentioned in CAA. This is being seen as a crisis for the constitutional values of equality making CAA an anti-adivasi move.”
“People have decided to unequivocally reject CAA-NRC. The tribals are saying that ‘the proof of our citizenship is the work we put in this land’,” he said.
Notably, the tribal communities in this belt have been targets of state violence because of their agitation demanding the implementation of forest rights. On July 9, 2019, adivasis of Gram Panchayat Siwal situated in Burhanpur were fired with pellets by the Forest Department as they attempted to protect their sown crops from being destroyed by forest officials, revenue officials and police. When the adivasi villagers protested, they were again fired at by pellet guns, leaving four injured.
A similar protest was also kicked off in Goa earlier. The Gawada, Kunbi, Velip and Dhangar (GAKUVED) Federation had stated that the NPR, the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) will together strip off the Goan tribals of their land, forest and agricultural rights, besides their voting rights and liberty.
Also read: First Fired Upon, Now Criminal Cases Registered Against Tribals in Madhya Pradesh