Australia to formally apologize to Aborigines Industrialization speeds up deforestation
Tribals win forest battle Sabar Hunger Death of confirmed
Can Assam’s Adivasis have political rights? Tribals Protest Displacement
Tribal gets back land  


Australia to formally apologize to Aborigines
New prime minister had promised it; compensation ruled out

MOUNT DRUITT, Australia - As a girl, Mari Melito Russell felt out of place. She was darker than the other kids at school, she felt more comfortable in the forest than her suburban home and she had vivid dreams of an Aboriginal woman beckoning her.

At age 24, she learned a shocking truth that helped explain her unease and set her on an agonizing search for an identity snatched away from her the day she was born.

Russell is among thousands of Australian Aborigines who were forcibly removed from their families under policies that lasted for decades until 1970, leaving deep scars on countless lives and the nation’s psyche.

Australia’s government said Wednesday it would formally apologize to the so-called “stolen generations” next month, as the first item of business of the new Parliament.

The issue has divided Australians for decades, and an apology would be a crucial step toward righting injustices many blame for the marginalized existence of Australia’s original inhabitants — it’s poorest and most deprived citizens.

“It’s not going to bring back my life,” Russell, 72, told The Associated Press Wednesday at her home on Sydney’s outskirts. “It’s not going to bring back my mum. It’s not going to take away the abuse that I had to endure when I was growing up.”

“But at least it’s a start.”

Compensation ruled out

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, elected last November and whose pledge to apologize overturns a decade of refusals by his predecessor, has ruled out paying compensation. But he says he is determined to help all Aborigines achieve better health, education and living standards.

“This is about getting the symbolic covenant, if you like, between indigenous and non-indigenous Australia right and then moving on,” Rudd said this week.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin said Wednesday the apology would “be made on behalf of the Australian government and does not attribute guilt to the current generation of Australian people.”

Her statement reflects the lingering concerns of many Australians that they should not be made responsible for mistakes by their forebears. Aborigines — 450,000 among Australia’s population of 21 million — are the country’s poorest ethnic group and are most likely to be jailed, unemployed and illiterate. Their life expectancy is 17 years shorter than other Australians.

From 1910 until 1970, some 100,000 mostly mixed-blood Aboriginal children were taken from their parents under state and federal laws that argued the race was doomed and that integrating the children was a humane alternative.

An inquiry by the national Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission concluded in 1997 that many stolen generation children suffered long-term psychological effects stemming from their loss of family and culture. It recommended that state and federal authorities apologize and pay compensation to those who were removed. All state governments have apologized, but the question of compensation was left to the federal government.

Then-Prime Minister John Howard steadfastly refused to apologize or pay compensation, saying his government should not be held responsible for past policies.

Although the last laws granting authorities the power to take Aboriginal children from their families were abolished in 1970, many Aborigines say statistics show the government is still far more likely to take Aboriginal children into foster care than white children.

Last summer, the government passed a package of bills to fight what it said was rampant child abuse among Aborigines in the Northern Territory, fueled by widespread alcoholism, unemployment and poverty. The legislation, which included a controversial plan to take control of some Aboriginal lands, was condemned by critics as a racist attack on indigenous rights.


Tribals win forest battle
Statesman News Service

NEW DELHI, Jan. 2; Tribals and other forest dwellers have finally won their battle. They can now rightfully cultivate forest land and dispose of minor produce of forests where they have been living for generations.

The tribals’ rights have been fully defined through a notification of rules issued by the government for the Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (recognition of forest rights) Act, on New Year’s Day. An important achievement for the population is the cut-off date of 13 December 2005. The tribals living in forests prior to this date will benefit from the law.

The law says tribals who were living in and depending on forests for their livelihood prior to 13 December w005, and other traditional forest dwellers who were similarly living in and depending of forests for their livelihood, for three generations prior to 13 December, 2005 will have the rights granted by the law. The gram panchayats will call for claims, which will be examined by Forest Rights Committees consisting of 10 to 15 members of the panchayats.

At least one third of these members will be scheduled tribes and another one-third women. The committee will visit the forest areas and physically verify the nature and extent of claims. After satisfying itself, it shall forward its recommendations to a sub-divisional level committee, which will send the proposals to the district level committee for final consideration, the rules say.

The salient features of the Act include recognizing and vesting forest rights and occupation in forest land to the forest-dwelling scheduled tribes and other traditional forest dwellers who have been residing in such forests for generations bur whose rights could not be recorded. This would undo the historical injustice done to the forest dwelling scheduled Tribes.

The Act provides for recognition of forest rights of other traditional forest dwellers also, provided they have for at least three generations prior to 13 December, 2005 primarily resided in and have depended on the forest or forest land for bonafide livelihood needs. A "generation" for this purpose would mean a period of 25 yeas.

The Act provides for conferring rights in the National Parks and Sanctuaries also, renamed as ‘critical wildlife habitat’ on regular basis. He law provides for the right to hold and live in the forest land under the individual or common occupation for habitation of fore self-cultivation for livelihood by a member of members of a forest dwelling Scheduled Tribe of other traditional forest dwellers.

The right of ownership, access to collect, uses, and dispose of minor forest produce, which has been traditionally collected within or outside village boundaries, has been recognized. The Act ahs defined the term "minor forest produce" to include all no-timber forest produce of plant origin, including bamboo, brush wood, stumps, cane, tussar, cocoons, honey, wax, lac, tendu or kendu leaves, medicinal plants and herbs, roots, tuber and the like.

Significantly, the Act provides that no member of a forest dwelling Scheduled Tribe of other traditional forest dwellers shall be evicted or removed from forestland under his occupation till the recognition and verification procedure is completed. As per the Act, the gram sabha has been designated as the competent authority for initiating the process of determining the nature and extent of individual of community forest rights or both that may be given to the forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers.

The enforcement of the law entitles the tribal benefits of various schemes of the government after vesting the clear-cut title of land in their favour. Since the gram sabhas are now designated as the competent authority for determining the nature and extent of individual of community forest rights, this would mean empowering the local communities in management of their natural resources.

As per the law, recognition and vesting of forest rights includes the responsibility of protection, conservation and regeneration of wild life, forests and biodiversity. The act envisages registration of the title of the forestland jointly in the name of both spouses, where married, and in the case of single person headed households, in the name of single head. This would also benefit women dwelling in the forests.


Can Assam’s Adivasis have political rights?
Prasenjit Biswas

The Statesman 14 JANUARY 2008

The culpable homicide of Samson Naguri and the rape of Manidini on the streets of Guwahati on 24 November last year shook up the "governmentallity" of the Constitution of India. Adivasi battles against insensitive governments in the state and at the Centre constitute the "new politics of the governed" that finds its parallel among Rajastan’s Gujjars and Assam’s Tai-Ahoms, Koch-Rajbonghis, Marans, Rabhas, Mishings and others.

The term "Adivasi", meaning the Aboriginal people with reference to India, here assumes a greater historicity over and above any sedentary caste and ethnic formation settles in a province. Despite being purged out and dispossessed by the mainstream, the unalterable historicity of their belonging to India since time immemorial does not require the sanction and testimony from dominant cultural and linguistic communities who happened to be their tormentor from a position of strength and power.

Should the opposition by Bodos, Assamese and other greater ethnic societies to their claims of "being tribe(s)" matter in such a case of uniquely belonging to India? Can the Constitution be interpreted to the narrow, vested and self-seeking interests of a few other already scheduled and well-ensconced communities of Assam, Bengal, Jharkhand and other such states with an Adivasi population? If that be so, as things stands today, there will be a new turning of the leaf of struggle and there will be many more Sidhu-Kanus, Birsa Mundas and Chorti Mundas.

If such figures of rebellion of the colonial and post-colonial times become "grapes of wrath", India as a nation would not only hit the very foundations of democratic citizenship and liberal pluralism, but it would also turn blind to its very own history of anti-colonial struggles. By playing up the forces antagonistic to the Adivasi demand for constitutional recognition, the state also mobilizes the bureaucratic commissions, including the colonial surveys on castes, tribes and linguistic groups, to nullify the sense of belonging that the Adivasi have to their land in Assam.

One of the arguments that is now made into a standard is that the Adivasis are non-indigenous in Assam and corollary: they have lost their tribal characteristics by living in an alien land. This argument is given a constitutional depth by stating that some of the tribes and communities (such as Oraon, Munda, Santha, Ho, Kharia, Sawara, Majhi, Mahato) are recognized as scheduled Castes in Bihar and Madhtya Pradesh while in Chhatisgarh and Jharakhand they are recognized as Scheduled Tribes, depending on their place of origin. The argument states that in Assam they are not autochthones and hence their status cannot be equal to that of Bodos and other indigenous tribes.

Two questions emanate form such arguments: one, should the constitutional protection to marginalized tribes be based exclusively on their place of origin; and, two, should the constitutional practice of recognition and autonomy have limited territorial jurisdiction?

Both the questions need to be addressed on the anvil of evolving constitutional practices of "protective discrimination" and "reservation" in their inter-connectedness.

Given that the emerging discourses of democratic citizenship hold that the foundation of a reflexive moral, cultural and political autonomy involve both the right to equality and the right to be recognized as different, a restrictive constitutional regime of "scheduling" on some basis such as origin and tribal characteristics shall betray the wider principle of democratic rights, namely, the right to express one’s identifications and roots and ensuring the freedom of such expressions within the paradigm of constitutional legitimation.

Such a process depends upon a shared institutional fairness and an adjustment within a constitutional framework for enabling the peoples to exercise their social choices and imaginations. The struggle for mitigating their subaltern position from a dislocated "indentured" memory to self-conscious cultural and political subjectivity by the Adivasis calls for recognition of their specificity. Such a claim to recognition contradicts the canonical notion of scheduling and provides a chance to widen our constitutional vision, not just for remedial action but also for a simultaneous extension of right to equality to every identity-affirming citizen groups with their right to be different.

Adivasis, therefore, can be legitimately protected under a shared, plural and diverse multiethnic vignette of social relations. In an increasingly heterogeneous, hybrid and contested space of notion building, the rights of the displaced, immigrated and relocated present and appropriate normative paradigm for the rights of the autochthones and the indigenous rooted to a place.

If Bodo, Karbi and Tiwa political right to autonomy is justifiable within a flexible constitutional interpretation, the right of displaced Adivasi minorities are can equally, if not with a greater force, be upheld and justified. The national recognition of the Adivasis of Assam as Scheduled Tribe can be the first step towards balancing out asymmetries of selective empowerment.

The author is Reader, Department of Philosophy, North-eastern Hill University, Shillong.)


Industrialization speeds up deforestation
Statesman New Services TUESDAY 29 JANUARY 2008


Deforestation in Orissa and other parts of India is direct consequence of a wrong policy which has been chosen for development.

This is being promoted under globalization policies and the displacement of forest-swelling communities.

The problem can be arrested if the government stops giving away forestlands for mining, industrial growth, construction of roads, and other development projects. Communities should have posers to protect and manage forest wealth and bio diversity. All these were felt the participants of three-day national workshop on underlying causes of deforestation and forest degradation in India. The workshop concluded here today.

Participants opined that Orissa and other states of central and eastern India were facing serious deforestation problems loss of wildlife and the displacement of tribals, mainly for unsustainable development processes, lack of recognition and support. Proper initiatives are not taken to protect forests. Weak regulatory mechanisms have undermined the mandate of official agencies.

The participants also felt that community conservation of forests is threatened by the government which allows private and public sector companies to set up industries. Forest-based communities have protested against deforestation but the government has not heeded their pleas. On the contrary, the government has provided every kind of facility to these corporate companies by overlooking their gross violation of environmental laws and policies. Community Forest Management (JFM) is the solution for the protection of forests.

The participants also discussed issues like deforestation and the displacement of people. A number of reasons, including unrestrained economic growth and the setting up of industries are responsible for deterioration forest cover. A number of recommendations were made, like moving away from fossil-fuel base unsustainable development process and adoption of alternative sustainable processes.

It would provide job opportunities to people. Gram sabhas should be reorganized for CFM. A number of case studies were presented at the workshop which was jointly organized by the city based Vasundhara, a Pune based green NGO, Kalpavriksh, and the Global Forest Coalition of Netherlands.


Sabar Hunger Death of confirmed
The Statesman

MIDNAPORE, Jan, 19: The Midnapore West administration yesterday virtually confirmed the death of a Sabar at Dharrah in Belpahari from starvation after being jobless for a year and a half. Rs 65,000 was initially allotted by the district administration under the National Rural Employment Generation Programme.

‘Rs 60 lakh is in the pipeline for the block, the Belpahari BDO said. Kuna Sabar died on 22 December after being unable to provide for his widow, Mrs Mila Sabar, and two other ailing women in the family, for the past fortnight.

The administration tried to project the starvation death as media hype, claiming that Kuna’s death was owing to malnutrition, excessive liquor consumption and age factors. But the Jharkhand Party (Naren) leader and local gram panchayat member, Mr Sukumar Nayek, said the Sabars had no work under the NREGP since September 2006, despite having job cards in their possession for non-availability of adequate funds.

Lack of consensus among the CPI-M and Jharkhand Party members of the village development committee was said to be a bottleneck. The Sabars used to sustain themselves somehow by migrating to other places in quest of jobs during the sowing and harvesting seasons.

The block officials said work under the NREGP could not be undertaken in the area, owing to inadequate fund flow. On Thursday, at and emergency meeting, BDO Mr. Sukumar Baidya asked all the gram pradhans to prepare schemes for resumption of work under the NREGP as funds have been sanctioned by the district administration.

Work will begin in at least one village with special attention to 61 most backward villages under 131 gram sansads. Each of the 10 gram panchayats will be provided a revolving fund of RS 1 Lakh, the BDO said.


Tribals Protest Displacement
The Statesman Friday.8.Feb 2008

JAJPUR, Feb 7: Visthapan Virodhi Jana Mancha (VVJM), the umbrella outfit of the agitation tribals opposing displacement owing to industries in Kalinga Nagar area today denied any sort of involvement with Maoists. The clarification came in the wake of the statement of the arrested left wing extremist leader Anna Redddy that he was associated with the mancha. "VVJM members and supporters are no way involved with any Naxal activities.", Rabindra Jarika , general secretary said.

"We are not connected with the arrested Anna Reddy. We even do not know who his supporters are.", he maintained. It is a conspiracy, hatched jointly by the finance minister Prafulla Chandra Ghadei and Tat steel to divide tribal unity, who are fighting for their cause, Mr Jarika charge.

Over a thousand activists of the Jana Mancha, in a crucial meeting held at Ambagadia yesterday, vowed to fight against land acquisition by any means in Kalinga Nagar. It also resolved that the opposition against the Tata steel project would continue. We will not give land for the industry and will fight till the end of our lives, Mr Amar Singh Banara, another leader of the Manch said.

"Police have killed 14 of our fellow members on 2 January 2006, still another 1,400 are ready to sacrifice their lives for the cause we support. We have realized the return given by the companies for our land, so there is no question of giving, land." he asserted, " We will not oppose the agro based industries, where there is no displacement menace.", he added.


Tribal Gets Back Land after 12 years Top

PARALAKHEMUNDI, Jan.7: The district administration has handed over the land belonging to a tribal, which was under the occupation of a non-tribal in the Rayagada Village in the Rayagada block of Gajapati.

Though the said tribal, Laxmi Kanta Sabara son of Damburu Sabara, a teacher had filed a case regarding the forceful occupation way back in 1995, it took 12 years and the strict direction of the High Court for the restoration of the said land located on the main road of Rayagada.

According to the ADM Gajapati, Mr Gunanidhi Jena, a case 164/95 had been lodged under Section 3(2) suo motto by the then welfare extension officer of the Rayagada block in the year 1995 stating that the 0.002 hectare land was under the forcible occupation of Kacharijit Swalasing.

The then tehsildar had investigated into the allegation and found the same to be true, but no action was initiated for the return of the said land. In the year 1998 Kacharijit Swalasing had filed an appeal before the district administration stating that the land belonged to him. But it had been turned down.

Even then the land belonging to Laxmi Kanta Sabara was not restored forcing the victim to knock on the doors of the High Court. The court after hearing the parities had given a direction stating that the land be restored back to the tribal. But this was not done forcing the victim to seek help from the court again.

In a strongly worded direction the HC asked the administration as to why this incident should not be treated as that of a land of a tribal being grabbed by a non-tribal and issued a deadline of 4 January 2008 for restoration of land to the tribal.

The district administration swung into action and the said land on which the non-tribal had constructed business establishments was restored back to the tribal. The Paralakhemundi tahasildar, Mr Siba Durgaya executed the restoration of the land and building to Laxim Kanta Sabara.