Thursday, April 27, 2017

Govt of India terms Green Nobel prize winner Samanata-inspired tribal rights body "Maoist affiliate", invites ire

By Our Representative
In a shocking revelation, the Annual Report of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India, for the year 2016-17 has qualified the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti (NSS), which has been working under the guidance of one of the topmost tribal rights activists, Prafulla Samantara, a “Maoist affiliate.”
The MHA allegation has come to light even as Samantara, known for his Gandhian methods of agitation, has been awarded what is called Green Nobel – the Goldman Environmental Prize for 2017 for Asia, for his 12-year-long legal battle for Odisha's indigenous Dongria Kondh community’s forest and land rights in Niamgiri hills. Samantara won the battle, forcing British MNC Vedanta to abandon its plans to mine the hills.
Another organization MHA has been termed “Maoist-affiliate” is Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan (VVJVA) of Jharkhand, an umbrella of 30 organizations across the state protesting against displacement of villagers because of corporate, including multinational, investment in tribal regions.
MHA’s 372-page 2016-17 Annual Report says, "In 2016, the issue of displacement of local communities remained the main plank of mobilization by the mass organisations”, accusing NSS for guiding agitations in Niyamgiri Hills area in the districts of Rayagada and Kalahandi, Odisha.
“Similarly”, says MHA, “in Jharkhand the VVJVA, a front of the CPI (Maoist), tried to take up pro-tribal issues and opposed amendments to the Chhotanagpur and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Acts, modifications in Domicile Policy etc.”
MHA adds, “Maoist affiliates also undertook protest programmes and resorted to anti-Government propaganda over alleged atrocities by Security Forces."
Bringing this to light, a draft statement floated by a senior civil rights activist, Dr Gopal Krishna, has sought the signature of those who believe that the MHA is making “an unfounded connection between a banned organisations and a peoples’ rights struggle”.
Pointing out that the MHA allegations have come as “a consequence of enactment of amendments in the Companies Act, 2013, through Finance Act, 2017 as a Money Bill”, Dr Krishna says, minister Arun Jaitley has sought to justify all this as saying donors to political parties have “expressed reluctance in donating by cheque or other transparent methods as it would disclose their identity.”
According to Dr Krishna says, “As a consequence of the amendment faceless entities can now make anonymous donations of infinite amount” political parties.
Pointing out that the two main national political parties – BJP and Congress – received Rs 84 crore and Rs 82 crore from just one foreign company, as revealed by account statement submitted to the Election Commission of India, Dr Krishna says, “Instead of taking action against these parties for accepting foreign donations, MHA is defaming peoples’ struggle groups.”
“As a consequence of the Finance Act 2017, such donor companies can now provide anonymous donations to ensure that their interests in adivasi and mining areas”, Dr Krishna alleges, adding, at the same time, the MHA is “spreading misinformation and giving undue credit to Maoists in order to serve the interests of the anonymous corporate donors of political parties.”
Sharply criticizing the Maoists for failing to “save tribal land from these donors, who are blinded by their naked lust for profit at any human and environmental, cost unmindful of inter-generational and intra generational equity”, Dr Krishna calls proposed signatories to “denounce this deliberate attempt to defame people's genuine struggle for access and control over natural resources.”

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