Skip to main content

South Gujarat tribal rebellion spreads, villagers protest move to declare Soolpaneshwar sactuary eco-sensitive

By Ashok Shrimali*
A fresh tribal rebellion is brewing in South Gujarat. As many as 6,000 adivasis of 121 villages in and around Soolpaneshwar wildlife sanctuary, situated just next to the controversial Narmada dam, have gone on warpath. They are protesting against the Government of India’s decision to declare the entire sanctuary and the area next to it – about seven kilometers radius surrounding it – as “eco-sensitive zone.”
Following a powerful rally, organized by Adivasi Ekta Parishad, headed by tribal leader Ashok Choudhury, in which  people of 121 villages, as other villagers of Dediapada and Sagbara talukas participated, a memorandum submitted to the local authorities said they have “not been consulted” before declaring the area as eco-sensitive zone. The memorandum has been addressed to the secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.
The fresh protest is in addition to at least three other anti-government movements going on with tribal participation in South Gujarat. People of more than sixty villages around the Narmada dam have been raising their against the decision of the government to develop the Kevadia colony – where the dam is situated – as a tourism spot, next to the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel's 182-metre statue, which is under construction.
According to the tribals around the Narmada dam, if the tourism project is implemented, they would lose their precious agricultural land. In fact, according to them, the land where the Kevadia colony housing government engineers and other staff for building the dam hase already been vacated as officials have been shifted, and the tribals want it back.
Not very far away, the Adivasi Kisan Sangharsh Morcha (AKSM), an upcoming tribal farmers’ organization under the leadership of Romel Sutariya, has been demanding action against the sand mafia in the riverbed off Chhotaudepur township. AKSM’s radical postures led the state government to brand Sutariya’s organization “Naxalite”, even impose prohibitory orders by citing the danger of terrorist activities, which it had to regret later.
The representation by Soolpaneshwar sanctuary villagers says that the notification for hearing on the area declaring it and seven kilometers radius around it as eco-sensitive zone was “never never made available” to them published in Gujarati, and they had to "obtain" a Hindi version on their own. “This type of indifference is shocking”, they insist.
Further, the representation says, the decision to declare it an eco-sensitive zone has been taken at a time when the villagers are being enrolled for handing over land they had been cultivating for several decades under the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006. “The decision clearly violates the FRA, 2006, which clearly states that the gram sabhas have the right to decide about the future of the forests”, the representation says.
The representation further says that, even for declaring an eco-sensitive zone, there has to be an official procedure, “which has not been followed.” A high-level committee would need to be formed, consisting of the chief wildlife warden of the Gujarat government, a wildlife expert, a senior official of the state revenue department, and a senior panchayats representative for finding out pros and cons.
“However, this has not been done”, the representation points out, wondering how could the area be declared eco-sensitive without this process being completed or taken the view of the villagers. “We firmly oppose the Government of India move, and want the decision to be immediately taken back”, it adds.
“Instead of declaring it an eco-sensitive zone, it would be better if the government concentrates on providing basic infrastructure such as roads, water, medicine and electricity, which is not there in many of the villages”, the representation says, adding, “Villagers have to walk from five to 10 kilometres to access transportation even today.”
---
*Senior activist, Gujarat 

Comments

TRENDING

ISKCON UK 'clarifies' after virus infects devotees, 5 die due to big temple meet

By Rajiv Shah
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), United Kingdom (UK), has admitted that at least 21 of its devotees were infected because of the spread of the coronavirus amongst the UK devotee community following the March 12 funeral and March 15 memorial of the Bhaktivedanta Manor temple president, in which about 1,000 people participated. Regretting that five of the devotees have passed away, the top Hindu religious in Britain body does not deny more may have been infected.

Mallika Sarabhai releases speech she was 'not allowed' to give at NID Convocation on Feb 7

Counterview Desk
The National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad, a Ministry of Commerce and Industry body, landed itself in controversy following its decision to put off its 40th convocation ceremony, where noted danseuse Mallika Sarabhai was invited as chief guest. The ceremony was scheduled to be held on February 7.

As corona virus 'travels' to rural areas, NGO begins training tribals, marginalised women

By Souparno Chatterjee*
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared corona virus a pandemic. Originating from Wuhan in China, it has traversed the entire globe, almost, and claimed more than 16,000 lives already. That’s largely the urban population. In India, despite all the preparedness and war-like promptness to safeguard against the pandemic, several lives have been lost , and hundreds of individuals have tested positive.

Rani Laxmi Bai, Tatya Tope 'martyred' by East India Company, Scindia's forefathers

By Our Representative
In an email alert to Counterview, well-known political scientist Shamsul Islam has said that was “shameful for any political party in democratic India to keep children of Sindhias in their flock” given their role during the First War of Indian Independence (1857). In a direct commentary on Madhya Pradesh Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia moving over to BJP, Prof Islam has quote from a British gazetteer to prove his point.

COVID-19: Dalit rights bodies regret, no relief plan yet for SCs, STs, marginalized

By Our Representative
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the National Dalit Watch-National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, endorsed* by several other Dalit rights organizations, have insisted, the Government of India should particular care of the scheduled castes and tribes, trans folks, persons with disabilities and the women and children from these communities, while fighting against COVID-19 pandemic.

Coronavirus scare ‘pushing’ people from Northeast India into more hardship

By Rishiraj Sinha, Biswanath Sinha*
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela
***

Gujarat govt plan to 'banish' Gandhian activist anti-democratic, unconstitutional

By Rohit Prajapati*
The current Central and Gujarat governments, and their bureaucracy, have been and are still unable to answer and address the concerns raised, with facts, figures, and constitutional provisions, regarding the terror of tourism in the name of the Statue of Unity and tourism projects surrounding it.

Gujarat construction workers walk home as Rs 2,900 crore welfare fund lies unused

By Our Representative
Situated behind the Gujarat University, some of the families of the migrant construction workers from Dahod and Panchmahals districts of Gujarat, and a few from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, who had stayed put in make-shift shanties in Ahmedabad’s sprawling GMDC Ground, have begun a long journey, by foot, back to their home villages in the eastern tribal belt of Gujarat.

Modi, Shah 'forget': Gandhi’s first Satyagraha was against citizenship law of South Africa

By Nachiketa Desai*
Hindu fanatic Nathuram Godse assassinated Mahatma Gandhi once on January 30, 1948 but his followers raising the war cry of ‘Jai Sriram’ are killing the Mahatma every day. In his home state of Gujarat, Gandhiji was killed a thousand times in 2002 when over 2,000 Muslims were butchered, their women raped, homes and shops plundered and set on fire and even unborn babies ripped out of the wombs of their mothers.