"False" cases like waging war on Indian state continue for three decades: Whither independence for Adivasis?

Jagsingh, 80 plus: "Falsely implicated"
By Rahul Banerjee*
There are provisions in the Indian Constitution, in its Fifth and Sixth Schedules, for Tribal Self Rule in accordance with their own indigenous genius. These have mostly been honoured in the breach by the Indian Central and state governments, which have intensified the colonisation of Adivasi areas after independence in pursuit of resources for modern industrial development, starting from where the British left off.
Consequently, for most tribes people, apart from the few who have been elected as lawmakers and employed as Government servants, independence has never really meant freedom from tyranny and oppression and instead they have had to face direct and indirect displacement and the resultant misery.
I have had the privilege of being part of some mass movements of the Bhil Adivasis to implement the Fifth Schedule in their areas of residence and actualise Tribal Self Rule and achieve true independence.
One such was the effort by the Adivasi Morcha Sangathan in Dewas district in the late 1990s which tried to actualise the provisions of the Fifth Schedule by empowering the Adivasi Gram Sabhas to prevent sale of liquor, control the management of forests and prevent logging of trees both legal and illegal, prevent the police from falsely implicating Adivasis in criminal cases and reverse the alienation of Adivasi land usurped by non-Adivasis.
Predictably, as the power of this mass movement increased, the State government of the time, a Congress one incidentally, came down hard and crushed this movement with police atrocities killing four of the Sangathan members and jailing many more in 2001 in a repeat of many other such repressive actions on Adivasis after independence. Many false cases of a serious nature like attempt to murder and waging war against the state were foisted on the leaders of the movement.
Even though eventually, due to their fabricated nature, the Adivasis were acquitted by the trial courts in all of these cases, the government in its perversity decided to appeal against this acquittal in one case which had charges of attempt to murder and waging war against the state. This appeal was admitted by the High Court in Indore in 2008 despite its flimsy nature because cases of appeal filed by the Government routinely get admitted without much application of thought.
The case is yet to come up for final hearing after ten years. This is because the High Courts throughout this country are hugely overburdened by cases mostly filed by the Government in a perverse manner and so there is very little time to hear the huge pending list of cases. In the present case, the Adivasi movement leaders were first falsely implicated with serious offences and then, despite being acquitted in the lower court due to lack of evidence, were further oppressed through appeal.
Some of these leaders were in their fifties in 2001 and are now past the age of eighty. One has already expired. Another one Jagsingh is bedridden with rheumatic arthritis that has completely taken away the strength from his legs. Yet Jagsingh has to attend the court from time to time in a wheelchair.
In one such hearing recently an application had been given on behalf of Jagsingh for exemption from court appearance. The motion of hearings for cases of serious criminal offences along with civil cases of higher value are heard together by a division bench of the High Court consisting of two judges. Due to the huge vacancies of judges’ posts in the High Court, the division bench sits for just the morning session for two and a half hours after which the judges sit as single benches in the afternoon. There were 131 cases listed to be heard by the division bench in a space of two and a half hours.
The case of Jagsingh was listed at number 91. Consequently, by the time the lunch interval approached at 1.30 pm, his case was still some ten cases away. So his lawyer got up and made a special plea for his case to be heard before the court rose, as it would be difficult for him to come again and again given his serious medical condition.
The judges graciously agreed but by that time they had become very tired disposing of so many cases, in each of which they not only have to apply their mind but also dictate orders all in double quick time. Therefore, the judges heard the arguments and just said “heard” without giving any orders and so the case of exemption from attendance for Jagsingh remains pending. However, because he had a senior lawyer appearing for him, at least the case was notionally heard and he won't have to attend the court again as later an order in his favour can be coaxed out when the Judges have more time in the next hearing.
This is the kind of injustice that Adivasis are facing today. Throughout the country Adivasis are being displaced or oppressed in the interests of furthering modern industrial development and if they protest then they are being killed and jailed after being implicated in false cases. Even if they somehow manage to get acquitted in the trial courts, the State perversely appeals against the acquittals in the higher courts where, due to the huge pendency of cases, final hearings do not take place and even motion hearings do not come up for proper hearing.
Jagsingh happens to be one of the few who has a Sangathan to back him and so he is not having to pay the exorbitant fees of engaging senior lawyers and the cost of travel to the court but today there are thousands of other Adivasis in jails across this country unable to secure their freedom because of their poverty. What kind of Independence Day we are celebrating is the question.
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Source: https://anar-kali.blogspot.com

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