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Restore Constitutional rights to Adivasis: South Gujarat tribal body writes to governor

By Our Representative
In a strongly-worded representation to the Gujarat governor, the Bandharan Adhikar Amalikaran Samiti, a South Gujarat-based civil rights organization advocating the implementation of constitutional framework for tribals, has said that even 60 years after the Indian Constitution was promulgated, its provisions are not being implemented in letter and spirit.
"According to the Constitution's fifth schedule, Article 244-1, the Adivasis of India have been given the right to self-rule over their land and natural resource. The constitution also says that in case the authorities or the government that these rights are snatched away from them, these should be restored", the representation, signed by the Samiti's president Priteshbhai D Chaudhary, says.
"Yet", says the Samiti, which is based in the Adivasi town Vyara, "The the implementation authorities are found to be failing to implement the constitution. Adivasis are being alienated from their land is being snatched away and handed over to non-Adivasis, with land mafias producing false documents. We insist, such land should be returned to the Adivasis, who should be given land entitlement certificates for such land."
Pointing that as a result of this, a large number of Adivasis are becoming landless, the representation says, the Panchayats (Extension of Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, which gives Adivasi gram sabhas the right to decide on natural resources -- land, forests and forest produce -- should be put into effect immediately. Under this Act, only gram sabhas are sovereign.
The representation, submitted to through the district collector, Tapi, regrets, when the Adivasis use their constitutional right to protest, they are brutally suppressed and branded as Naxalites. Insisting that this should stop, it adds, the oppressive state machinery acts this way "in the name of development, whether it is national highway, dams, statues, industrial corridors, or eco-sensitive zones..."

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