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Cops, outside mob 'let loose' on MP tribals, looted grain, cattle, money, household goods

Counterview Desk 

Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS), a Madhya Pradesh civil rights group, pointing towards how in Khandwa atrocity and illegal eviction were “committed” by the state forest department in in the state forest minister’s home district, has said, as many as tens of adivasi families have been illegally evicted, their belongings were looted by mob brought by the forest department, and six people were assaulted, abducted and illegally confined by forest officials.
In a statement, JADS said, this happened despite the fact that “these families are claimants under the Forest Rights Act, which, in section 4(5) explicitly protects Adivasis against any such eviction until the process of verification of claims is complete.”

Text:

On July 10, 2021 homes, fields and crops of 40 adivasi families of Negaon-Jamniya were destroyed by forest department, police and a mob brought by them from other villages. Destroyed fields were sprayed with poisonous chemicals. A mob brought from neighbouring villages was let loose to loot the grain, cattle, money and household goods of these families.
Everything owned by these families was looted or destroyed -- 130 quintals of food grains, Rs 63,800 in cash, a shop worth Rs 80,000, Rs.12,000 worth of jewellery, 5 cycles and 4 mobile phones, all their household items, over 300 chickens, 16 goats and 1 calf. Another calf was killed during the destruction of homes. Over 200 Adivasis are left with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
Three Adivasis and subsequently 3 social activists were assaulted, abducted and illegally confined in the Forest Development Corporation office for over 10 hours. The hands of three Adivasis were bound with ropes.
These families are claimants under the Forest Rights Act, which, in section 4(5) explicitly protects Adivasis against any such eviction until the process of verification of claims is complete. However, verification has not even started. Further, MP High Court's suo moto Covid case (WP no. 8820/2021) in orders dated April 23, 2021 and June 15, 2021 explicitly prohibit any kind of eviction by the government till 15th July. No prior notice of eviction was given.
As news of the evictions, assault and kidnapping of Adivasis and activists spread, hundreds of Adivasis gathered organized a massive sit-in at the office of the SP Khandwa, which forced the release of those who were illegally picked up and detained. However, though the administration says cases have been filed against them, they have been denied any information on this. Three of them were forced to sign blank papers. The forest department took signatures of those detained on Section 41 of the CrPC, but have not handed over the notices to them. Three phones were also stolen from them.
Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan has detailed the many illegalities and atrocities committed in this ‘action’, in complaints sent to Chief Minister, Forest Minister, Shri Vijay Shah and Tribal Affairs Minister Ms Meena Singh along with officials of the relevant departments as well as the District Administration. Adivasi women and men have demanded that:
  • DFO Charan Singh and other officials responsible be arrested under the Prevention of Atrocities Act for supervising the illegal eviction, assault and looting of Adivasi families. Further, cases must be registered against officials for violation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 and they must be held in contempt of the orders of Madhya Pradesh High Court
  • For illegal assault, kidnapping and wrongful confinement of Adivasis, cases under the Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989 be filed and the guilty be arrested
  • Evicted families must be immediately provided with relief in the form of rations and they must be compensated for the losses caused by the illegal evictions of the Forest Department
  • Phones stolen from those detained must be immediately returned, all papers that detainees were made to forcibly signed must be outrightly dismissed.
Adivasis have warned the administration that they will intensify their struggle if these basic demands are not met. It has been over 6 days, however there has been no action taken to punish those responsible for this brutal violation of Adivasis constitutional rights. No relief has been provided so far to the 200+ Adivasis who remain homeless and have had their food grains looted.
Draconian forest laws of the British had pushed Adivasis into revolts against the Raj that are still remembered for their heroism and sacrifice. The Forest Rights Act of 2006 had the stated objective of rectifying this “historical injustice” but the brutal expropriation regime of the British continues apace in “Free” India. The region around Khandwa remembers Tantia Bhil, Vir Singh Gond, Ganjan Korku, Bhima Nayak as freedom fighters, but their descendants continue to face the same brutality as their ancestors.

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