Skip to main content

No co-incidence: Tree felling, 'attack' on JADS activists taking place in Forest Minister's area

Counterview Desk 

India’s top civil rights network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), in an open letter to the Madhya Pradesh chief minister, has demanded that the authorities must stop “targeting of Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS) activists who have been “demanding action against rampant tree-felling and timber-smuggling in the Burhanpur and Khandwa forests.”
It regretted, “This is happening in a region from which the State Forest Minister hails”, which seems to be “no coincidence.”
Seeking withdrawal of “all false cases and charges” and “end to state repression and tree felling”, the letter said, there has been “mass violations of adivasi and forest rights” in the state, underlining, “Instead of taking timely action against the tree-felling mafia and responding to the peaceful protests of thousands of adivasis, who are struggling to secure forest cover, the administration has been weaponizing the law against them.”


We are writing urgently, with regard to the completely unjust targeting and harassment of adivasis and activists associated with the Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS), for demanding action against rampant tree-felling and timber-smuggling in the Burhanpur and Khandwa forests of Madhya Pradesh. It is well-known that JADS has been working relentlessly for the past 25 years in the western adivasi region of MP, securing the rights and dignity of adivasis on a range of issues including employment guarantee and livelihoods, food security, forest rights, health care, pensions, education, labour and human rights etc.
For almost seven months now, JADS has been exposing the massive, state-enabled deforestation over 15,000 acres in the Burhanpur Forest range, and has also gathered information about the involvement of certain village-level gangs, officials of the civil administration and forest department in the same. However, despite repeated complaints at all levels (including to the State Home Minister and CMO) and mass protests, there has been little concrete action to end the tree-felling. It was only after some of the gang members reportedly attacked a police station on 6th April and took away an arrested person, did the police wake up and arrest some of the gang leaders, as on 25th April. This too, after clamping down on about a thousand homes of adivasis in Vakadi and Siwal villages and causing immense hardships to them. It is also being feared that the police may extract false confessions from these persons in custody against JADS members.
We wish to highlight here that instead of taking timely action against the tree-felling mafia and responding to the peaceful protests of thousands of adivasis, who are struggling to secure forest cover, the administration has been weaponizing the law against them, resorting to crackdown on and intimidation of the sangathan, on a mass scale. That this is happening in a region from which the State Forest Minister hails, seems to be no coincidence.
As per the latest information available, the SP of Burhanpur has indicated to the press that at least 50 JADS activists including - Nitin Varghese, Bhimsing, Dilip, Sursing, Ramdas, Remla, Pyarsing, Ganpa, Ramesh, Tersing, Kunwarsing, Reva, Sukhlal, Kartap, Bhangi, Sonar, Malu, Gorelal and others would be arrested. Notably, around 24 cases [including of ‘tree-felling, ‘extortion’, offences under (SC & ST PoA) Act, 1989] have also been filed against Madhuri, social activist who has been associated with JADS since its inception and has invested her entire adult life in securing rights of adivasis and marginalized communities.
The allegations of ‘extortion’ in the process of filing forest rights claims under Forests Rights Act are completely unfounded
On 30th April, an adivasi leader, Antaram Awase (President of the Gram Sabha of Siwal village and elected Secretary of Forest Rights Committee) was arrested and reportedly made to sign some blank papers in police custody. We have learnt that some of the unfair charges against him are in the context of a) forced eviction of FRA claimants in 2019, which led to protests including by Antaram, firing on adivasis and transfer of the then DFO, SDoP and Ranger and b) case where forest mafia attacked forest officials, but ironically, Antaram who informed the Forest Dept of tree-felling has been implicated. The Sangathan claims that many other adivasis (Vill Siwal, Nepanagar), were also made to sign on blank papers before they were let off from police detention on the late night of 1st May.
It is amply clear that the State government is now in an offensive, ‘damage-control’ mode and this vindictive crack-down on a decades-old, democratic sangathan is only to conceal its own connivance in Burhanpur’s deforestation. The allegations of ‘extortion’ in the process of filing forest rights claims under FRA are also completely unfounded, given how JADS has always remained a unfunded, adivasi-led people’s movement in the region.
National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) unequivocally condemns this unjust harassment and malicious criminalization of a public-spirited organization and a grassroots adivasi movement, truly safeguarding ecology and adivasi rights in Madhya Pradesh. We are deeply concerned about the safety and rights of adivasis and activists who have been fearlessly questioning the State and have been in dialogue with, assisting the state officials to implement the law and Constitution.

We demand:

a. An immediate end to the spree of repression on JADS and withdrawal of all fabricated cases filed against its members – adivasi leaders and social activists.
b. Immediate release of FRC member, adivasi leader of JADS, Antaram Awase.
c. A high-level, independent inquiry into all the allegations of tree-felling, timber smuggling and action against the responsible persons and agencies, including the forest mafia and officials involved, as well as the role of the State Forest Minister.
d. Immediate suspension of the District Collector, SP and DFO, Burhanpur pending inquiry into the said allegations of high-handedness, inaction and complicity.
e. Instructions to the district police to abstain from extracting false confessions from persons in custody, against JADS members.
f. Full compliance of the provisions and procedures under FRA, 2006 and PESA, 1996 in the Schedule-V areas of MP.
Looking forward to your urgent intervention, in the interest of justice.
Letter signed by Arundhati Dhuru, Ashish Ranjan, Chakradhar, Dorothy Fernandes, Gabriele Dietrich, Meera Sanghamitra and Suhas Kolhekar, among others on behalf of NAPM



'Enough evidence' in Indian tradition to support legal basis for same-sex marriage

By Iyce Malhotra, Joseph Mathai, Sandeep Chachra*  The ongoing hearing in the Supreme Court on same-sex marriage provides space for much-needed conversations on issues that have hitherto remained “invisible” or engaged with patriarchal locker room humour. We must recognize that people with diverse sexualities and complex gender identities have faced discrimination, stigma and decades of oppression. Their issues have mainly remained buried in dominant social discourse, and many view them with deep insecurities.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Victim of communal violence, Christians in Manipur want Church leadership to speak up

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  The first eleven days of May 2023 have, in many ways, been a defining period of Indian history! Plenty has happened in a rapid-fire stream of events. Ironically, each one of them are indicators of how crimes and the criminalisation of society has become the ‘new norm’; these include, the May Day rallies with a focus on the four labour codes which are patently against the rights of workers; the U S Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released its Annual Report on 1 May stating that conditions for religious freedom in India “continued to worsen in 2022”; the continued protest by the Indian women wrestlers at Jantar Mantar for the expulsion of the chief of the Indian Wrestlers Federation on very serious allegations; the Elections in Karnataka on 10 May (with communalism and corruption as the mainstay); the release of the fake, derogative and insensitive film ‘The Kerala Story’; the release of World Free Press Index on 3 May which places India

Delhi HC rules in favour of retired Air Force officer 'overcharged' for Covid treatment

By Rosamma Thomas*  In a decision of May 22, 2023, the Delhi High Court ruled in favour of petitioner Group Captain Suresh Khanna who was under treatment at CK Birla Hospital, Gurugram, between April 28 and May 5, 2021, for a period of eight days, for Covid-19 pneumonia. The petitioner had to pay Rs 3,55,286 as treatment costs, but the Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) only reimbursed him for Rs 1,83,748, on the basis of government-approved rates. 

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Unlike other revolutionaries, Hindutva icon wrote 5 mercy petitions to British masters

By Shamsul Islam*  The Hindutva icon VD Savarkar of the RSS-BJP rulers of India submitted not one, two,or three but five mercy petitions to the British masters! Savarkarites argue: “There are no evidences to prove that Savarkar collaborated with the British for his release from jail. In fact, his appeal for release was a ruse. He was well aware of the political developments outside and wanted to be part of it. So he kept requesting for his release. But the British authorities did not trust him a bit” (YD Phadke, ‘A complex Hero’, "The Indian Expres"s, August 31, 2004)

India joining US sponsored trade pillar to hurt Indian farmers, 'promote' GM seeds, food

Counterview Desk  As many as 32 civil society organisations (CSOs), in a letter to Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal on the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) and India joining the trade pillar, have said that its provisions will allow the US to ensure a more favourable regulatory regime “for enhancing its exports of genetically modified (GM) seeds and GM food”, underlining, it will “significantly hurt the livelihoods of Indian farmers.”

Polygamy in India "down" in 45 yrs: Muslims' from 5.7 to 2.55%, Hindus' 5.8 to 1.77%, "common" in SCs, STs

By Rajiv Shah Amidst All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) justifying polygamy, saying it “meets social and moral needs and the provision for it stems from concern and sympathy for women”, facts suggest the the practice is down from 5.7 per cent of Muslim families in 1961 to 2.55 per cent in 2006.

Modi govt 'wholly untrustworthy' on Covid data, censored criticism on pandemic: Lancet

By Rajiv Shah   One of the world’s most prestigious health journals, brought out from England, has sharply criticised the Narendra Modi government for being “wholly untrustworthy on Covid-19 health data”, stating, the “official government figures place deaths at more than 530 000, while WHO excess death estimates for 2020 and 2021 are near 4·7 million.”