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INTERFACE OF CULTURAL IDENTITY DEVELOPMENT

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Taming Structural Transformation...

The Significance of Community Resolve of Mavalibhata...

B. D. Sharma

Annexure

Mavalibhata Declaration of People's Right

We, the people of Mavalibhata*, Mardum and Nagarnar areas, and representatives of people's organisations all over the country have assembled this day, December 5, 1992, at Mavalibhata, Bastar, M.P. We reviewed the situation arising from the arbitrary decision of the State Government to permit and facilitate establishment of a big steel plant in private sector and, that too, with foreign collaboration at Mavalibhata. We have also deliberated in depth on its immediate and long term effects at different levels. The State Government, as also the local administration, showed no concern for the people's rights and their aspirations. That was not all. The Chief Minister went ahead and laid the foundation stone on October 6, 1992, without waiting for the completion of legal processes necessary for setting up such industrial projects.

The people of Mavalibhata area were up in arms against the project ever since they had heard the rumours about its possible establishment. This area falls within Dandami tribal territory. The community is almost totally free from outside influence. Land is their only source of livelihood. The level of fomal education is insignificant. The Dandamis are known for their valour, self-esteem and unrestrained emotional responses. This open attack in the form of a foundation stone on their basic right -- right to life with dignity -- could not be tolerated.

Their reaction was simple, sharp and swift. The foundation stone was broken. The approach roads to their villages were barricated. That foundation stone in their perception was a challenge to their very existence thrown by the entire

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Mavalibhata is located about 35kms from Jagdalpur on way to Bailadila in Bastar, M.P. Like countless other tribal habitations it was also lost on its small world. Education is almost nil notwithstanding the existence of a school for years. Neither they understand the farsi (the colloquial term for unintelligible tongue of tohers and a corrupt form of the term Persian) of others, nor others can understand their Koitur (Gondi)., A few, however, have smattering of Hindi. So even though they are living close to an important highway, they are leading a happy life behind the impregnable wall of language.

Dandami by nature is volatile, simple and joy-logging. They have no peer in social solidarity. After the harvest, bands of Dandami youth start moving out for shikar to distant hills and forests with pej (rice-liquid) in gourd and bow-and-arrow in their hands. No one can dare cross their route. It is Dandami youth who have the sacred duty of pulling the great-grand chariot of Goddess Danteshwari, the ruling deity of Bastar, during Dussera festival in Jagdalpur.

One evening of December 1991, everything appeared to have changed for this small village. Mavalibhata and five neighbouring villages (Burungpal, Durram, Patharli Uduwa and Katakanda) were caught in a whirl. The goovernment officials told them that a steel plant with an investment of rupees four thousand crores will be established there. About five thousand acres of land will be acquired for that purpose. All the five villages will have to move out. The people were shaken by the unanswered questions -- `Where will we go?' The Government's reply was dry -- `you will get compensation. You can go wherever you can find land'. Their silent reaction was `what will we do with money? Our deities, sacred places, gata-kalk (burial stones), all that we can call ours is here'. Why not establish the plant, where government wants us to go?' was their simple logic.

But no one listened to them. The government remained unmoved. On October 6, 1992 the Chief Minister laid the foundation stone under heavy police bandobast. The elite of the district and the state was jubilant. All political parties of `right' and `left' were overwhelimed by the grand procession of development in Bastar.

But in the deep dark shadow at the centre of that flurry of hope and joy, the approach roads to their villages were dug, stone walls were erected by Dandami Marias …Let's see who dares to come on our sacred land -- katenge par hatenge nahin (we will get killed but not move!)…..Ami Dandami (we are Dandamis).

The signal of Bhumkal (Revolt) is clear and categorical. It is not only a declaration of community's right over resources, but a resolve to die for the same.

The Mavalibhata Declaration of human rights is before you -- may be a precursor of an epochmaking BHUMKAL

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Outside world. And the stone bqarriers were the wilent answer of the community with a counter-challenge "let us see, who dares to come and occupy our ancestral and sacred lands?". They also resolved `katenge par hatenge nahin' (we will get killed but we will not move out).

The government did not give due regard to the spirit of this natural response of the people. No one cared to ponder over its real meaning. It was simple affirmation of their right to life with dignity. Instead, it was taken as an affront to the supreme authority of the omnipotent state. The ruling party, in collusion with administration, made a callous attempt to silence the dissident voice through
Goebbelian misinformation and resorting to medieval techniques of incitement and mob-voilence.

The Jagadalpur episode* was just the last ugly glimpse of that nefarious conspiracy.

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A large crowd of about a thousand people in thirteen motor-vehicles reached Patharli Uruwa in search of Dr. B.D. Sharma who dared to tell and also warn the outside world about the resolve of the people of Mavalibhata. On not finding him there, the returning convoy intercepted him on the high way as he was proceeding in the opposite direction back to the village from Jagdalpur alone on the pillion of a motor cycle. He was thrashed, but protected from the murderous assault of the excited crowd, and was rushed to Jagdalpur bundled in a jeep with cinema-style chase of others in vehicles not convinced about sparing him. In the safety of the town, he was stripped and paraded on the strets of that town, where he served as District Magistrate two decades back, in a bid to demonstrate to the world the fate which awaits for those daring to oppose development. The entire town witnessed that act of retribution benumbed with shocjk while the entire administration including police remained an amused silent spectator!

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The people of Mavalibhata and Nagarnar had placed before the local administration their `Resolve' (Appendix 1 and Appendix 2) and also certain important questions (Appendix 3) about the State's Constitutional responsibility for safeguarding the rights and interests of the tribal people, on October 15, 1992. The government has maintained studied silence on these issues. Moreover, the state is unrelenting, unmindful of the severe and universal condemnation of Jagadalpur-episode. But Mavalibhata people's resolve remains unshaken, nay, it is assuming tidal dimension with spontaneous response all around. The people are standing firm like a rock. Thus, there is a state of uneasy peace in the area as the shadow of implicit confrontation is deepening. It may turn into a serious crisis if the State continues to ignore the voice of reason, insists on going ahead without taking the people in confidence and without following the well-established processes in consonance with the State's policy, laws and the Constitution.

This confrontation at Mavalibhata is not an unusual or unique event for the tribal areas. The process of encroachment on tribal resources in the name of development by the state and also others has been continuing for a long time. But so far there was some concern, some realisation of injustice as well. If nothing else, at least some paper provisions were made to counter its ill effects. But now perceptions are changing. The power-brokers are openly asserting that the grand procession of development cannot be stopped simply because a handful people may not agree to move out. The work in Bastar will continue even if lakhs, what to speak of thousands, are displaced', thus spake the District Magistrate. Thus the Mavalibhata crisis is just an advance signal of the new catastrophe. This confrontation is an inevitable consequence of the open entry of unbridled market forces in the so-called backward but resource-rich tribal areas.

A new alignment of national and international forces is now being forged. The most terrible form of this alignment is on the rise in tribal areas. Here, on the one side are the simple tribal people. Their numerical strength is small. But they are imbued with high sense of dignity, self-reliance and strong tradition of community life. On the other side is the new power-axis of neocolonial capitalist forces. The irony is that the all powerful state itself, which has the Constitutional responsibility of protecting the tribal people, has assumed the role of promoter and protector of that Axis. Thus the people, particularly the tribal people, are now facing a demonic challenge. Their very identity is at stake. And in this confusion, all values and traditions, that we as a nation can be proud of, have also got staked.

Thus, our country is passing through a very delicate phase in its history. Mavalibhata is the first victim of this International Combine. If it succeeds here, devastation of other areas will be a matter of time only. This horrendous situation in the tribal and also other areas calls for closing of ranks by all progressive forces. The sharp reaction and rustic reply of the people of Mavalibhata to the anti-people and fascist ways of the state have become the symbol of a people's struggle. Mobilisation of utmost support for this struggle is a must now. In the context of issues raised in Mavalibhata, we once again resolve that:

We will intensify our struggles for basic changes in the institutional Structure, national laws and for establishment of a new order in Which the people will enjoy undisputed rights over resources, they Will be partner in development, everyone will have a place of honour in the new economy and the right to life with dignity of every citizen will be on-violable.

Nation

In contravention of the general and the specific Constitutional provisions against unlimited expansion and unregulated sovereignty by private and State entities over the resources of the community, whose aim was creation of an egalitarian order, the government has virtually reqritten the Constitution in the garb of a new economic policy. The new policy is giving rise to extreme concentration of economic and political powers and authoritarian fascist regimes. In fact, the government has abrogated its responsibility for equitable and sustainable development and to ensure judicious use of natural resources. It has thrown them open for rapacious exploitation by the new global Axis. It has shown no concern even for the fact that these resources after all are people's sacred trust.

We are not prepared to accept this position. We hereby resolve and declare that:

Only those enterprises will be allowed to be established inb our respective areas which agree to accept community contro over them. Under this arrangement, there will be a provision for majority shares in the name of local community. This provision will not be against money but will be in lieu of the real contribution of the community by way of cooperation and consent for use of those resources by the enterprise, over which it has enjoyed full control through the ages and which have provided the community and its members with sustenance in all aspects of their life. Other partners in the enterprise will be those who may invest capital and all categories of workers.

This form of shareholding by the community will not compromise in any way the claims of the displaced and the affected individuals for compensation and honourable resettlement.

In the context of this claim on behalf of the people, we will prevent further privatisationof public sector enterprises. In case it becomes necessary to change the structure of an enterprise, the government should accept this claim of the community and hand it over to them as its rightful owner.

Tribal areas

After Independence, on the one hand, traditional self-governing institutions of tribal people have been totally ignored. On the other hand, exotic laws and institutions have been indiscriminately superimposed. During this phase, the Governors did not discharge their Constitutional responsibility to adapt the formal system in accordance with the needs of tribal system for which full powers had been bestowed on them under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution. Consequently, entire communities are deemed as law-breakers; traditional institutions have collapsed and ordinary tribals are facing worst forms of destitution. We therefore, resolve that---

We will struggloe for ending the anti-people and inhuman situation in the tribal areas and for creating and alternative equitable order by suitably changing the law and, if necessary, also by amending the Constitution. In thenew system, (I) the gaon sabha (village assembly) will be fully responsible for all affairs of the village and villages will function as self-governing units of participatory democracy; (ii) Regional Councils will be established for larger tribal tracts. They will be endowed with legislative and executive powers. The jurisdiction of these Regional Councils, wherever necessary, may cut ac ross the present administrative boundaries.

Bastar and Mavalibhata

Dandakaranya is endowed with rich natural resources. Private capital and multinationals are making a concerted bid to enter these areas in utter disregard of the Constitutional safeguards and legal provisions. The state is allowing open entry, nay, is welcoming large industries with no concern for its own policies, guidelines and also human rights and people's welfare. We strongly condemn this open attack on the interests of the ordinary people, particularly the tribal people.

We also note that the tribal habitats are extensive and the life of the people depends on the natural resources of the entire habitat. The irony is that the de juro command of the tribal people has been generally circumscribed to a small part thereof. The remaining area (70% in Bastar) is formally termed as the so-called `forest', which may or may not have tree cover. Thus, the people have to make do with a limited area. It includes abadi, agriculture and nistar. In this situation, if land is assigned from the limited area used by the people for industry and other institutions, the condition of people depending on it is bound to deteriorate.

It may be further noted that the level of education is very low in tribal communities and the modern skills are almost non-existent. Thus the people are not prepared for participation with dignity in modern economic activities.

There is no justification for acquisition of tribal lands in this critical phase in the history of tribal communities. Similarly diversion of so-called government land, which is being used by the tribal people for a variety of other purposes, is not proper. In this situation all new activities in tribal areas should be taken up, wherever necessary, on the so-called `forest' land. But concurrently, action should also be taken for enriching the so-called forest with people's participation as partners.

In this situation we resolve and declare that----

The people of Mavalibhata today are faced with the wuestion of life and death. The people have resolved to defend their right to life and not to move out of their village. All of us are fully with people in this struggle. If the vested interests or administration resort to oppressive measures against them, we will stand by the people of Mavalibhata and together give a befitting reply to the intruders.

Democratic Norms and Human Rights

We condemn the anti-people and fascist actions by the government and the administration to silence the voice of dissence and to evict the tribal people from their ancestral homes and habitat. Honest adherence to democratic norms and full regard for human rights in dealing with the people are essential. We expect that political leaders and officials will change their behavious and fulfil their responsibilities as public servants. So far as the issue of use of natural resources is concerned no family, as a rule, can be deprived of its right over the resources on which it may be depending on for its living (I) without prior willing consent of the family and the community; and (ii) without providing to the family in advance an honourable alternative means of livelihood acceptable to it.

All those laws which are not in consonance with these basic premises are unacceptable to us. So long as the State does not establish an equitable order, the people have full right to defend themselves their right to life with dignity. We accordingly resolve that ----

We will intensify our struggle for changing the anti-people laws and for establishment of the most fundamental of all rights, the right to life with dignity, and take the struggle to its logical end. We call upon all progressive forces in the country to extend all possible support, physical and financial, to this crucial struggle in Bastar for upholding of people's rights.

Appendix 1

The Resolve of Mavalibhata People

The State Government has extended an invitation to industrialists for establishing larage industries based on local resources. It was in pursuance of this policy that S.M. Dichem has been offered thousands of acres of land in Mavalibhata region and the foundation stone of a steel plant was laid on October 6, 1982. The Chief Minister also declared that two more plants will be started very soon. There has been some talk of a steel plant in Nagarnar area for quite some time. There is no information about other industries and their likely location so far. Some smaller industrial units have come up in recent years on Jagdalpur-Dantewara highway.

We, the people of Mavalibhata, Nagarnar and surrounding areas, are extremely concerned about thej policy of utilisation of resources in our area adopted by the government and the governmental attitude and behavious towards the people. There is anger about the same. Thej public opinion had been treated with contempt while establishing industries on Jagdalpur-Dantewara Road. The people are destined to be ruined. The government had paid no attention to these aspects. Foundation stone has been laid in Mavalibhata without any prior intimation of significance. There was no dialogue with the peoploe about their future. A bolt from the blue has struck the people. It appears that some processes are on under the cover of secrecy about the other steel plant, in spite of the still opposition by thej people of Nagarnar. They may face a similar catastrophe any day all of a sudden.

We want to forewarn the government that the policy and the premises of the government about the use of natural resources are totally unacceptable to thej people here. All natural resources including land-water-forest, from which we have been making a living for ages, belong to us. We have the natural right to use the same. This right has also been enshrined in our Constitution. The government has no right-Constitutional or moral--to take away our resources. It is obligatory on the state to obtain willing consent of thej people depending on them for their living and also the community before putting those resources to any alternative use.

A vast majority of people living in this region belong to scheduled tribes. The levels of education even after 45 years of Independence is negligible. Our life is totally dependent on land and forest. All those lawas are unacceptable to us under which the government can acquire our land after payment of compensation and can remove us from our villages without even asking us. The Constitution has placed the responsibility of protecting us on the Central and State Governments, the Governor and the President. We are sorry that the State Government has not discharged this responsibility. On the contrary, it has no qualms in dispossessing us from our resources, even our homes and herths, that too using those laws that are unconstitutional and violative of human rights. We are pressurized through hidden threats that we may have to move out either in this simple way or through other methods. We reject this hidden threat. If such pressures continue, the people's reaction may become unrestrained. The responsibility for any consequences will be that of the government.

We people have decided that Mother-Earth is not a saleable commodity. Any talk of compensation is unacceptable to us. Service of the industrialist is slavery which is against our honour. It is clear to us that once we move out of our homes and herths, nothing but destitution will be our fate. Therefore we are not prepared to leave our land and our village at any cost `katenge par hatenge nahin' (we will get killed but not move out) is our resolve. We are prepared to sacrifice all that is ours, our life itself, for defending our basic human right, the right to life with dignity.

The question now facing us is of life-and-death. We are not prepared for any negotiations, or even a dialogue of any sort in this regard with the government or anyone else. No one is authorised on our behalf for any dialogue with government notwithstanding his office or status -- Patel or manjhi, sarpanch or M.L.A., M.P. or Minister. We will also expect that no official visiting our village will even broach the issue. Let no one dare to attempt misleading our simple people.

We also wish to forewarn all enterprises through you that they should not make any schemes on the strength of any promise or even formal orders of the government . Gram Swaraj has been promulgated in our villages in keeping with the spi9rit of our Constitution. Our resources canot be put to any alternative use without the consent of our village-community. If any work is done in disregard of people's will, the consequences may be drastic, whose responsibility will be theirs -- simple and unequivocal.

Ami Jadkati, Ami Dandami!

(We are root-cutters, We Dandamis)

Gaon Amcho, Raj Amcho!!

(Village is our, Raj is Ours)

Ni Deun Kau Apan Jeeuu !!!

(We will not surrender our life to anyone)

Nate-na-Raj Andolan

(Village Rule Movement)

Appendix2

Tribal People's Resolve for people-Oriented Development

(Bharat jan Andolan)

Warning against Loot of Resources in Tribal Areas!

Call for People-oriented(Janwadi) Development!!

The Tribal Areas are developing but tribal communities are being pauperised !!!

We are being evicted overnight from those resources -- Water-forest-land-ages-in the name of development in some places, branding us an encroachers at others and in exchange of useless `pauper' elsewhere. Every attempt of ours for self-defence is deemed to be violation of law and may even be branded as REVOLT. It is crushed mercilessly.

Big `empires' are being established, but there is no place for us therein because--

  • We are not educated,
  • When educated, we lack technical skills,
  • Even when we have technical skills, we lack desired qualifications?

In other words, our place is in the crowd of casual labourers, domestic servants. If we run away and seek shelter in our forest, what we find is dafedar (forest-guard) with a lathi. Now they are wielding even guns. The slums of towns -- old and new -- is our final destiny.

This destiny we reject outright. Those laws and governmental system are unacceptable to us, under whose aegies all that is ours is being snatched away and those who can claim nothing become masters. Our position is simple --

  • Natural resources are ours, no one can take away that right,
  • If these resources are to be used for some other purposes, our prior permission will have to be obtained
  • before our resources are otherwise utilised, an alternative arrangement for our living will have to be made which is honourable and acceptable to us
  • Tribal community shall be the owner of all new enterprises.

The government has paid no heed to these issues. Some twenty out of every hundred tribals in M.P. have already got displaced. But the government even does not know who they were, what are they doing and where they have gone? Before proceeding further full and satisfactory arrangement should be made for them all.

We are not prepared to accept this logic of developmentwalas that someone will have to bear the cost of development. It is a duty of the State that those who are expected to make sacrifice for development are assured of a reasonable share in the benefits.

Therefore we reject the current policy of development. We also hope that henceforth the state shall arrange its affairs in accordance with our resolve. All citizens should be co-partners in this development without any discrimination.

Our Resolve

  1. We will not allow any work to proceed until all those who have fallen victims of development so far have been suitably provided for.

  2. The local tribal community should have not less than 51 per cent share- holding in all industries located in tribal areas so that the community has full control on the direction of development and people's advancement is central in development.
  3. The labourers engaged in supply of raw material to an industry should have the same status as that of industrial workers. The labour as a whole should have one-fourth shareholding in the concerned enterprise.
  4. The responsibility for capital, technology and management should be of the government through public sector enterprises. If the government is unable to do so, the private enterprise may be allowed. But the capitalist should not have more than 24 per cent shareholding.
  5. As far as possible, only small industries should be established inh tribal areas, so that the local people themselves can manage the same. As far as possible, cooperatives should be organised for this purpose.
  6. Equal share in favour of tribal land owner should be ensured even in small enterprises established on that land.
  7. At least 50 per cent of houses in new residential colonies coming up in tribal areas should be reserved for the local tribal people.

These basic principles can serve as the foundation of people-oriented development in tribal areas.

Appendix 3

Some open Questions about New Industrial Policy and Steel Plants

  1. How many people in all will be uprooted by the steel plant? In the beginning land in the tribal areas is acquired only from some (that is, thousands) persons, but later on hundreds of villages and lakhs of people face devastation. What will be the zone of influence of this steel-plant and how many villages will be destroyed?
  2. Why the planning frame earlier adopted for Malajkhand Project in Balaghat has not been adopted and enforced for Bastar projects? While clearing the Malajkhand Copper Project the Union Government had decided that henceforth before giving clearance to any large industry in tribal areas, a plan for proper placement in the new frame for all persons living in the zone of influence of the concerned project will be prepared. Why such a plan has not been prepared for the proposed industries in Bastar?
  3. Why no advance action was taken for preparing the local people to enable them to take advantage of the new industrial activity in accordance with the guidelines of the Central Government? These guidelines were issues as early as 1974 for adoption in the preparation of Integrated Tribal Development Projects. Why noo action has been taken thereon?
  4. There is a Constitutional duty of the State to take special measures and make special provisions for the scheduled areas for protection against adverse effects of large industries. It was in furtherance of this objective that the Constitution was amended in 1976 and the entire Bastar district including Jagdalpur was declared as scheduled. Why the government has not made any regulations so far specially under this provision?
  5. Why big industries are coming up only around Jagdalpur? When steel plants can run in Bhilai, Vishakhapatnam and even Japan using ironore of Bastar, why similar planning is not being done within Baster with a clear objective of balanced development of entire Bastar? What is the sense in steel plants being stuck to existing state highways, national highway or railways? Why are they not being setup in remote forest areas after opening them up by roads and rails? Why the most populous and the best agricultural region has been selected for steel plants which will destroy lakhs of tribal people?
  6. How much employment will be generated? The industrialists claim that latest technology will be used which means that even robots can be engaged. There will be no opportunity for the local people of employment except that of manual casual labour that too in the beginning. Why firm figures of employment generation are not being placed before the people?
  7. How can we believe that local people will get any benefit? Today the government is not able to ensure flow of benefits to the local people even in its own enterprises. The outsiders are coming everything through various tricks and devices. Then how will the government get that policy of local participation in benefits in case of private enterprise? What law or rules if any have been framed in this regard?
  8. Why even in industries based on local resources, the place of tribal is envisaged as that of a labourer, and not is owner? The Commissioner for Scheduled castes and Scheduled Tribes had made some important recommendations in this regard in 1988. Earlier, the `Policy formulation Commission" setup soon after the shooting of Pravir Chandra Bhanjdeo, the ruler of Bastar, had also made similar recommendations in 1972. Why this Report has not been published so far? Why have those recommendations not implemented?
  9. Why any concessions to industrialists for setting up steel plant? When industries based on iron ore from Bastar are earning huge profit, then the permission to set up a steel plant in Bastar itself is a big concession. In this situation why are we told that concessions are being given because the industrialists have been invited?
  10. If the declaration of government about the benefits of industries accruing to Bastar and inhabitants of Bastar is correct, then why the same principle is not being followed in the case of forests? Why the governments' own declaration of `master', not labourer' in respect of tendu leaves has been falsified?
  11. Why is the violation of basic human rights of the tribal people continuing? Many laws particularly those relating to land and forest are inconsistent with thej present tribal situation. Under these laws, the Constitutional and human rights of the tribal people are being openly violated. The Commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes had made three major recommendations in this regard in 1986:
  1. No acquisition of tribal land without his consent:
  2. Provision of alternative means of livelihood acceptable to the concerned person; and
  3. Legal ban on use of police force in cases of land acquisition.

Why no concrete action has been taken so far? Why the Constitutional and human rights of the tribal people are being still violated?

 

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