At least two civil rights groups working for Odisha and Jharkhand tribal people have been allegedly acting as a front for Maoists and using “displacement of local communities” as their primary plank, as per an annual report of the Home Ministry according to The Hindu.
The two NGOs are – the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti (NSS) in Odisha and the Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan (VVJVA) in Jharkhand.
The NNS has been vigorously campaigning against the Odisha Mining Corporation’s activities on Niyamgiri hill, south-western Odisha. The mining activities would have given UK-based Vedanta group access to natural resources.
In 2013, as many as 12 gram sabhas of Dongaria Kondh and Kutia Kandha spread across Rayagada and Kalahandi districts opposed to any mining activity in the area.
Last year, the apex court rejected a petition by the corporation to hold new gram sabha consultations to permit bauxite mining atop Nyamgiri hills.
Amendments to tenancy law
In 2016, the VVJVA in Jharkhand actively opposed the government’s decision to change two tenancy laws to permit the use of farming land of tribal people for purposes other than agriculture. The Chotanagpur Tenancy Act, 1908 prohibits any sale of tribal land to non-tribals in 16 districts across the state. The Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act, 1876 also restricted sale in the same respect in the Santhal Pargana region.
The Home Ministry report said, “The Maoists attempted to enhance coordination between mass organisations owned by them and other like-minded organisations to adopt programs against alleged state violence and to safeguard democratic rights. Last year, the problem of displacement of local communities prevailed as the main plank of mobilisation by such mass organisations.”
The report added, “In Niyamgiri Hills area, the outfits [Maoists] continued to guide the activities of the NSS.”
“Likewise in Jharkhand, the front of CPI (Maoist), VVJVA tried to rake up the pro-tribal issues and voted against amendments to the Chotanagpur and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Acts, modifications in Domicile policy, etc.” it revealed.
The report said that organisations linked to Maoists also engaged in protest programs and used anti-government propaganda over alleged barbarities of the security forces. “A similar organised meetings over the issue of Kashmir was called by them, terming it as plebiscite in the State,” said the report.
As per data by the Home Ministry, at least 323 cases of violence linked to left-wing extremism were reported in Jharkhand last year, following Chattisgarh which recorded 395 incidents. Odisha was a close third with a record of 86 incidents.
Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti denies Home Ministry’s claims
On Monday, the samiti denied Home Ministry’s allegations that it is being used a Maoist front organisation.
“The samiti has been fighting to protect the interests of the tribal people living in Niyamgiri hills much before the Maoists started their activities in the region. We strongly condemn the Home Ministry’s report,” NSS adviser Lingaraj Azad said.
He concurred Maoist presence in the region, but opposed to the government’s claims that the samiti is aiding the outfit.
Speaking to The Logical Indian, Satya Bancchor, a reporter working closing with another tribal samiti, also denied the Home Ministry’s allegations saying that the NSS is a people’s movement which is protecting the rights of the tribals in the region. It has always supported the tribal communities and opposed to both state and Maoist violence. The samiti opposes mining atop the Niyamgiri hills because it adversely affects the livelihood and habitat rights of the inhabitants, he added.
The NSS has been protesting against alleged state-sponsored harassment, false convictions and murder of indigenous activists. In its decades long movement, it has restricted corporations like Vedanta from mining in the sacred mountains. Its advisor and leader Linraj Azad is a Dalit from Kalahandi district who has been actively involved in the tribals’ struggle for more than 30 years.