Bharat Bandh Declared By Tribals, Dalits On March 5; Centre Pleads SC To Temporarily Withhold Eviction
Tribals across several states have called for a Bharat Bandh on March 5, reported The Times Of India. Tribals in states like Gujarat, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and other states in Northeast will lead the peaceful bandh. The bandh is called to protest against the Supreme Court’s directive to evict more than 10 lakh indigenous people whose land claims were rejected. These people claimed their land rights under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, reported The Hindu.
What does the Supreme Court order of February 13 say?
In a significant order, the Supreme Court on February 13 has ordered the eviction of over 10 lakh tribals and other traditional forest dwellers from forest lands across 16 Indian states. The move came after the Central government failed to defend the Forest Rights Act, which protects their rights. The written order was released on February 20.
Reportedly, the number of tribals who will eventually end up getting evicted from their homes will rise as more and more states will be made to comply with the Supreme Court’s order. The latest Supreme Court’s order came after it heard petitions challenging the Forest Rights Act (FRA). The petitions were filed by a group of wildlife activists who demanded that those whose claims over traditional forest lands were rejected under the act should be evicted by the state governments, reported Business Standard. The orders were passed by a Bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Navin Sinha and Indira Banerjee.
Reportedly, the Centre’s lawyers were absent from the hearing that day, which led the three-judge bench to pass the order, thereby giving states date till July 27 to evict tribals. Each state is then supposed to submit a report to the apex court. “Let Forest Survey of India (FSI) make a satellite survey and place on record the encroachment positions and also state the positions after the eviction as far as possible,” read the court order.
At the same time, the Centre on February 27 filed a plea in front of the apex court to modify its February 13 order permitting states to temporarily withhold eviction of around 1.89 million tribal and other forest-dwelling families. The Centre has asked the three-judge bench to give the states time to file detailed affidavits on the implementation of FRA, reported Business Standard.
Why call for bandh?
Upset with the Modi-led BJP government’s failure to defend the populace’s rights in the apex court, tribals demand is that Centre should bring an Ordinance immediately to protect their rights, as mentioned in the FRA. Ashok Bharti, a Dalit and tribal activist, supporting the bandh said that it will only be called off if the demands tabled by the forest-dependent communities are met. To raise the voice and support the movement, the call for bandh was made at the local level in tribal-dominated states. Vrious social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and others were used to spread the message.
After being informed about the bandh and the reason behind it, Dalits have nodded to join the movement on March 5. They will demand the FRA to be restored along with a discussion on the 13-point roster system of appointments in colleges, universities, railways, and other government organisations. The 13-point roster system is constricting the entry of SCs, STs and OBCs in these government institutions. They have also demanded an Ordinance to reverse the reservation system in appointment to make sure SCs, STs, and OBCs receive better opportunities. They also plan to hold a rally in Delhi to underline their issues and demands, said Bharti.
He further added that the government and the embedded officials should ensure that tribal people who are dwelling in their ancestral habitat for centuries and do not have documents, get what they are entitled to. He mentioned that the apex court along with Dalit and tribal commission has failed to represent the voices of STs, and SCs.
[Watch] Why did the supreme court order the eviction?