UPDATE (INDIA): Landless people stand firm against continuing government attacks
September 7, 2003
URGENT ACTION URGENT ACTION URGENT ACTION URGENT ACTION URGENT ACTION
ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAM
Update Appeal 8 September 2003
[RE: UA-35-2003: INDIA: Two hundred Adivasis made homeless over land rights; UP-32-2003: INDIA: Enquiry into the shooting of Adivasis in 2001; land rights; indigenous groups]
UP-34-2003: INDIA: Landless people stand firm against continuing government attacks
INDIA: Land rights; Indigenous groups
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has recently communicated with John P. Abraham, who is involved in the campaign for the rights of the indigenous Adivasi tribals in India. The Adivasi people have been fighting the Maharashtra State Farming Corporation (MSFC) for their rights over disused land that they have occupied in recent years. According to his letter, the police officers and state government officials have been destroying Adivasi people's huts again and are trying to push them from the land even though the legal process is still continuing. We reprint John P. Abraham's letter below to give you updated information.
Your urgent action is required to pressure the local authorities to immediately stop destroying Adivasi people's huts and intimidating them.
To see the previous AHRC appeals regarding this case, please visit:
[ UA-35-2003: http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2003/494/
UP-32-2003: http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2003/552/ ]
Urgent Appeals Desk
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
[John P. Abraham's letter to Basil Fernando, the executive director of the AHRC]
There is a compelling reason why we write to you again. We also want to inform you of the developments.
After a month's negotiation with the government officials, the members of Bhumi Hukka Andolan [Land Rights Movement] decided to go back to their land. They went three times to the district collector [district revenue head official], the Tahasildar [subdistrict head] and to the police station less than 10 times. On 3 September, they gave a press statement (surprisingly it was published, for a change) that they are going to take the land back into their custody. And they did it.
Huts were destroyed by the officials again. Our people have built them again. There is tension between the officials and tribals. The number of [tribal] people involved in this exercise is not more than a hundred.
Our writ in Aurangabad against demolition was heard on 2 September 2003. The government has been asked to file its affidavit within 15 days. Another writ petition is almost finalized and will be filed by Mihir Desai in Bombay. This is to challenge the recent amendment to the Ceiling Act [to obstruct Adivasis from occupying land].
The judicial enquiry into the police firing will resume on 15 September. Fifty-five witnesses will be deposing against us. We are exposing the link between these witnesses and the police. Most of them are involved in nefarious activities or are landlords.
We are filing about 112 private complaints against police and other government officials. Out of these 112 complaints, 108 cases are related to demolition.
We have been told this time again by our friends that our strategy is not appropriate. We are aware of our limitations. All we have now is a group of people who can stand on their feet and raise their voice against injustice and that too without fear.
What baffles me is the indomitable spirit of the people. When people's movements are being sabotaged through sinister designs, these people have withstood the test of time.
Could you please send appeals to the Chief Minister of Maharasthra asking him to stop further atrocities on the tribals in Rahata Taluka.
Please write a letter to the Chief Minister of the State of Maharashtra in accordance with John¡¦s request. A sample letter is attached below.
1. Shri Sushil Kumar Shinde
Chief Minister of Maharashtra
Office of the Chief Minister
Maharashtra 400 032
FAX: + 91 22 23633272 / + 91 22 22029214
SALUTATION: Dear Chief Minister
With copies to:
1. Justice Shri Arivind Sawant
Maharashtra Human Rights Commission
Fax: +91 22 22885858
2. Vijay Sonkar Shastri
National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes
c/o The National Human Rights Commission
Sardar Patel Bhavan
Sansad Marg, New Delhi - 110 001
FAX: +91 11 2334 0016
SALUTATION: Dear Commissioner
3. Mr. Jean Ziegler
Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
c/o Sally-Anne Way
Assistant to the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
IUED, 24, rue Rothschild
CP 136, CH 1211 Geneva 21
Fax: +41 22 906 59 83
4. Mr. Miloon Kothari
Special Rapporteur on adequate housing
UNOG-OHCHR, CH-1211, Geneva 10. Switzerland
Fax: +41 22 917 90 10
Dear Chief Minister Shri Sushil Kumar Shinde
RE: Attacks on landless communities occupying ceiling lands in Rahata Taluka
I am writing to bring to your attention the ongoing attacks by state officials against the Adivasis occupying ceiling lands in Rahata Taluka, Maharashtra. According to the information I have received, police officers and state government officials have recently been destroying Adivasi people's huts again and trying to push them from ceiling land over which court proceedings are still pending.
I urge you to take strong action to stop the ongoing attacks against these people by government officials and police. Their rights for housing should be protected until the legal process is finished.
I also urge you to take steps to resolve the issue of land ownership and to ensure the personal and proprietary safety and security of the tribal community. I request that immediate action be taken to uphold justice and protect the civil liberty and human rights of the Adivasi people.
Urgent Appeals Programme
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)