Petition- Odisha -Unjustified police action in violation of women’s dignity by the BDO


 

To

The Home Secretary,

Odisha,

 

Sir,

We are disturbed and outraged at an incident in Odisha’s Kendrapada district, where the BDO of Rajakanika Block made a sexist and derogatory comment against women, and the instead of acting on the women’s complaint, the police force has instead admitted an FIR against a woman activist and is conducting raids to arrest her.
The sequence of events is as follows:

On 8th April, AIPWA’s Odisha Secretary Sabita Baraj along with 60 women activists of Rajkanika block, went to the local block office to protest regarding several local issues on the ‘grievance day’ declared by the local administration and Government. When they reached the Block office they found the gate closed, forcing them to wait outside in the severe heat. After two hours, the Block gate was opened by a peon and all the activists asked the BDO (block development officer) why the gate was closed on ‘grievance day’? The BDO told them, “Being women how can you dare to ask this question?” The women strongly protested this sexist comment by the BDO, and Sabita Baraj filed an FIR against the BDO.

After four hours the BDO filed cases against all the women activists, naming Sabita Baraj and charging them under Sections 506, 142, 148, 149, and 34A. But the police took no action against the BDO, and instead attempted to arrest Sabita Baraj and the other women activists based on the delayed FIR filed by the BDO. The police continues to conduct raids on the homes of CPI(ML) and AIPWA activists, searching for Sabita Baraj, with the SP of Kendrapada taking a special interest in doing so . 

 

We would like to ask:
1) On an officially designated day for local people to raise grievances, why did the BDO keep the Block office gate shut for hours? Why have FIRs been registered against women for having defended their right as citizens to question the BDO about the gate being shut, defeating the purpose of grievance day?

2) What action has been taken against the BDO for insulting women and being derelict in his constitutional obligations to uphold citizens’ and women’s rights?

 

It is shocking and outrageous that a woman activist and rural women protestors are being persecuted with FIRs and threats of arrest, only because they asserted their rights and equality, and confronted the BDO for his shockingly anti-women remarks.

We demand:

1)      The FIR against Sabita Baraj and other women must be withdrawn with immediate effect.
2)      Action must be taken against the BDO without further delay and he should be removed from the post pending enquiry.
3)      The SP of Kendrapada must face disciplinary action for having colluded in pursuing false and fabricated complaints against women and trying to intimidate and terrorise women by seeking to arrest and jail them.
Ranjana, Kavita ,Kalpana, and Kamayani

for
Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression

 

It was “most inappropriate” and “judicial error” to confirm death sentence in Prof. Bhullar’s case: Public Prosecutor


Free Professor Devender Pal Singh Bhullar

By 

Published: April 18, 2013. sikhsiyasat.com
    • New Delhi, India (April 18, 2013): It is a known fact that Prof. Devender Pal Singh Bhullar was sentenced to death by the trial court solely on the basis of a fractured and uncorroborated confessional statement extracted by the Delhi police in custody through torture. Prof. Bhullar’s case was heard by three judges bench of the Supreme Court of India, that confirmed the conviction in a split decision – with majority of 2:1.

Free Professor Devender Pal Singh Bhullar

Free Professor Devender Pal Singh Bhullar

Justice M. B. Shah – the presiding judge of the three judges bench had acquitted Prof. Devender Pal Singh Bhullar; while two other judges Arijit Pasyat, J. and Aggarwal, J. had confirmed the death sentence.

The 2002 decision of the Supreme Court of India, confirming death punishment in a split decision was being view as a “judicial error” – and it was expected that the President of India would take it’s notice while deciding the constitutional review petition. The President of India took eight years to decide the petition moved on behalf of Prof. Bhullar but suffered the failure to take notice of the judicial error and cleared the execution of Prof. Bhullar in 2011.

In it’s recent judgement declared on April 12, 2013 the Supreme Court of India has again upheld the death sentence awarded to Prof. Bhullar.

It seems as if whole Indian system has turned blind eye towards the “judicial error” committed in this case. But there are few dissenting voices also that have dared to oppose the ominous unity among various organs of the state favouring execution of Prof. Bhullar.

Recently, the Press Council of India’s chairman Justice Markandey Katju wrote a detailed letter to the President of India. Citing the basic flaws in the decision confirming death sentence in Prof. Bhullar’s case; J. Katju has demanded pardon for Prof. Bhullar.

As per recent media reports Senior Advocate Anoop G. Chaudhari, who was the public prosecutor against Prof. Bhullar while his case was being heard by the SCI in 2002, has admitted that the minority judgement of Justice M. B. Shah acquitting Prof. Bhulalr was good in merit.

According to a news report by Times of India:

“[t]hough two of the three judges on the Supreme Court bench upheld his arguments, senior advocate Anoop G. Chaudhari said that he found himself agreeing with the dissenting verdict delivered by the presiding judge, M. B. Shah, who had actually acquitted Bhullar”.

“Surprising as it may sound, I believe that Shah was right in not accepting my submissions in support of the trial court’s decision to convict Bhullar in a terror case, entirely on the basis of his confessional statement to the police,” Chaudhari reportedly told TOI.

“Shah refused to acquiesce to the Delhi police’s presumption that they had a lot of margin for shoddy investigation because of the involvement of terror”

– Advocate Anoop G. Chaudhari

As per news report, a former advocate general of Madhya Pradesh, Chaudhari also said that it was “most inappropriate” for the majority verdict, delivered by Justice Arijit Pasayat, to have awarded death sentence to Bhullar despite the acquittal by a member of the same bench.

In any event, this “judicial error”, he said, should have been taken by the home ministry as a “strong ground” for commuting the death penalty, when it made its recommendation to the President on Bhullar’s mercy petition in 2011.

“Did the home ministry think that the acquittal by a Supreme Court judge was meaningless?” Chaudhari asked.

But how could he be saying all these things in Bhullar’s favour, given his own role in the case? “After the judgement is delivered, I read it as a student of law and not a lawyer who appeared for one or the other party,” Chaudhari said.

“If I can’t detach myself from the case and appreciate the judgement in its correct perspective, then I won’t be honest to my profession and my conscience”, he reportedly added.

One of the major infirmities in the prosecution’s case pointed out by Shah was the failure of the police to find any corroboration for Bhullar’s confessional statement to them, even he had retracted it.

“When Shah asked me about this lacuna during the hearings, I said that I could only argue what was on record and I could not step into the shoes of the investigating agency and explain why they had not taken the trouble of finding any corroborative evidence” Chaudhari said.

 

 

Press Release- Indefinite Dharna against forced acquisition for Delhi Mumbai Industrial corridor in Raigad, Maharashtra


NAPM Extends Solidarity to the Indefinite Dharna in Raigad District against forced land acquisition for DMIC Project

[See below press Release from Jagatikikaran Vriodhi Kruti Samiti and photos]

New Delhi / Mumbai, April 17 : Supporting the indefinite dharna of the farmers and workers of Raigad district National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has written to the Chief Minister, Maharashtra asking him to stop the forceful land acquisition for the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC). Since, April 10th, in Mangaon under the aegis of Sarvahara Jan Andolan – Jagatikikaran Vriodhi Kruti Samiti, farmers and labourers from 69 villages have been sitting on an indefinite dharna with one village coming together each day infront of SDO office. They are protesting since, 9715 families of 69 villages in Maangaon, Roha and Tala Talukas have received notifications for acquisition of a total of 24,207 acres of land for Dighi Industrial Area part of DMIC corridor. In fact total of 67,500 acres from 78 villages of these three talukas are to be acquired. MIDC has already acquired 2000 hectares of land since 1985 at the rate of 20/25,000 Rs per acre, of which land has been given to Jindal, POSCO and others. There is no record of percentage land utilised and unutilised with MIDC, even though in the past fifty years it has acquired more than 13 lakh acres of land. The provisions of MIDC Act is more draconian than Land Acquisition Act, 1894, which leaves little scope for the consent of the affected population.

The current notifications issued to farmers are illegal since the issuing authority SDO does not have the power to issue notifications of land above the price of Rs. 50, 000. However, the current rate as per MIDC’s own notification is Rs. 40 lakhs per acre. Farmers who are protesting this, you may recall, had forced the state government to cancel the Raigad SEZ that was being developed by the Reliance earlier but the land in the same region is now under threat of acquisition once again.

In second – third week of March this year NAPM undertook a yatra along the route of DMIC Corridor starting from Mumbai on Women’s Day and culminating in Delhi on March 18th in a 20,000 strong farmers and workers Mahapanchyat saying no to forced land acquisition and need to address crisis in Indian agriculture. We wonder what is the tearing hurry when a new Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill is near finalisation in the Parliament.

In Aurangabad, under DMIC and associated state government projects, if things go as planned, 234000 hectares land of 362 villages will be acquired in the name of development in a region which is witnessing the worst draught in many years. Most of the ground water and surface water sources, livelihood dependent on agriculture are already under extreme stress. With the plans for the land acquisition for various projects, there will be a disaster in the whole region for the those leaving on the margins, forcing large scale migrations and impoverishment.

In many of the places where DMIC is supposed to come up, neither the people nor the democratically elected representatives are aware of this monstrosity or their consent has been sought. We believe that hard – earned freedom and democratic rights of the people, as enshrined in the Constitution of India are at stake here. Indian Constitution has provided for the state’s mandate to involve and promote role of all citizens in the planning under number of articles, esp. 243-244. However, the DMIC authorities have violated all of these provisions, since the deal and plans have been finalized by the Union and State government and that too by some bureaucrats without consulting the democratically elected bodies.

Forcible acquisition of land in the name of industrial and city development will only lead to development of real estate and land grab, bringing not prosperity, but impoverishment to the existing population. The past experience tells us that claims of employment generation and absorbing the affected remain largely on paper. Transforming the economic pursuits cannot happen overnight, involuntarily. That this plan with huge impacts on the targeted corridor region, esp. the Investment Region and Industrial Areas cannot and should not be finalised without a full-fledged public debate within the directly affected areas at the state level.

NAPM demands that the Government of Maharashtra reviews the whole plan and initiate a public dialogue on the DMIC plan and projects therein. We demand that the state government should pro-actively provide all information about the total plan and projects to the citizens including the affected, and no forced acquisition of land be attempted at any cost.

Farmers of Raigad had earlier forced the cancellation of SEZ and once again they will challenge at any cost the forcible land acquisition. NAPM supports their struggle and stands in their resolve to struggle.

Medha Patkar, Suniti S R, Prafulla Samantara, Dr. Sunilam, Arundhati Dhuru, Vilas Bhongade, Bhupinder Singh Rawat, Vijay Diwan, Vimal Bhai, Prasad Bagwe, Anand Mazgaonkar, Krishnakant, Rajendra Ravi, Madhuresh Kumar

Contact: 09818905316 | napmindia@gmail.com

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

Jagatikikaran Virodhi Kruti Samiti

Indefinite Dharna against forced acquisition for Delhi Mumbai Industrial corridor in Raigad, Maharashtra

Mangon / Mumbai, April 17 : The farmers and workers of Raigad district are on an indefinite dharna in front of Sub divisional office at Mangaon dist. Raigad, Maharashtra since April 10th. They have been served notices for acquisition of their land under the Maharashtra Industrial Corporation Act. 67,500 acres of land is to be acquired for Dighi port industrial area as a node in Proposed Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor. Farmers from 78 villages under Mangaon, Roha and Tala Tahsils would become completely landless.

All the village Panchayats have unanimously resolved not to give their land for this disastrous and pro corporate project, which has been undemocratically planned too. However the state govt. has not taken any cognizance so far. The panchayats have been further asked to surrender their common property lands and give NOC for it’s transfer. This has created a lot of unrest amongst farmers. The individual notices have been issued to six villages and the 7/12 extracts of all the lands in these villages have been stamped and reserved for the proposed corridor.

How are we going to survive if we lose entire land, the only source of our livelihood, ask the farmers. They don’t trust the govt and it’s assurances as the experience in the past has been totally negative. Why govt is in a hurry to grab the lands before the new land acquisition bill gets passed at the Centre which gives space to the farmers to express their opinions, ask the farmers. Despite the directions given by the Union ministry forced and compulsory acquisition is going on. The irrigated as well as good amount of fertile paddy fields are being acquired. This has enraged the farmers further.

The dharna started on 10th April in the presence of Mr. N. D. Patil, and several activists from various parts of the state, under the banner of Jagatikikaran Virodhi Kruti Samiti. Every day one village comes to dharana to express their resolve not to part with their lands, in big numbers with women and children.

Detailed project report of this project has not been prepared yet. Environment impact assessment is also not done. Why the govt is in hurry then? Asks Ulka Mahajan who is leading the struggle. The govt. sources are not ready to disclose any information nor is there any transparency. This creates a lot of doubts in the minds of the farmers.

Sub Divisional officer Mangaon has been appointed as land acquisition authority , who has powers to fix the compensation upto 50,000 Rs. per acre according to the notice issued to the farmers. However the guardian minister of the dist. Mr. Suneel Tatkare, declared that he would try to give 10 lakh rs. per acre. The farmers laugh at this attempt and they don’t want to give the lands even if the compensation is increased. Recently the residents of Raigad presently living in Mumbai got organized and decided to launch agitation against this forced acquisition in Mumbai on 1st May at Azad Maidan.

The dharana would continue till mid May 2013, till every village registers it’s protest. Several groups and associations such as bar association, Patrakar Sangh, doctor’ association, have declared their support to the agitation.

Ulka Mahajan (9869232478)

===============================================

National Alliance of People’s Movements
National Office : 6/6, Jangpura B, Mathura Road, New Delhi 110014
Phone : 011 26241167 / 24354737 Mobile : 09818905316
Web : www.napm-india.org

Twitter : @napmindia

 

#Chattisgarh policeman arrested for allegedly trying to marry minor girl in UP #Vaw #WTFnews


 

Press Trust of India | Updated: April 15, 2013 

 

Senior UP policeman arrested for allegedly trying to marry minor girl

Chandauli (Uttar Pradesh): A senior police official was today arrested for allegedly trying to marry a minor girl in Balua area of Chandauli in Uttar Pradesh, police said.

Pradyumn Kumar Yadav (45), posted as DSP in Raipur (Chhattisgarh), was arrested during his bid to tie the knot with a 13-year-old girl at a temple in Uttarigaon village in the district, Superintendent of Police Sharad Sachan said.

The arrest was made after villagers informed the police about the act of Mr Yadav.

Deadly Sins in the Brazilian Amazon #mustread


By Bianca Jagger, Reader Supported News

16 April 13

 

The trampling of indigenous rights, military force used against protesters, impunity, megadams and environmental destruction. Is Brazil returning to the bad old days?

 

he Belo Monte dam

The controversial Belo Monte Dam, which is under construction on the Xingu River in the Brazilian state of Pará, is roughly twenty percent completed. Belo Monte will displace over 20,000 people, gravely endanger the survival of indigenous peoples and local communities and cause irreparable environmental damage to the Brazilian Amazon.

Belo Monte will be the third largest hydroelectric plant in the world and the second-largest hydroelectric dam in Brazil. At an estimated cost of upwards of $18 billion US dollars, the dam will stand 90 metres high, 3,545 meters long, with a planned installed capacity of over 11,000 megawatts. Belo Monte is not merely a dam. It is a megadam. It is a travesty of human rights and anenvironmental crime. The land along the Xingu River is home to 25,000 indigenous people from 40 ethnic groups, who have lived and worked in harmony with the river for thousands of years. The Arara, Juruna and Xikrin, who are closest to Belo Monte, depend on the river for their survival: fishing, trade, and transport. The river is their lifeline.


Belo Monte Map, by International Rivers

 

Not for much longer. Belo Monte has already begun to seriously damage livelihoods and the environment. Local riverbank populations such as the indigenous Jericoá community say that the Xingu is no longer a source of potable water, due to contamination from construction at the Pimental site upstream. Explosions, diversion of the river flow, sedimentation and pollution caused by the preliminary earth ‘coffer dams’ have already had devastating impacts on fish populations in the Xingu. There is little left to eat, and no more living to be made from the river. Cofferdams have diverted approximately 5 kilometres of the Xingu’s main channels into one narrow channel of 450 meters, making boat transport extremely dangerous. The Jericoá, like other indigenous communities and local populations, are also dependent on boat transport for trade, basic health and education services. In astatement issued by the Jericoá community on March 21st, they call the actions of the Brazilian government and Norte Energia, the state-controlled company behind the dam, an attempt ‘to assassinate the Xingu and the people that depend upon the river for their survival.”

Belo Monte will create a 100 km “dry stretch” below the reservoir, where the Xingu will be reduced to dry season levels all year round. The land on this dry stretch includes two indigenous reserves, the Arara and the Juruna da Terra Indígena Paquiçamba, and a number of communities who are dependent upon the river for their livelihood and for transport. There is no road which will replace the river. The Xingu will become unrecognisable and for many, uninhabitable.


Antonia Melo protesting, by Ruy Marques Sposati

 

I have campaigned against Belo Monte for many years. In March 2012 I went on a fact finding mission to the Xingu. Construction on the dam had then just begun. I travelled down the Xingu in a small boat. I was accompanied by my courageous friend Antonia Melo, co-ordinator of Xingu Vivo, a collective of local NGOs opposed to Belo Monte, and Ruy Marques Sposati. We saw the great red scarred coffer dams, the beginnings of Belo Monte, rearing out of the river. I met with indigenous leaders, with local communities, NGOs, government officials, extractavists – and the Bishop of the Xingu, Dr Erwin Krautler, whose concern and care for the people affected by Belo Monte was evident. I was distraught by the suffering I witnessed in the area. This dam will not only destroy the Xingu, it will change the Amazon basin forever. I published my findings in a report on the Huffington Post: The Belo Monte Dam, an Environmental Crime. I urge you to read it. The people of the Xingu need our support.

Sex Slavery

The Belo Monte dam has brought abhorrent practises to the Xingu. On March 13, 2013, a 16-year-old girl escaped from a ‘brothel’ on the Belo Monte construction site where, it was subsequently discovered, she and fourteen others had been imprisoned in ‘small windowless rooms with no ventilation, with only a double bed, and… padlocks on the outside of the doors.’ The women had been lured from all over the state of Para with promises of legitimate employment and security. Instead, on arrival at Belo Monte they were incarcerated, raped and exploited. A congressional panel has summoned the directors of the Belo Monte Consortium to explain how sex slavery could be conducted on the very premises of the Belo Monte dam. But I fear justice will not be done. The dam has enormous financial incentives, and the Brazilian government behind it.

This is not an isolated incident. The influx of tens of thousands of migrant workers into the nearby city of Altamira and throughout the region has caused an explosion of violent crime and sex trafficking.

Working Conditions

Conditions on the construction sites of Belo Monte are atrocious. According to Brazilian newspaper Adital, many of the dam workers support the protesters cause, comparing Belo Monte’s labour conditions to a ‘prison.’ They say they would leave, but they are migrant workers, with nowhere else to go. In November 2012 work on Belo Monte stopped when disputes about pay and poor working conditions escalated into a riot among the construction workers, who ‘set fire to vehicles and mattresses, vandalized offices and canteens, burnt a bus and blocked the Trans-Amazon highway.’

Protest

At four in the morning, on March 21, 2013, a hundred and fifty protesters, led by the Jericoá community, occupied the construction site of the Belo Monte Dam. The group comprised women and men – people of all ages. There were representatives of the Juruna, Xypaia, Kuruaia and Canela tribes, as well as local fishermen and displaced farmers.

The March 21st protest was the sixth time since construction began in July 2011 that work on Belo Monte has been halted by protests. In June 2012, on the eve of the Rio+20 conference demonstrators broke through one of the coffer dams to restore the flow of the river, chanting ‘Free the Xingu.’ A few days later, Xicrin and Juruna indigenous protestors occupied the Pimental coffer dams for over a month, calling attention to the project’s impacts and the broken promises of the Brazilian government and its private sector partners responsible for construction of Belo Monte. (I wrote an article about this protest and the failure of Rio +20,‘The Future We Want,’ which can be found on the Huffington Post.) In January 2013, twenty leaders of the Juruna tribe blocked access roads to the construction site at Pimental, halting work for three days.

The people of the Xingu are invading the construction sites of Belo Monte because they are desperate. They face the destruction of their homeland and the end of their way of life. The Belo Monte dam will displace them, in their tens of thousands; it will strip them of their livelihoods. And their voices are being ignored by the Brazilian government.

The protest on March 21st was the latest of a long line of demonstrations and legal battles against Belo Monte, stretching back nearly forty years. The people of the Xingu have opposed the dam since the 1970’s. The plan for Belo Monte was devised in 1975, during the years of Brazil’s dictatorship. It was then known as the Kararao dam. The project was abandoned in 1989 after widespread protest. But the scheme was redesigned between 1989 and 2002. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva signed the contract for the Belo Monte dam with the Norte Energia consortium in 2010.

At every stage the Belo Monte dam has been opposed by the people who now live in its ever growing shadow.

The government reacted immediately to the Belo Monte protest on the morning of March 21st. They sent troops from the National Guard (Força Nacional de Segurança Pública) to the construction site to subdue it. According to a mandate from the Federal Ministry, the troops will remain onsite at Belo Monte for at least 90 days – they could stay indefinitely.

The Culture of Intimidation

The people of the Xingu are being silenced with military force. Not because they are a threat, but because their protests halt construction. It is obvious that the Brazilian government has decided that respecting the rights of indigenous peoples is not good for business. The tactics at Belo Monte are indicative of the troubling erosion of indigenous peoples’ rights, which is happening not only in the Xingu, but at dam sites all over Brazil. Across the country, the national guard and the federal police (Polícia Federal) are being used as a show of force to oppress critics and protesters.

According to Brent Millikan of International Rivers, this signals a new trend of intimidation; NGOs and protesters are being threatened with fines and imprisonment. Social action, he says, is being criminalised. Local magistrates are being called upon to issue writs of ‘Mandado Proibitivo,’ which amount to restraining orders for protesters, preventing them from demonstrating near the construction sites.

The Belo Monte consortium has engaged in espionage against the Belo Monte workers, protesters and local organisations opposed to the dam. In February a man was caught recording the annual meeting of Xingu Vivo, a local NGO. He immediately confessed that he had been hired by the Belo Monte consortium to infiltrate the organisation and feed information back to the consortium – and the Brazilian government’s national intelligence agency ABIN.

Condemned by Intergovernmental Rrganisations

The dam has been denounced by the human rights commission of the Organisation of American States (OAS). The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) and the ILO have condemned Belo Monte. When the OAS pronounced the lack of consultation with the indigenous people a violation of the international accords, the Brazilian government retaliated by cutting off its dues payments to the OAS and boycotted a meeting arranged by OAS in Washington DC, in October 2011. The ILO stated in a 2012 report that Brazil has violated Convention 169 which guarantees indigenous peoples the right to free, prior and informed consultation over projects that affect their lands and rights.

There are currently at least 12 lawsuits pending in Brazilian courts pertaining to the Belo Monte Dam, citing, among other complaints: improper licensing, lack of consultation with local communities and affected peoples, and serious environmental concerns. In 2012 construction was halted by court order on August 14th then resumed on August 28th.

Despite the people of the Xingu’s desperate opposition, despite condemnation from intergovernmental organisations and the international community at large, despite the urgent warnings of scientists that this dam is an environmental catastrophe, the construction of Belo Monte is being pushed forward.

It is clear that the Brazilian government and the Belo Monte Consortium are determined to force it through at any cost.

Environmental Destruction

The Xingu is an area of outstanding natural beauty. Three streams, the Tamitatoaba, the Romero and the Colisu converge to form the Xingu River. For 1,979 kilometres the river wanders through grasslands, savannahs, wooded archipelagos, pouring over the great cataracts at the Fall of Itamaraca. Near its mouth the river mingles with the waters of the Amazon in a network of eanos, or natural canals. It is an immense, interconnected ecosystem supporting thousands of species: human, animal and plant life.


The Xingu, by Bianca Jagger

 

I consider the Amazon and the Xingu to be wonders of the world.

Belo Monte will destroy the forest, cause the extinction of many rare species of animals and plants, affect the global environment and contribute to climate change. The dam is already decimating the fish populations and hundreds of other species. The black and white-patterned Zebra Pleco fish, which is found only on the Xingu River, is likely to die out. The Sunshine Pleco (Scobinancistrus aureatus), the Slender Dwarf Pike Cichlid (Teleocichla centisquama), the Plant-eating Piranha (Ossubtus xinguense) and the Xingu Dart-Poison frog (Allobates crombiei) are other species whose existence is threatened by the dam. As the Jericoá community knows all too well, the fish near Belo Monte are nearly gone. It will not be long before the other species follow suit.

Dams Across Brazil

Belo Monte is part of a plan for an overhaul of Brazil’s infrastructure: at least 34 dams are planned across the country, which will inundate at least 6,470 sq km of the world’s largest tropical forest. All over Brazil, even now, the Amazon’s waterways are being blocked and diverted. The river system that provides a fifth of the world’s fresh water is being dammed, polluted and fouled up.

Everywhere, the protests of the Brazilian riverine communities are being drowned out by the sound of construction – and they are being suppressed with military and police presence.

São Luíz do Tapajós, Jatobá and Chacorão – the Munduruku

Further into the Amazon Basin, west of Belo Monte on the Tapajós river, another major Amazonian tributary, the ancestral home of the Munduruku indigenous people is being threatened by three planned mega-dams: São Luíz do Tapajós, Jatobá and Chacorão. The dams are planned by the parastatal energy company, Eletronorte and its private sector partners, among them Brazilian construction giant Camargo Correa and the engineering firm CNEC, owned by Worley Parsons of Australia. Eletronorte also holds a 49.98% stake in Norte Energia, the consortium behind Belo Monte.


Tapajos Basin, by International Rivers

 

There are approximately 11,630 Munduruku people across Amazonas, Pará and Mato Grosso do Sul. If constructed, the dams will flood much of the Munduruku territory. Despite legal mandates by international bodies such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 169, the Munduruku have not been consulted by the Brazilian government on the construction of these three dams.

The Munduruku are vehemently opposed to these huge dam projects. They have seen the damage that Belo Monte has done to the Xingu.

Brutal raid at Teles Pires

In October 2012 the inhabitants of the Munduruku indigenous village known as Teles Pires, located on a river of the same name – a major tributary of the Tapajós that divides the states of Pará and Mato Grosso do Sul -expelled researchers inspecting the site of the São Luíz do Tapajós dam, which would flood over 700 square kilometres of the forest.

A month later, on the 7th of November 2012 a helicopter and dozens of men in flak jackets, armed with machine guns and assault rifles, descended upon Teles Pires.

The villagers, including women, children and elderly people, were teargassed, subdued and told to lie on the ground. They lay there in the sun for many hours. They were forbidden to speak to one another in their own language. The village radio was confiscated, and the phone wires cut. Memory cards, phones, and cameras were destroyed and thrown into the river.


Police in Amazon, by Paulo Suess

 

This brutal raid was carried out not by guerrillas or militia in a military dictatorship, but by the Brazilian Federal Police and the National Guard.

Those villagers who resisted were deal with harshly. Some were beaten and shot at, sprayed with pepper spray. Several people were seriously injured and one man, Adenilson Kirixi Munduruku was killed. His body was thrown in the river, perhaps for the purposes of concealment; it resurfaced the next day. According to reports a bomb was let off to confuse the scene of the crime.

Meanwhile the police destroyed a river dredge in front of the village, which had been used to extract gold – which was the ostensible cause for the police operation. Mining is not permitted in the area. All the contents of the dredge were also destroyed including a fridge and a gas cooker. The river was left swimming in petrol and chemicals.


Villagers being herded by air force, by Paulo Suess

 

Was the small gold dredge the real reason for the raid? According to Munduruku leaders, the operation was a blunt message from President Dilma Rousseff’s administration to indigenous peoples: either suspend immediately protests against the government’s ambitious dam-building plans for Tapajós and its tributaries – or face the consequences. As at Belo Monte, it seems the Brazilian government has been quick to answer resistance with a show of military and police force.

A Declaration of War

In late March 2013 following a presidential decree signed by President Rousseff, the Brazilian Air Force deployed a task force of some 240 troops, with participation of the National Guard (Força Nacional), Federal Police and Federal Highway Police to the tiny Itaituba airport near the Munduruku village of Sawyré Mubú. The purpose of the mission, known as Operation Tapajós, has been to provide security for 80 members of private consultancy firms engaged in technical studies for the São Luiz and Jatobá mega-dam projects. As in Belo Monte, there is no indication how long the troops will remain

The Munduruku have suspended talks with the government until the troops are withdrawn. Their public statement reads: ‘We are not criminals. We feel betrayed, humiliated and disrespected. We want dialogue… Our final warning. If the operation does not stop… we will have war.’

All of this military and police presence is being imposed upon indigenous and tribal people – unarmed communities. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is being openly flouted. Belo Monte and Munduruku are being occupied – by corporate interest.

The Brazilian government’s parastatal energy giant Eletrobras doesn’t want the delays the protesters cause to planning and construction at Belo Monte or at the sites of the planned Tapajós megadams. They are steamrolling human rights for profit – with the blessing of the Brazilian government.

The Madeira Dam

The Madeira complex in the state of Rondônia will consist of four dams: the Santo Antonio and Jirau which are already well underway, the Cachuela Esperanza Dam on the Beni River near Riberalta, Bolivia which is nearly ready for construction and the Guajará-Mirim Dam on the Madeira River upstream from Abunã, which is in the planning stages. When it is completed in 2015, theJirau hydroelectric dam will span 8km of the Madeira river and contain the largest number of giant turbines of any dam in the world. 2,250km of power lines will run between the Jirau and São Paulo.

I visited the Madeira River on my fact finding mission to Brazil in 2012. I attended an open meeting in the town hall, where I met with local communities and indigenous people. The stories I heard were tragically familiar: people were being evicted from their ancestral homeland: some had brought their orders of eviction to show me. Some told of their houses being flooded, and avalanches caused by the dams. Others told me of the sudden decline in the fish populations. I listened to their concerns, their accounts of the destruction of their livelihoods and their cultural identity by the Madeira Dam complex.

Slave Labour

Like Belo Monte, the Madeira dam complex is being constructed by exploitative labour. Workers flooded into the region drawn by the promise of employment. In September 2009, Brazilian authorities found 38 people working in ‘slave-like labour conditions’ in the construction site of Vila Mutum. According to the report the workers living arrangements were ‘subhuman… an overcrowded wooden shelter, with no beds, no adequate electricity or sanitary facilities.’ In 2011 riots broke out on the San Antonio and Jirau dam construction sites. According to Amazon Watch, protesting workers set fire to buses, living quarters and offices.

Several isolated indigenous peoples live near the Madeira, including the Mujica Nava and the uncontacted Jacareuba/Katawixi Indians. What will happen to them when the dams are built? What will they do when the river changes forever?

All this, and yet the Jirau and the downstream Santo Antonio complex will provide just 5 percent of what government energy planners say Brazil will need in the next 10 years.

Intimidation Across Brazil

The culture of intimidation is not restricted to dam sites. The heavy handed measures being taken by the Brazilian government may signal a return to the old, dark days, to a culture of impunity in which persecution, harassment and even the murder of protesters is escalating – all across Brazil.

According to the Catholic Church’s Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), the number of activists threatened in conflicts over land rose from 125 to 347 between 2010 and 2011.

Cícero Guedes, a leader of the landless movement, or MST, which campaigns for land reform and the rights of landless workers, was shot dead in Campos north-east of Rio de Janeiro on the evening of the 25th of January 2013. He was cycling home.

Mr Guedes, a sugar-cane cutter, had recently led an occupation of the nearby Usina Cambahyba sugar plant, in protest at a judge’s ruling that the estate should be expropriated.

Jose Claudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife Maria were gunned down on a bridge near the reserve of Nova Ipixuna in 2011. Two men were convicted, and landowner Jose Rodrigues Moreira was accused of hiring the assassins to shoot the couple after they opposed the eviction of three families who lived on his farm.

Some had hoped Moreira’s trial would prove to be a landmark in Brazilian land dispute killings – but he was acquitted on April 4th, 2013.

A delegation of laureates from the Right Livelihood Award, otherwise known as the alternative Nobel Prize, organised a mission to Marabá to report on the trial. Marianne Andersson (former Member of the Swedish Parliament), Angie Zelter (Trident Ploughshares) and Dr Raul Montenegro (President of FUNAM, Fundación para la defensa del ambiente) were shocked by the results of the trial. ‘It is unacceptable that people committed to the common good can receive a bullet to the head because they are defending the rights of the dispossessed,’ Dr Montenegro said. ‘The Brazilian government and the Brazilian justice system must put an end to impunity, and the murders.’

Mercedes Queiroz, a friend of the da Silvas, told Al Jazeera English: “Everyone is upset with the verdict. Once more there is a feeling that impunity reigns in the Amazon region.”

In November 2011, Nisio Gomes, a leader of the Guarani Kaiowa tribe was shot dead by a group of 42 armed men who broke into camp in the middle of the night. The men reportedly shot him in the head, chest, arms and legs, before taking his body away in a truck. His body has not been recovered. The Guarani Kaiowa were occupying their ancestral land in Ponta Pora, in the southern state of Mato Grosso do Sul – they had been evicted when the land was given over to cattle ranchers.

In July 2012 ten men from a private security firm were arrested for the murder. They claim landowners hired them to kill Mr Gomes. Six landowners have subsequently been arrested.

It should come as no surprise that land disputes in Brazil are rife, and highly dangerous: when one percent of the population controls 46 percent of the country’s cultivated land. This is a glaring inequity, and it seems the rights of indigenous peoples are the first to be sacrificed in the name of development and profit. If the Brazilian government does not take action to protect those rights, and prosecute criminals with the full weight of the law, murders like these will become all too common.

Mining in Indigenous Territories

The indigenous peoples of Brazil may soon face even greater challenges in their struggle to retain their ancestral land. There is a draft bill on mining currently working its way through the Brazilian Congress, known as Projeto de Lei 1610. Its aim is to open up and regulate large scale mining in indigenous territories.

According to Fiona Watson of Survival International, ‘One of the objectives of the government’s drive to build so many hydro-electric dams in the Amazon is to provide cheap subsidized energy to the mining companies which are poised to mine in indigenous lands.’

There are currently over 4,000 requests to mine in indigenous territories, and new requests are made every day. The mining requests in the Xikrin territories, Xikrin do Catete and Baú in Pará cover 100 percent and 93 percent of the territories respectively. ‘Very worryingly,’ says Watson, ‘there do not appear to be any safeguards in the bill to prevent 100 percent of any given territory being mined.’

In the cases of both Belo Monte and the Tapajós, there is a clear connection between construction of mega-dams and mineral exploitation, both of which have devastating impacts on indigenous cultures their ancestral lands and the environment, since much of the electricity will go to energy-intensive mining industries.

Dams and Development

Those who suffer most from these irresponsible destructive projects rarely see any benefit from them. It is large corporations, investors and the government who profit. As Peter Bosshard writes for International Rivers, ‘Mega-dams and other complex, centralized infrastructure projects have a bad track record in terms of addressing the water and energy needs of the poor and reducing poverty more generally.’

Examination of other megadams across the world does not bode well for the future of the Amazon and its peoples. The Three Gorges dam in China, the largest dam in the world, displaced 1.2 million people, flooded 13 cities and 140 towns. The Brazilian/ Paraguayan Itaipu dam displaced 59,000 people, and destroyed 700 square kilometers of rainforest. In the worst dam disaster in history, the flooding at the Banqiao Dam in China in 1975, 26,000 people died in the flooding and another 145,000 died during subsequent epidemics and famine.

Donor governments came together in Paris, France from March 20 to 21, 2013 to start negotiations for the 17th replenishment of the International Development Association fund. To my surprise, the World Bank is recommending several large dam projects as regional infrastructure initiatives, including the Inga 3 dam on the Congo River, and hydropower projects on the Zambezi River. I hope World Bank President Jim Yong Kim will reconsider this decision.

The World Wild Life Fund (WWF) recently published a report, The Seven Sins of Dam Building. The list of sins is comprehensive: building on the wrong river, neglecting downstream flows, neglecting biodiversity, falling for bad economics, failing to acquire the social license to operate, mishandling risks and impacts and blindly following temptation, and the bias to build.

The WWF report ascribes just five of these evils to Belo Monte. But actually the Belo Monte Dam commits every single one of these sins. This dam is an act of hubris and greed, committed in the name of development – but the real objective is profit.

Belo Monte is being promoted as a source of green energy. As Dr Erwin Kräutler, the Bishop of Xingu, and a staunch opponent of the dam, said to me, ‘they call it a green project. What is green about Belo Monte? It will only be green if they paint the dam green. It used to be green around here. The forest was green.’

Large dams are not sustainable. They are not ‘clean’ energy. But they are lucrative- for some. Large international companies like Alstom, Andritz, Voith Hydro and Daimler, all of whom are involved in the construction of Belo Monte, are profiting from the dam at the expense of the tens of thousands of people who call the Xingu their home. By persisting with this unconscionable project, President Rousseff is failing her people.

The Brazilian government claims that the planned installed capacity of the Belo Monte Dam complex will bring cheap energy to households across Brazil. But it is estimated that only 70% of the energy generated by the megadam will be sold for public consumption. The remaining 30% has already been bought by Eletrobras and earmarked for export, mining and industrial activities.

The farcical, tragic reality is: Belo Monte probably won’t be capable of delivering the promised, massive output. The installed capacity of 11,000 Megawatts (MW) will on average only generate 4,500 MW due to large seasonal variations in river flow. During the dry season, when the river is at its lowest level, the dam will only be able to produce 233 MW.

Which is why there are five other dams planned upstream.

As Philip Fearnside points out, ‘Belo Monte itself is economically unviable because the highly seasonal water flow in the river would leave the 11,000 MW main powerhouse completely idle during 3-4 months out of the year… It suggests that the government and the investors are, in fact, counting on the upstream dams that would flood vast areas of indigenous land and tropical forest.’

A study by Conservation Strategy Fund (CSF) concludes that Belo Monte will not be sustainable without the proposed Altamira (Babaquara) dam which would have a reservoir 12 times the size of Belo Monte’s and would flood indigenous territories of the Araweté/Igarapé Ipixuna, Koatinemo, Arara, Kararaô and Cachoeira Seca do Irirí tribes.

All the evidence suggests that the Brazilian government will need to build more dams to make the Belo Monte Dam viable. Belo Monte is only the beginning.

Conclusion

By prioritising these large infrastructure projects at immense cost to the people and the environment, by suppressing protest with military force, by condoning the appalling conditions in these construction sites, by failing to prevent the murder of protesters and indigenous and grassroots leaders, the Brazilian government is sending the dangerous message that the pursuit of profit prevails over human rights and the rule of law.

These are the facts. If Belo Monte and the other dams are allowed to go ahead, they will devastate the livelihoods of thousands of people among the tribes and communities in the Amazon Basin. A great part of Brazil’s rich, varied cultural heritage will be lost. The dams will destroy enormous tracts of rainforest, unique ecosystems- the like of which cannot be found anywhere else on earth. The patrimony of Brazil will be squandered, and for what? The dams will not provide the energy the country needs.

I add my voice to the indigenous peoples’ appeal to President Rousseff to stop the construction of megadams across the country.

We must support the indigenous peoples and communities whose livelihoods, culture and ancestral lands are threatened by megadams, mining, cattle ranching and illegal logging in the Brazilian Amazon. President Rousseff must examine the government’s current model of development and its policies towards indigenous peoples, local communities and the environment. President Rousseff has a choice. She can steer Brazil towards a sustainable future, based on principles of respect for human rights, good governance, justice, equity and environmental protection. If however the President fails to reform the current model of development, if she continues down this path, Brazil may slip back into an era of violence, exploitation and civil unrest.

 

How the support of the neo-middle class has been crucial to Modi’s rise


A class of his own

Christophe Jaffrelot : Wed Apr 17 2013
modi

 

In December, Narendra Modi won the Gujarat election with the support, not only of the middle class, but also of what the state BJP called the “neo-middle class” in its manifesto. According to the CSDS pre-electoral survey, not only did 57.4 per cent of the richest voters go the BJP way, but 54.2 per cent of the middle income bracket voters also did the same (against 28 and 34.4 per cent for the Congress respectively — which got the vote of the poor). This neo-middle class is made of aspiring groups that tend to change their political colour after migrating to an urban milieu. The shift is particularly striking in the case of the OBCs: while the Kolis vote more for the Congress when they are in a rural context (53 per cent), they move to the BJP the moment they join a semi urban constituency (that is, one with 25 to 75 per cent of urban voters) — 65 per cent of them do so. This shift is even more dramatic when the upwardly mobile OBCs end up in a city.

Rural constituencies of Gujarat are the only places where more voters support the Congress, while semi-urban and urban constituencies are almost fully behind the BJP. But the urban/rural divide is a proxy for class. What the above data shows is simply that caste identities — and caste-related political cultures — are submerged by class considerations when formerly rural groups come to the city, hoping to join the lower middle class. Their new ethos — or at least their aspirations — make them turn to Modi’s BJP and its promise of jobs in the name of “development”.

The propensity of the neo-middle class to support Modi’s BJP in Gujarat can be easily explained without even factoring in the communal element (although it is arguably more developed in the urban context, notably because of recurring riots). The BJP of Gujarat simply paid more attention to the material interests of the urban middle class than to any other group, as is evident from its election manifesto. Among the relevant items of this carefully drafted document, one can cite the promise to construct 50 lakh houses, the increase of the age limit for entry into government jobs from 25 to 28, English medium schools, Rs 2,000 crore for flyovers and underpasses in cities, the building of mono rail in places other than Ahmedabad (where the project has already been planned) and insurance schemes. These are, typically, promises aiming at wooing the urban middle class.

But there’s no need to further scrutinise pre-electoral promises. The actual polarisation of Gujarat’s society speaks for itself. Modi’s policy, over the last 10 years, has benefited the urban middle class more than anybody else. If Gujarat ranks only 11th out of 23 states in terms of the human development index, it’s because groups in rural Gujarat continue to lag behind. Indeed, Gujarat is a case of social polarisation with the new rich in the cities and most of the groups that are at the receiving end concentrated in the villages. There, the number of families below the poverty line has jumped from 23.39 lakh in 2000 to 30.49 lakh in July 2012, according to the rural development commissioner. Unsurprisingly, 9 lakh of the 11 lakh houses without electricity, according to the Gujarat 2011 census, are in rural areas. In terms of education, the excellent report of the NGO, Pratham, shows that rural Gujarat was lagging behind states like Haryana.

Dalits and Adivasis (11.3 and 16.5 per cent of the state population, respectively) are particularly affected. For instance, the percentage of tribal underweight children (0-5 years old) is much higher in Gujarat than the tribal average at the national level (64.5 per cent compared to 54.5 per cent). The under-five mortality rate of tribal children is also much higher. Similarly, the percentage of Dalit participation in the NREGA programme is three times less in Gujarat (7.83 per cent) than in India at large (22.67 per cent). In fact, development has meant socio-economic polarisation, because Gujarat is a typical case of growth without development for all. The Gujarat chapter of the India Human Development Report of 2011 concluded that “the high growth rate achieved by the state over the years has not percolated to the marginalised sections of society, particularly STs and SCs, to help improve their human development outcomes”.

That the middle class cares only for its interests is fair enough. But over the last two years, it has seemed that it was more and more concerned by corruption and the criminalisaton of politics — evident from the Anna Hazare movement which, arguably, was driven by the middle class.

Here, the record of Gujarat suggests a paradox. In this state, the middle class supports the BJP government in spite of uneven indicators in terms of the rule of law and a number of tainted former members of the government on the radar screen of the judiciary. Today, five Gujarat-based police officials — including senior IPS officers — are behind bars, waiting for their trial in Mumbai. They’ve been accused of being responsible for at least one of the many alleged fake encounters that have taken place in the years 2003-2006 in Gujarat. The most famous of these cases are those regarding Sohrabuddin, his wife Kauser bi and their friend Tulsiram Prajapati.

The CBI, in its chargesheet, named Amit Shah, the then minister of state for home, as the kingpin of the conspiracy. He was arrested in 2010, spent over three months in jail and, while on bail, was not allowed to return to Gujarat, lest he interfere with the investigators. He came back two months before the last state elections, was re-elected and, by all accounts, has again become a close aide of the chief minister. Maya Kodnani, also a former member of the state government, has been convicted for involvement in the 2002 violence in Ahmedabad. The Supreme Court has ordered the transfer of several cases to Maharashtra “to preserve the integrity of the trial”.

BJP president Rajnath Singh has not only inducted Narendra Modi into the party’s apex decision-making bodies, the parliamentary board and central election committee, but he has also appointed Amit Shah as one of the general secretaries of the party. And among the new national council members from Gujarat, figures also Babubhai Katara, a former BJP MP from Dahod who had been arrested in 2007 for human trafficking and was suspended from the party.

In this context, L.K. Advani has lectured his colleagues to ensure that the BJP remained “a party with a difference”. But was it because the middle class cares for political cleanliness?

 

The writer is a senior research fellow at CERI, Sciences Po, Paris and professor of Indian politics and society at the King’s India Institute, London, and non-resident fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for Peace

express@expressindia.com

 

#India- Forest Rights:Illusory Rights #tribalrights #indigenousrights


Frontline
Volume 30 – Issue 08 :: Apr. 20-May. 03, 2013
from the publishers of THE HINDU

Illusory rights

VENKITESH RAMAKRISHNAN AND AJOY ASHIRWAD MAHAPRASHASTA

PESA, which is seen as an enabling law for tribal self-governance, is violated brazenly by both the Union government and State governments in the name of development.

AP 

Participants play traditional musical instruments during the march. 

SINCE October 2012, the Ministry of Rural Development of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has apparently been engaged in an exercise to evolve a “National Land Reforms Policy”. Over these months, the Ministry wrote to various State governments, highlighting the importance of the initiative. In January, it also constituted a national-level “Task Force on Land Reforms” comprising nine official and eight non-official members.

These steps were in pursuance of the October 11, 2012, agreement the Ministry had signed in Agra with the Jan Satyagraha, a movement that had launched a padayatra (foot march) demanding a comprehensive National Land Reforms Act and institutions for its effective implementation and monitoring in order to provide landless, homeless and marginalised communities access to land and livelihood resources. Ironically, while the Ministry’s efforts have been continuing apace, other segments of the Union government and some State governments have actuated a number of measures that decisively undermine the initiative.

These acts of sabotage are essentially related to the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA), 1996, which, under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, seeks to enable tribal self-governance. The Agra agreement, which virtually forms the basis of the efforts to formulate a new “National Land Reforms Policy”, also lays emphasis on effective implementation of PESA as a prerequisite for developing a just and balanced land rights system. However, on February 5, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests accorded “a general approval for diversion of forest land for undertaking developmental activities by the State Government Departments for the welfare of the people”, under its guidelines F. No. 11-9/1998-FC (pt). The explanation of “developmental activities” “for the welfare of the people” apparently involves infrastructure projects in different sectors.

Observers of tribal and environmental issues, such as E.A.S. Sarma, former Secretary to the Government of India, have pointed out that this government guideline is in clear violation of PESA and the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006. The FRA was enacted to recognise and vest forest rights and occupation in forest land in forest-dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers who had been residing in such forests for generations but whose rights could not be recorded.

U-turn on Governors’ powers

A few days after the promulgation of the guideline, the Union government filed an affidavit in the Bilaspur High Court in Chhattisgarh which overturned its own earlier positions on the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution and PESA. The government, through the affidavit filed by the Additional Solicitor General, negated the “discretionary powers” entitled to the Governor in the Fifth Schedule. Its contention was that the Fifth Schedule was after all only a part of the Constitution and the general principle of the Governor acting only on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers applied here too.

A.M. FARUQUI 

OCTOBER 3, 2012: Thousands of protesters, mostly poor farmers and tribal people, set out from Gwalior on the Jan Satyagraha march demanding land rights. 

Interestingly, this also negated the opinion placed on record by former Attorneys General Goolam E. Vahnavati and Soli J. Sorabjee. Both had held that the Governor did indeed have discretionary powers under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution. Vahanvati undertook a detailed study of the provisions of the Fifth Schedule before giving this opinion in April 2010. In fact, the position articulated by Vahanvati has been the line consistently taken by the Supreme Court since 1997, for example in Bhuri Nath and Ors vs Govt. of J&K and in the Samata case. But in one single stroke, the UPA seems to have subverted the government’s own considered positions of the past.

The Union government’s affidavit came about in the context of a public interest petition against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Chhattisgarh. The State government had anointed Chief Minister Raman Singh as the Chairperson of the Tribal Advisory Council (TAC) and the petition filed by the social activist B.K. Manish had argued against this, stating that it was a violation of Para 4(2) of the Fifth Schedule, which stipulated that the TAC would advise on matters referred to it by the Governor. Clearly, both the ruling UPA and the principal opposition party, the BJP, are on the same page when it comes to undermining PESA and the Fifth Schedule.

Referring to these developments, the land rights activist Ramesh Sharma, who is associated with the Ekta Parishad, stated that these manoeuvres of the country’s two principal mainstream parties pointed to an organised attempt to thwart tribal land rights in general and PESA in particular. “Even at the best of times the implementation of PESA was faulty and patchy. It seems that the effort is to institutionalise its ineffectiveness. In other words, make the Act a paper tiger. This, in fact, has been an ongoing process, which has gathered increasing momentum over the past decade and a half,” Sharma told Frontline.

Other land rights activists and observers point out that while the Adivasis have historically depended on their traditional rights over the region’s jal, jangal aur jameen (water, forests and land), indiscriminate land acquisition by different governments for multinational mining corporations in the past two decades has led to considerable displacement and exploitation of these people. The legal rights and immunity that were guaranteed to Adivasis in the Constitution were frequently bypassed or misinterpreted by various governments to suit corporate interests in the mineral-rich lands of Indian forests. While the governments have justified the acquisition of lands in the name of economic growth, the Adivasis were never made stakeholders in the process of industrial development. Neither their participation nor their consent was sought in the rush for industrialisation, nor were they given any proper rehabilitation benefits.

However, Adivasis have resisted such government and corporate initiatives and struggled to retain their rights over the natural resources. In many places, the struggles have been violent, as in the case of the Bastar region in south Chhattisgarh; in other areas, Adivasis, along with civil society groups, have tried to regain their rights by fighting militant social and legal battles and reminding the government time and again of their constitutional rights.

Exploitation by States

As activists like Sharma point out, it is in this context of indiscriminate land acquisitions and industrialisation that PESA has become the most violated legislation at present. The governments, both in the States and at the Centre, have exploited semantic loopholes in the Act to circumvent its provisions and deny the tribal people any sort of self-governance. And in the past few years, this has become the most important point of contestation for the tribal people in India’s hinterland. In almost all such land acquisitions in tribal areas, PESA has been violated in some way or the other. “There are three important gaps that the governments exploited to bypass the Act: first, PESA is a loosely drafted Act; second, there is no overarching clause that protects it from being bypassed by the State governments; and third, the word ‘consultation’ with the tribal people, as mentioned in the Act, is not clearly defined,” Neelabh Dubey, an advocate in the Bilaspur High Court, told Frontline.

PESA uses the word “consultation” with the tribal people, and the governments have used it to their own advantage by not taking the consent of the villagers concerned before any acquisition of land. Activists have pointed out several incidents where the State governments have falsely claimed that the villagers were “consulted”; as PESA does not require a written approval from the gram sabha, the governments are not bound to show a written statement.

V.V. KRISHNAN 

OCTOBER 11, 2012: Jairam Ramesh, Union Minister for Rural Development, and P.V. Rajagopal of Ekta Parishad in Agra before the Parishad and the Union Ministry of Rural Development signed the agreement on land reforms. The Jan Satyagraha march the Parishad led was called off subsequently. 

PESA mandates that the gram sabha or panchayats should be consulted at an “appropriate level” before any decision. Videh Upadhay, an advocate, points out that the governments have, however, distorted the meaning of “appropriate level” and have not even bothered to consult the gram sabhas and have resorted to seeking opinions only from district-level committees, most of whose representatives are stooges of one political party or the other. In many instances, the consultations for land acquisition were done with district committees 500 kilometres from the area where land had to be acquired.

Such problems stem from the larger fact that PESA empowers the State governments to frame rules. PESA mandates that within a year of its promulgation, the rules for the panchayats in the Fifth Schedule areas have to be legislated keeping in mind the regional contexts. But except for Madhya Pradesh, no other State has done this. Recently, Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh, on his visit to Kalahandi, Odisha, was shocked to find out that none of the villagers knew about PESA. Odisha remains among the many States that have not framed rules for PESA even 16 years after its promulgation. That PESA offers flexibility and does not have universal rules owing to the varied conditions and contexts of every tribal area has been used by State governments to their own advantage. For example, PESA does not make it necessary for the governments to empower the panchayats with fiscal and administrative powers such as collecting taxes and fees. And this limits the autonomy of the tribal areas.

In the past few years, more than 600 villages were converted into urban panchayats as the State governments have the power to upgrade rural panchayats. Upgrading has generally been an effective tool to bypass PESA, which mandates the gram sabha’s approval for land acquisition for industrial and mining projects. In most of the upgraded villages, there is a conspicuous industrial drive at present. Barring Madhya Pradesh, the States, in stark violation of Section 4(n) of PESA, have enacted laws that provide the bulk of the powers to the gram panchayat instead of the gram sabha. Panchayats, being an elected body, have also been heavily corrupted by money and muscle power.

In addition to all these violations, activists have noticed that in many places, districts came up with their own rules for PESA to dilute the powers of the gram sabha. PESA was drafted in an open-ended manner to make it flexible so that its vision of guaranteeing tribal autonomy is not compromised. But the way the State governments have gone about formulating rules for it have completely violated that spirit.

In a 2006 report on PESA violations, a joint effort of the Planning Commission, the Land Resources Department of the Ministry of Rural Development, and the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, a number of such violations have been reported from Raigarh, a district of Chhattisgarh. In at least four blocks of Raigarh, where there are many investment proposals, PESA has not only been bypassed but also not considered by the State government (“Standing up to the state,” Frontline, June 17, 2011). Because of such violations, which are in stark contrast to the spirit of PESA, more and more lands are being alienated from the tribal people, and the natural resources that they had been dependent on are being taken away from them on a daily basis.

Out of the total tribal population of India, more than 40 per cent has already been displaced. This is happening when, even by government estimates, more than 60 per cent of the Adivasis are classified as living in extreme poverty with no access to land, adequate food, health facilities and education. In such circumstances, even minor violations of laws like PESA and other provisions of the Fifth Schedule have an enormous impact on them. Violations of PESA make a mockery of India’s boasts participatory democracy.

 

Gujarat – Different riot, same story #antisikhriots


MIDDAY

17APR2013

 

Ranjona Banerji, Mid Day 

Just as anyone who lived in Delhi through the anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984 or the Mumbai riots of 1992 and 1993 knows what happened, that is true of Gujarat 2002 as well. Trying to get to office on February 2008 – a day after the attack on the Sabarmati Express — was a harrowing experience, dodging mobs out on the roads in Ahmedabad, looting and burning.

The policemen who I saw that day stood quietly in corners, away from the mayhem. They looked away when they were exhorted to help.

What the investigation, broadcast by a news channel this week, into the police wireless reports from February 27 onwards shows is that there were some police officers who were well aware of what was happening and were asking for help even as the situation got out of control. Also evident from the innumerable messages from the State Intelligence Bureau is that there was awareness about the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal gathering forces and fear over the outcome. The riots were not spontaneous or sudden, as claimed by the state and Central governments.

All this was evident on the streets on Ahmedabad. While a restaurant near my residence in that city was being vandalised, people in cars called for hand carts on their cell phones to carry away the discarded furniture. The restaurant only served vegetarian food but its name was ambivalent and could well have been Muslim. The anti-Muslim rhetoric and cries of “revenge” for the Godhra attack were everywhere.

College professors visited the newspaper office where I worked, initially shame- faced and then slipping in lines like “ but maybe they deserved it”, harking back to the raids on the Somnath temple by Mahmud of Ghazni.

The government took too long to respond, the police commissioner never left his office — even though there was mayhem on the streets outside and victims arriving in hundreds in camps a stone’s throw away. The army also came too late. Riots are always shameful and shocking and rarely if even spontaneous. But usually even the most cynically manipulative of governments makes an attempt to control proceedings. In Gujarat in 2002 however it seemed as the riots were allowed to continue — with incidences of violence stretching into months.

There is some anger and resentment — perhaps understandable — that is there is too much focus on Gujarat when rioters elsewhere have escaped. This is definitely true.

Jagdish Tytler appears defiantly free, defending himself on TV when victim after victim named him for the attacks on Sikhs after Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984. The worst example is perhaps Mumbai. The hand of the Shiv Sena in the riots is well known.

The Srikrishna Commission indicted the party from its late chief Bal Thackeray downwards. Nothing happened to the Sena and nothing happened to the investigations into the riots. The case into the1993 bomb blasts which followed the riots has seen closure, with much public attention.

So far, the public discourse about riots has been disquieting, even toxic.

If religious minorities — like Muslims in Gujarat 2002 or in Bombay 1992- 1993 — are the targets then we fall into a lose- lose spiral of accusations of false secularism, demands of ubernationalism, complaints of appeasement and what is nothing short of majoritarian bullying. We seem unable to accept that religion per se — whether it is used by Muslims or Hindus or anyone else — cannot and must not be a justification for violence. Governments do not like to probe riots too deeply because they feel that given the amount mass level anger or hatred exposed, such wounds are best left untouched and ignored.

Gujarat then is the first opportunity to India to clean up its act. It is thanks to the Supreme Court alone — as far as a Constitutional authority goes — that the Gujarat riots have seen any move towards justice.

Unfortunately, the apex court had to step in because of the reluctance of the state government to move on the cases against rioters. Therefore, while there may be inherent unfairness about riots in the past, this is one opportunity to provide a template for justice in the future.

 

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist.

You can follow her on Twitter @ranjona

 

Why is Narendra Mod i- Accused No 1


Why Modi is accused no-1?

DNA Correspondent, April 16,2013

MODI1

Zakia Jafri’s petition claims Modi administration had supported and ignored communal violence in 2002. The state police and administration did not pay heed to intelligence bureau record about hate speeches by right wing activists and mobilisation of mob. DNA brings excerpts of the protest petition.

l Modi contacts the then VHP leader Dr Jaideep Patel immediately after information of the Godhra tragedy comes in, even before he meets home department officials

l Sinister decision was taken in ‘mini-cabinet’ meeting at Godhra where Patel was present

l Administration and police were deliberately paralyzed and neutralized by conspiracy hatched by Modi and the then DGP K Chakravarti, the then police commissioner PC Pande, additional chief secretary (home) Ashok Narayan and other important officials

l Victory of Modi in Rajkot by-election a week before Godhra riots with a very slender margin

l Ehsan Jafri had been active campaigner against Modi.

l Meeting at Modi’s residence on February 27, 2002 night effectively neutralized the police and administration.

l Alert messages of State Intelligence Bureau (SIT) of provocation and build up of mobs as well as showing possibilities of violence were ignored.

l The SIT deliberately conceals and ignored during the probe regarding documents of SIB regarding hate speeches issued by RSS and VHP workers.

 

#India – Woman brutally assaulted with iron rods in Ludhiana as people look on #Vaw #WTFnews


IANS | Apr 17, 2013, 04.00 PM IST

READ MORE Ludhiana Assault|Iron Rods
Ludhiana: Four men beat up woman in public

Ludhiana: Four men beat up woman in public
LUDHIANA: A woman was brutally assaulted with iron rods and sticks by a group of men in Punjab’s Ludhiana district – people watched as she cried for help but little help was forthcoming.The incident, which once again demonstrates societal indifference, took place on April 3 and was captured on camera. It comes close on the heels of last month’s incident of Punjab police officers brutally thrashing a young woman in Tarn Taran district.

The victim filed a complaint, leading police in Ludhiana to register a case and launch a hunt to arrest the accused.

Police officials said the woman had gone to meet the accused and demanded that they return the Rs 20,000 that they owed her. She insisted that her money be refunded. At this, the men assaulted her with iron rods and sticks.

Though there were other people present on the spot, none came to the rescue of the helpless woman.

An elderly man and another woman seen in the video trying to stop the men were also attacked and shooed away.

The victim was not only beaten but pushed to the ground and thrashed even as she cried for help.

“We have identified the men involved in this crime. We will arrest them soon,” a police officer said.

 

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