#India- Adivasis / Tribals march for autonomy- #Indigenous

The water, forest and land rights of the Adivasis and a permanent solution to the continuing violence in the region are the major issues behind the 300-kilometer foot march

Anil Mishra, Tehelka

March 13, 2013

Public meeting of the Adivasi Mahasabha

In the afternoon heat, thousands of Adivasis holding red flags are leading a foot march in the naxal dominated areas of Bastar. It is alleged that the constitutional system has collapsed, the government is not ready to accept the Supreme Court’s orders, there is violation of the Fifth Schedule and the PESA Act, the government along with private companies wants to rob the natural resources of this region and that the very existence of the Adivasis is in danger. To tackle this situation, it is important to notify Bastar as an autonomous district under the Sixth Schedule of the constitution. Intellectuals from around the world are supporting this demand of the Adivasis. A glimpse of this support was seen on 9th March in Dantewada, when Professor Nandini Sunder, High Court lawyer Sudha Bharapdwaj, Smiti Sharma, Neelabh Dubey, six research scholars from Azim Premji University, Shahana Mangesh from National Law University Bengaluru, members of the Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan, SKMS general secretary Rajesh Sandhu and Professor Justin Podar from York University in Canada, members of Chhattisgarh Swabhiman Manch and around two dozen representatives from various organisations from around the world reached there.

The foot march which started under the banner of the CPI and the Adivasi Mahasabha, started in Konta on 1st March and will end on 15th March in Jagdalpur. Adivasis from remote areas are coming to take part in the march organised under the leadership of Manish Kunjum, former MLA of the CPI and National President of the Adivasi Mahasabha. The water, forest and land rights of the Adivasis and a permanent solution to the continuing violence in the region are the major issues behind this 300-kilometer foot march, although the list of demands is quite long. These include demands for cancellation of all the MOUs signed with the mining and power companies in Bastar, to immediately stop the work on the Polavaram, Bodhghat and Telavarti power projects, removal of the Central Security Forces from Bastar and removal of the Army training centre, judicial enquiry into the cases of massacre including the one at Sarkeguda and the filing of FIR’s against the accused. There is also an emphasis on demands to bring NDMC headquarters to Bastar, to stop non – Adivasis from occupying Adivasi land, to stop forced acquisition of village land for police line and helipad and to enable the committee, formed after the release of the Sukma Collector, for the release of thousands of innocent Adivasis from jail.

On 9th March, sociologist Nandini Sunder, speaking before thousands of Adivasis, accused the state government of violating the orders of the Supreme Court. She said that on Salwa Judum the Supreme Court had ordered that the recruitment of the SPO’s be cancelled and their guns taken back but the government acted in an opposite manner. The SPO’s were made a part of the auxiliary force, their salaries were increased and they were given more advanced weapons. The Supreme Court had also ordered for FIR’s to be registered in cases of violence during Salwa Judum, rehabilitation of the villagers, and compensation for Adivasis affected by the violence but the government has not followed any of its orders. The forces were not removed from the schools and the government continued to lie before the Supreme Court in this case. Now we have filed a case of contempt of court but the state government has been successful in delaying the matter on some pretext or the other. She said that according to the census figures it is clear that the population of the Adivasis is decreasing in Dantewada, Bijapur and Sarguja. Adivasis are being killed, people are being forced to migrate and those who stayed back in the villages are so petrified that they scared to even raise a family. The women have fought bravely in Bastar but the government is with the rapists. Only recently three girls who were raped during the Salwa Judum were forced to take back the case under the pressure of the police. The constitutional system has collapsed here. The Sixth Schedule is the only alternative.

Former Central Minister Arvind Netam and general secretary of the CPI, Atul Anjaan, also supported the demands of the Adivasis in the gathering.

In a conversation with TEHELKA, Manish Kunjam, President of the Adivasi Mahasabha and leader of the foot march, said that this is a fight for the rights of the Adivasis and they would achieve it. Given below are some excerpts from the conversation.

What would you achieve from this foot march?

We are fighting for the water, forest and land rights of the Adivasis. We stopped Tata from coming to Bastar, fought against ESSAR. We put a stop to Salwa Judum by leading a struggle against them. The question is, how long would we have to fight? Now we need permanent solutions to the problems. To have a rule of law we need the Sixth Schedule in Bastar.

But the Fifth Schedule is already there, so why do we need the Sixth Schedule?

The Fifth Schedule is not being implemented. In scheduled areas notified under the Fifth Schedule (where the tribals are entitled to special rights to the land as well as forests and mineral resources) the land of the Adivasis are being acquired for private companies, without the Gram Sabha’s permission. The national as well as international companies are interested in the natural resources of Bastar and the government is not even ready to accept the orders of the Supreme Court. The constitutional system has collapsed over here; therefore autonomy is the only solution.

What is the guarantee of the Sixth Schedule’s compliance?

For years, the Adivasi’s have tolerated exploitation and cruelty. Now we want autonomy. If there is autonomy, the Adivasis will be able to take their own decisions. The PESA Act would be implemented and the Adivasis would have rights over their water, forests and land. This is also necessary to tackle the violence and armed revolution in Bastar.

But the non-Adivasis of Bastar remain apprehensive about the Sixth Schedule.

All these years the Adivasis have not demanded anything, now they want autonomy to save their land, art, culture and their very existence. What is wrong in this? This would not harm the non – Adivasis of Bastar. The educated people should be better informed about the Sixth Schedule.

It is alleged that the state government is not following the orders of the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court orders on Salwa Judum are not being implemented. The Judum movement was started by the Center and the state government, therefore who would implement the orders that came against it. Both the national as well as international companies are coming to rob Bastar. All this is a conspiracy to give them the Adivasi land.


#Yemen: Security Forces Raiding Aden Hospitals

Forcible Arrests of Alleged Militants Threaten Health Care
OCTOBER 20, 2012
  • Saleh Amhad Abdullah, 16, in intensive care at Aden‘s al-Nabiq Hospital, two days after being shot in the head on October 7, 2012, during an exchange of gunfire while he was selling fruit outside the medical center.
    © 2012 Letta Tayler/Human Rights Watch
Gunfights in hospitals put patients and medical workers at grave risk and threaten to shut down health care in Aden. Both security forces and their opponents are showing callous indifference to human life.
Letta Tayler, senior Yemen researcher

(Aden) ­– Yemeni state security forces are threatening health care in Aden by forcibly removing wounded alleged militants from hospitals, exchanging fire with gunmen seeking to block the arrests, and beating medical staff. One hospital in that southern port city has suspended operations as a result.

Aden security forces describe the patients they have sought to arrest as suspects in serious crimes, including attacks against state security forces or armed robbery. Sources link most if not all of the wounded patients to Herak (“Southern Movement”), a coalition of groups seeking greater autonomy or independence for former South Yemen. Gunmen supporting and protecting the alleged militants have fueled the violence by firing at state security forces on hospital grounds.

“Gunfights in hospitals put patients and medical workers at grave risk and threaten to shut down health care in Aden,” said Letta Tayler, senior Yemen researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Both security forces and their opponents are showing callous indifference to human life.”

Government security forces have entered two hospitals in Aden at least five times in 2012 to arrest alleged militants, without warrants and despite warnings from doctors that the patients required continued hospitalization.

On October 7, 2012, state paramilitary forces allegedly beat hospital guards and shot a 16-year-old fruit vendor in the head during an exchange of gunfire with gunmen trying to block the arrest of two alleged militants being treated for gunshot wounds at Aden’s al-Naqib hospital.

“He had no gun. He was only selling fruit,” one of the teenager’s relatives told Human Rights Watch at the hospital two days later. “He was shot as he ducked to escape the bullets.” The international humanitarian organization Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) indefinitely suspended operations at its Aden hospital after a similar gunfight on September 27.

The Central Security Forces (CSF), a state paramilitary unit, has played a prominent role in the hospital raids, which took place at al-Naqib and the MSF hospital. CSF is commanded by Yahya Saleh, the nephew of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who left office in February after a yearlong uprising. In the October 7 incident at al-Naqib, the CSF carted off a seriously wounded patient from the intensive care unit after pulling out his drainage tubes, two witnesses and a senior hospital official told Human Rights Watch.

For fear of similar attacks, medical officials told Human Rights Watch nearly all hospitals in Aden except al-Naqib now generally refuse to admit politically sensitive patients.

Governor Waheed Rasheed of Aden, in an interview with Human Rights Watch, described the wounded patients as “dangerous militants.”

Local sources say the majority if not all of the patients sought by the authorities were members of Herak. Herak was formed in 2007to obtain more resources for South Yemen, an independent state until unification with the north in 1990. Herak includes many non-violent groups but also armed separatist factions. State security forces have repeatedly used excessive and often deadly force against largely peaceful Herak protests. Since the 2011 uprising and particularly since Saleh left office, armed Herak members have attacked state security forces and other government targets, Yemeni government authorities and independent political observers say.

The Yemeni government is responsible for ensuring the security of hospitals and other medical facilities. Consistent with the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, security forces acting in a law enforcement capacity “shall, as far as possible, apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms.” Whenever the use of force is unavoidable, security forces shall “[e]xercise restraint in such use and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offence and the legitimate objective to be achieved.”

Patients in hospitals are not immune from lawful arrest. However, they retain their right to health care as provided under international law. The forcible removal of seriously wounded patients from a hospital, placing their lives or health at risk, violates this right.

Human Rights Watch called on Yemeni authorities to take immediate measures to protect patients and medical workers from the excessive use of force and arbitrary arrests by security personnel. Governor Rasheed told Human Rights Watch that the government is committed to protecting patients and medical staff.

The armed men who try to prevent the security forces from making arrests in hospitals are also seriously risking the lives of patients and medical personnel, Human Rights Watch said.

“Whatever their agendas, gunmen should not turn hospitals into shooting galleries,” Tayler said. “At the same time, the government should minimize risks to patients and hospital staff and stop depriving alleged militants of their right to medical treatment.”

For more details on the attack, please see the below text.

Attacks on al-Naqib
At 5 a.m. on October 7, about 10 armed members of the Central Security Forces (CSF) stormed al-Naqib Hospital and forcibly removed two wounded alleged militants, hospital staff members who witnessed the incident told Human Rights Watch. The security forces told hospital officials that the two patients had attacked a local CSF post two days earlier. About 20 additional members of various security forces surrounded the hospital, the staff members said.

The CSF members beat two hospital guards with Kalashnikov assault rifles and a gurney, dislocating one guard’s shoulder, the staff members said. The CSF members grabbed cell phones from patients and hospital staff, tore out the telephone landlines when staff tried to call the hospital’s managers, and charged into rooms searching for the alleged militants, they said.

“We were terrified,” one hospital worker told Human Rights Watch. “They were shouting and cursing at us and pointing their Kalashnikovs at anyone in their path.”

Gunmen who were linked to the alleged militants opened fire on the CSF members from outside the hospital, starting a gunfight, hospital staff said. Two days later, hospital staff showed Human Rights Watch four bullet holes in the ground-floor pharmacy, one in the intensive-care unit and several in the front of the building that they said were from the shootout.

One bullet hit Salah Ahmad Abdullah, the 16-year-old who had been selling fruit outside the hospital. Medical staff said witnesses told them that a CSF member shot the boy as he ducked between his fruit stand and a passing van to avoid the gunfire. The bullet entered Abdullah’s skull and exited the back of his head.

Two days after the shooting, Human Rights Watch saw Abdullah in intensive care at the hospital, unable to speak. Doctors said the bullet removed some of his brain tissue.

The CSF members removed one alleged militant from al-Naqib’s intensive care unit, where he was recovering from surgery after being shot in the lungs, according to two hospital staff members who said they witnessed the incident. Ignoring repeated objections from medical staff, the CSF members pulled out the two tubes draining liquid from the patient’s lungs, then removed him in a government ambulance with no medical staff aboard.

CSF and other security forces have on several occasions forcibly removed wounded alleged militants and activists, including known Herak members, from al-Naqib hospital without arrest warrants and against doctors’ orders since 2007, including at least two other times in 2012, medical staff said. In February 2011, masked security forces stormed the hospital and detained a Herak leader, Hassan Baoum, and his son Fawaz. The former Yemeni government held the two men without charge for 10 months, half of that time incommunicado.

Shootings at MSF Hospital
On September 27, security forces and gunmen trying to stop the arrests of two alleged militants undergoing medical treatment engaged in a five-hour standoff that included two protracted exchanges of gunfire at the MSF hospital in Aden, two witnesses and a third source who investigated the incident told Human Rights Watch.

The attack prompted MSF to evacuate all 24 patients and close the facility the following day. Since opening in April, the 40-bed MSF hospital had treated hundreds of patients, including Herak members, government forces, landmine victims, and residents wounded in nearby Abyan governorate, where the Yemeni government with United States support is fighting Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

The security forces accused the two patients of crimes including armed robbery. One of the patients was recovering from abdominal surgery for bullet wounds and was under medical orders to remain hospitalized for at least 24 hours.

During the afternoon, personnel from the CSF, the Central Investigations Division, and General Security – the regular police force – entered the MSF hospital without arrest warrants, demanding that staff hand over one or both wounded suspects, the witnesses said. Some security force members beat and threatened two hospital guards, the witnesses said.

Around 6 p.m., another six CSF members entered the hospital to arrest the two patients, while four carloads of reinforcements waited outside. Soon after, gunmen supporting one or both alleged militants converged on the hospital and began shooting at the CSF forces that were then at the hospital door. The CSF members took cover inside the hospital and began returning fire. Three bullets entered the hospital ward and one hit the office manager’s office, the witnesses said.

“Gunfire was entering the building from two directions, and those of us inside the hospital were caught in the middle,” one witness told Human Rights Watch. “We took refuge in a corridor, hoping the bullets wouldn’t reach us.”

One CSF member was wounded during the shooting and was stabilized inside the hospital as the gunfight continued, the witnesses said.

After several hours of negotiations, the state security forces and gunmen withdrew and the Yemeni authorities removed the two wounded alleged militants. The Yemeni forces transferred the patient who had just undergone surgery by ambulance to the medical center at Aden’s General Security prison. On October 4, one week after MSF closed the hospital following the incident, CSF personnel showed up at the MSF office in Aden with the same patient, saying that his condition had deteriorated and that he needed emergency care but that no hospital would admit him.

“The security forces were asking, ‘Can’t you help him?’” a witness told Human Rights Watch. “The MSF members replied, ‘We can’t treat him because we had to close our hospital.’” Ultimately the authorities transferred the patient to another hospital.

On June 18, 2012, government security forces stormed the MSF hospital to arrest another alleged militant who was recovering from surgery for a bullet wound, prompting the hospital to suspend operations for three days. Tensions were running high because of numerous Herak protests in the preceding days and a suicide bombing in Aden earlier that day that had killed the Yemeni army commander for the southern region, Gen. Salem Ali Qatan. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for that bombing.

The security forces included CSF members, who terrified staff and patients as they demanded custody of the alleged militant, witnesses said. “They were heavily armed and acting crazed,” one witness told Human Rights Watch.

MSF eventually negotiated the transfer of the alleged militant to a state-run hospital in a government ambulance. En route, supporters of the patient ambushed the ambulance and escaped with the patient, sources told Human Rights Watch.


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