Dayamani Barla – The Voice of Jharkhand #indigenous #tribalrights


EPW, Vol – XLVIII No. 23, June 08, 2013 | Moushumi Basu

Activist-journalist Dayamani Barla has won many awards, the latest being the Ellen L Lutz Indigenous Rights Award from Cultural Survival. The first journalist from the Munda tribe in Jharkhand Dayamani wields her pen and leads the struggles of fellow tribals equally powerfully against the machinations of the state and big business.

Moushumi Basu (basu.moushumi@gmail.com)is a freelance journalist based in Kolkata

The email status message of Dayamani Barla, the tribal activist from Jharkhand always reads, “Ladenge.. Jeetenge…” (We will fight… we will win). Fighting against the establishment’s unjust policies and protecting her fellow tribals from displacement has become second nature for Dayamani. Along with the struggles however, there have also been awards and accolades.

The awards she has won include the Counter Media Award for Rural Journalism, the National Foundation for India Fellowship, and the Chingari Award. The latest is the 2013 Ellen L Lutz Indigenous Rights Award from Cultural Survival, an international non-governmental organization (NGO) in recognition of her pioneering  grass root leadership for tribal rights. Cultural Survival works with indigenous peoples across the world to defend their lands, language and culture.  Barla was chosen from amongst 60 nominees from across the world.

Described as the “Iron Lady of Jharkhand” for her fearless opposition against the infringement of adivasi rights, she was presented the award, which includes a US $10,000 cash prize, at a ceremony at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York on 23 May. The event also coincides with the twelfth session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). The award has been instituted in the memory of late Ellen L Lutz (1955-2010), a well-known human rights lawyer and former executive director of Cultural Survival.

“Cultural Survival is honored to present Dayamani Barla, an Indigenous human rights activist and journalist from the Munda tribe in the Indian state of Jharkhand, with the award,” said its Executive Director Suzanne Benally. Barla has been at the forefront of people’s movements against corporate and government-led land grabs and other injustices that threaten the survival, dignity, and livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples. “This award is presented in recognition of outstanding human rights work, dedicated leadership for Indigenous Peoples rights, and a deep life commitment to protecting, sustaining, and revitalising indigenous cultures, lands, and languages,” Benally added.

Protecting Every Inch of Land

Her crusade to protect the rights of fellow tribals began from the days of agitation against the Koel Karo  hydel power project in the 1990s, near Ranchi, in then undivided Bihar. The proposed dam threatened to submerge nearly 55,000 acres of agricultural land displacing about 2,50,000 indigenous people.  Further, 27,000 acres of forests would have met a watery grave alongwith the sarna sasan diri (religious sites) of the tribal communities. The agitation gave birth to a new slogan “We will not part with an inch of our land….” which continues to reverberate in the tribal areas of Jharkhand even today. The proposal of the dam had to be finally shelved by the state government, after nearly eight tribals lost their lives in police firing on 2 February, 2001.

Barla points out:

Koel and Karo are not just rivers for us – they represent our cultural identity forming the basis of our livelihoods. When eight adivasis were martyred on 2 February, we realised that the state whose foundation stone was laid on 15 November 2000 is not actually for us tribals, but simply for the exploitation and plunder of  the natural resources of our native state and jeopardisation of our existence….

She took the challenge headlong on behalf of her tribal community, leading several agitations in the state against land grabs. She dared to rise against the world steel giant Arcelor Mittal who had proposed  a 12 MT steel plant by taking away about 12,000 acres of land spread across nearly 40 villages in Khunti and Gumla districts of the state.  In 2006 she began mobilising the public against such attempts at forcible land acquisition under the banner of the Adivasi Moolvasi Astitva Raksha Manch (Forum for the Protection of Indigenous People).

“ Loha nahi anaj chahiye!” (“We want grains, not iron!”) was the rallying cry of indigenous communities protesting against this project.  “The government says that those getting displaced will be compensated and rehabilitated. But the question is – what will the government and the companies compensate for?” asks Barla. “Can they rehabilitate our pure air, forests, rivers, waterfalls, our language culture, Sarna-Sasan Diri, our identity and our history? No, that is absolutely impossible…for us adivasis land is just not land but the heritage of our ancestors who cleared the forests and made the land worth living and cultivating,” she adds. Finally, the steel baron had to give up his dreams of setting up a steel plant in the tribal state.

Tribal Model of Development

Barla however clarifies that the tribals are not against development but it should be sustainable and not at the cost of uprooting them. “We should also be a part of this development process by getting access to health, education, jobs etc. We want development of our identity and our history— social values, language and culture. We want the polluted rivers to be pollution free. We want wastelands to be turned green…. This is our model of development”, she says.

Recently, the state government was locked in a major anti-displacement struggle against adivasi farmers at Nagri. Barla who was at the forefront of the agitation was jailed from 16 October to 24 December, for taking part in demonstrations with the farmers of Jharkhand. The battle was over 227 acres of fertile land that has sustained the tribals in the region for generations. However, the  government had allotted it to the Indian Institute of Management, the Indian Institute of Information Technology and the National University of Study and Research in Law (NUSRL). Caught in this crossfire were about 128 affected families, who claim to be the lawful owners of the land. They contend that neither they nor their forefathers had agreed to sell their lands and had not accepted the amounts for the deal at that time.

Is This Freedom?

Coming from a family of bonded labourers who had lost their lands in the name of national development, Barla could well identify with their sufferings. Barla argued that the instituions be allotted alternative area for their campuses instead of their fertile paddy land. “If we demand a National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) card, they issue a property warrant. If we demand our land, water, forests, the Jharkhand government says we are a danger to the state. They book us in false cases, by calling us Maoists…. Is this the freedom that leaders like Birsa Munda fought for?” she asks.

Considered as the “Voice of Jharkhand” for her struggles and powerful pen, she is also the first journalist from the Munda tribe. “Barla has charted new waters as an Indigenous woman to ensure the voices and perspectives of Adivasi people are heard by the larger mainstream society,” says her nominator Terry Odendahl, executive director and CEO of Global Greengrants Fund. She funded her education by working as a domestic help. Even today, her source of livelihood is a road side tea and snacks stall “Jharkhand Hotel”, run by her husband Nelson.

For Barla, activism and journalism go hand in hand.  “When I visit different villages as a journalist I listen to their issues first. Then they ask for possible solutions to their concerns and in the process, I find myself getting involved in their struggles”, she confesses.

But to be involved with the struggles and stand with the people does not mean that she has to quit writing. “I am an activist as well as a journalist.” However, it has not been easy for her to make forays into mainstream journalism “It has always looked down upon us adivasis as uncivilised, naïve and foolish. It is a stereotype to say that adivasi are stupid. Now we are trying to prove that we are not… ” she says, smiling.

 

World listens to ‘Iron Lady of Jharkhand’ in the Big Apple


New York, May 25, 2013

Narayan Lakshman, The Hindu 

Jharkhand adivasi rights activist Dayamani Barla receives the Ellen L. Lutz Indigenous Rights Award from Suzanne Benally, executive director of Cultural Survival, an indigenous peoples’ rights organisation.Photo: Narayan Lakshman
Photo: Narayan Lakshman Jharkhand adivasi rights activist Dayamani Barla receives the Ellen L. Lutz Indigenous Rights Award from Suzanne Benally, executive director of Cultural Survival, an indigenous peoples’ rights organisation.Photo: Narayan Lakshman

Dayamani Barla was presented with the first ever Ellen L. Lutz Indigenous Rights Award by Cultural Survival, an indigenous peoples’ rights organisation

The Big Apple is renowned as the home of investment banks, glitzy fashion shows and other 21st-century tributes to prodigious wealth accumulation. But on Thursday it played host to a powerful symbol of Indian adivasis’ struggle against oppression, Jharkhand activist and journalist Dayamani Barla.

On a rainy and blustering evening in Manhattan, Ms. Barla, who has been described as the “Iron Lady of Jharkhand” for her fearless opposition to the infringement of adivasi rights was presented with the first ever Ellen L. Lutz Indigenous Rights Award by Cultural Survival, an indigenous peoples’ rights organisation.

After an eloquent address at the reception in her honour at New York’s National Museum of the American Indian, Ms. Barla told The Hindu that she doubted whether this international recognition would make a difference to the situation in Jharkhand, but added that those who opposed the adivasis’ struggle to preserve “jal, jungle, jameen” may now have pause to consider why the U.S. had thus honoured their cause.

The self-made scribe, who rose from humble beginnings to become the voice of the Munda tribe and other deprived communities, has reason to worry about the situation back home. In all Ms. Barla is said to have nine cases foisted on her by the government and people associated with the award indicated that she had faced obstacles in leaving Jharkhand for this event in the U.S.

On October 18 last year, she was jailed for two months for demanding job cards for the rural poor in Angada block under the NREGA scheme, a charge that stemmed from a 2006 case against her.

Although she got bail two days later, she was immediately re-arrested in relation to two other cases, where she was accused of disrupting law and order during a protest. Keeping up her journalistic mission, she wrote from her jail cell that the “looters of the state have become well-wishers in the eyes of the government.”

On that occasion Nagri residents and activists stepped up the demand for her release and prominent intellectuals, including Noam Chomsky, Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey, signed a petition “strongly condemning [her] unjust incarceration… and demand that the false cases against her be dropped and that she be released immediately.”

Terry Odendahl of Global Greengrants Fund, who nominated Ms. Barla for the award, reflected on the Jharkhand police’s attempts to silence her protests when she said, “Dayamani’s jailing was a reminder to civil rights activists across the nation of the unfriendly role the Jharkhand state is taking towards drivers of democratic change.”

Ms. Barla’s determination to keep the forces of India’s modern capitalist machine from eating into adivasi land clearly caught the eye of the award selection committee, which picked her out of a group of nearly 60 nominees.

Alongside her colleagues from the Adivasi Moolvasi Astitva Raksha Manch, Ms. Barla in 2008, succeeded in preventing global steel and mining industry behemoth ArcelorMittal, from proceeding with the establishment of a $8.79 billion steel plant based on the proposed seizure of 12,000 acres of land and the displacement of 40 villages, not to mention the likely ecosystem and indigenous livelihoods damage.

In an article written at the time she was quoted saying, “We will not allow the ArcelorMittal Company to enter into the villages because one cannot be rehabilitated once displaced. The lands which we cultivate belong to our ancestors; therefore we will not leave it.”

Since 2010, she has also led numerous protests in Nagri village, nearly 16 km from Ranchi, against the Jharkhand government’s efforts to acquire over 200 acres of farmland to set up IIM, IIT and National Law School campuses.

On Thursday, a captivated audience of human rights lawyers, academics, and members of indigenous communities from across the world listened as Ms. Barla said that in the span of 12 years, the Jharkhand government had signed 104 MoUs with corporate, 98 per cent of which were mining interests with a strong demand for natural resources in the region.

“If the government gives land for mining to all companies, Jharkhand will lose its environment and the land will become infertile,” Ms. Barla explained, adding that in 10 years, the population of displaced people would increase four-fold, permanently destroying indigenous habitats and livelihoods.

 

Dayamani Barla Selected For Cultural Survival’s Ellen L. Lutz Indigenous Rights Award #tribalrights #womenrights


 

By Cultural Survival

29 April, 2013
Countercurrents.org

(April 29, 2013). Grassroots Indigenous rights heroes too often go unrecognized. Yet their efforts to promote the rights of their peoples and protect their traditions, languages, and resources are critical to cultural survival. On April 23, 2013 in recognition of her work with Adavasi (Indigenous) communities in India, Dayamani Barla was chosen by Cultural Survival, an Indigenous Peoples rights organization, as the winner of the 2013 Ellen L. Lutz Indigenous Rights Award.

“Cultural Survival is honored to present Dayamani Barla, an Indigenous human rights activist and journalist from the Munda tribe in the Indian state of Jharkhand, with the 2013 Ellen L. Lutz (ELL) Indigenous Rights Award,” says Cultural Survival Executive Director Suzanne Benally. Barla has been on the forefront of people’s movements against corporate and government-led land grabs and other injustices that threaten the survival, dignity, and livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples. “This prize is presented in recognition of outstanding human rights work, dedicated leadership for Indigenous Peoples rights, and a deep life commitment to protecting, sustaining, and revitalizing Indigenous cultures, lands, and languages,” says Benally. Barla was chosen from close to 60 nominees by a distinguished panel of Indigenous leaders.

The prize honors the memory of the late Ellen L. Lutz (1955-2010), who was a renowned human rights lawyer and former executive director of Cultural Survival (2004-2010). Ellen transformed Cultural Survival by strongly emphasizing human rights and advocacy.

Coming from a humble background where she worked as a domestic servant to fund her education, Barla is the first tribal journalist from her state and is considered as the “voice of Jharkhand” for her powerful storytelling, community organizing, and writings. “Barla has been a trailblazer on many fronts, charting new waters as an Indigenous woman to ensure the voices and perspectives of Adivasi people are heard by the larger mainstream society,” says her nominator Terry Odendahl, executive director and CEO of Global Greengrants Fund. As one of the first female Adivasi journalists in India, she has won many awards, including the Counter Media Award for Rural Journalism and the National Foundation for India Fellowship. She is an outspoken critic against the racism and persecution that Adivasi communities face.

Together with her colleagues from the Adivasi Moolvasi Astitva Raksha Manch (Platform of Indigenous Adivasi People to Defend their Existence), Barla has prevented ArcelorMittal, a global mining giant, from plundering the rich natural resources of Jharkhand. The proposed steel plant would have seized 12,000 acres of land and displaced 40 villages, additionally harming the surrounding ecosystems and by extension the livelihoods and survival of Indigenous communities.

Barla has also been involved in people’s mobilizations against the Koel Karo dam project. This struggle is considered one of the longest and most successful anti-dam movements in India, and is rooted in the highly mobilized Munda Indigenous community.

Barla’s steadfast commitment to the people’s democratic and constitutional rights to assemble and dissent has attracted the wrath of corrupt government and corporate actors, who are pushing for rapid industrialization and economic globalization that disenfranchises Indigenous communities. From October 18 to December 21, 2012 she was jailed by the Jharkhand government under a litany of charges ranging from leading peaceful protests against fertile farmland acquisition in Nagri to demanding job cards for rural poor in Angada block under a national employment guarantee scheme. “Dayamani’s jailing was a reminder to civil rights activists across the nation of the unfriendly role the Jharkhand state is taking towards drivers of democratic change,” says Odendahl. Recently she has been leading anti-land acquisition struggles, along with farmers of Nagdi, whose precious fertile agricultural land has been allocated for the construction of business, law, and information technology schools in Jharkhand. In a letter written from her jail cell, Barla reflected that the “looters of the state have become well-wishers in the eyes of the government.”

The selection of the ELL Award recipient is based on the following criteria: the Indigenous activist’s work is primarily at the grassroots level directly in Indigenous communities, and/or expands from there into advocacy at the state and international level; leadership is recognized by the communities that it represents; the activist works towards promoting and advancing Indigenous/human rights and this work reflects his or her compassion, dedication, and personal sacrifice to his or her people, communities, and Indigenous Peoples; and the award will raise the profile of the recipient’s work, advancing the activist’s efforts and helping to safeguard his or her well-being. “Dayamani is an example of a selfless and courageous activist, who powerfully demonstrates how Indigenous women play a crucial role in safeguarding the rights of their communities, while also protecting the rights of nature,” says Odendahl.

The Award recognizes individuals for sustained and significant efforts to protect and advance the rights of Indigenous Peoples, often at great personal risk. The ELL Award views “grassroots” leaders as those rooted in local efforts, where positive change is created through community or citizen participation in the issues that affect them. Through recognizing these individual leaders, the Award seeks to inspire other Indigenous people to take extraordinary actions to protect the world’s cultural diversity.

This year’s ELL Award, which comes with a $10,000 cash prize, brings critical attention to the undemocratic attitude of the Jharkhand state towards social activists, as well as honoring and celebrating the critical work of an Indigenous human rights defender who has fought brave struggles for the greater good of Adivasi communities in the state of Jharkhand and beyond. Barla will be presented with the award at a ceremony on May 23 at the Museum of the American Indian in New York.

Cultural Survival is a global leader in the fight to protect Indigenous lands, languages, and cultures around the world. In partnership with Indigenous Peoples, we advocate for Indigenous communities whose rights, cultures, and dignity are under threat. For more information go to www.cs.org

Contact: Suzanne Benally, Executive Director, 617-441-5400 x 16 sbenally@cs.org
Agnes Portalewska, Communications Manager, 617-441-5410 x14 agnes@cs.org

 

Archives

Kractivism-Gonaimate Videos

Protest to Arrest

Faking Democracy- Free Irom Sharmila Now

Faking Democracy- Repression Anti- Nuke activists

JAPA- MUSICAL ACTIVISM

Kamayaninumerouno – Youtube Channel

UID-UNIQUE ?

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 6,234 other followers

Top Rated

Blog Stats

  • 1,759,732 hits

Archives

September 2019
M T W T F S S
« Jun    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30  
%d bloggers like this: