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Anti-Mittal cry (jal, jungle aur zameen) grows louder in Jharkhand

Residents of over 40 gram panchayat sabhas in Khunti today submitted a memorandum to the industry director, Aradhana Patnaik, protesting against the ArcelorMittal land acquisition bid to set up the Torpa steel plant.


In the memorandum of demands, the villagers vowed to fight "till the end" to safeguard their right over water, forest and land (jal, jungle aur zameen).


The letter was forwarded by the co-ordinator of the Adivasi Moolvasi Astitva Raksha Manch, Dayamani Barla.


The demands included that the state government halt land transfer in Torpa block immediately and that the ryot rights over villages that has been granted to ArcelorMittal is declared null and void.


Citing provisions under the Chhotanagpur Tenanacy Act and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act, the residents argued that the villages' tribal communities were the "real owners" of the water, forest and land in the area. Thus, the government had no right to transfer these.


The Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, too, upholding the "traditional rights of the tribals" was quoted in the letter.


Instead of setting up new industries in the area, the residents have demanded that waters from Koel, Karo and Chhata be made available to farmers for agriculture.


Copies of the memorandum were also sent to the governor and industry secretary.


On September 14, members of 32 gram sabha had submitted a similar memorandum to Khunti deputy commissioner, while on September 22, yet another was shot off to the Gumla deputy commissioner.


Talking to The Telegraph Barla warned that the seething villagers were getting more and more impatient with the state as they felt that industrialisation was a threat to indigenous culture and values. "We are not going to sit idle," she added.


ArcelorMittal plans to start a 12MT greenfield steel plant in Torpa and Kamdara blocks and needs 8,000 acres for the projects. According to members of Adivasi Moolvasi Astitva Raksha Manch, several farmers from the 32 villages of Khunti and Gumla would be displaced if the firm goes ahead with its plan.


October 1, 2009 / Telegraph

Divine intervention to safeguard Adivasi lands

After innumerable demonstrations and rallies, tribals have now decided to seek divine intervention to safeguard their lands. They are now turning Durga Puja pandals into a platform to protest against land acquisition.


Accordingly, Bisthapan Virodhi Nava Nirman Sangharsh Morcha, the outfit that has been spearheading the agitation against land acquisition, has printed over 70,000 pamphlets and posters to create awareness among farmers. The posters will be distributed in pandals at Gumla, Godda, Hazaribagh and Dumka, though districts falling under Singhbhum-Kolhan region will be the main focus.


Kumar Chandra Mardi, a spokesperson of the morcha, said that although Durga Puja was not the traditional puja of the tribals, the grand festival is organised in many localities having a sizeable number of tribals. And local inhabitants visit Puja pandals in the villages as well as the city suburbs, or attend village fairs, at this festive time. "So, we decided to take advantage of the occasion," Mardi said, adding that they have printed 50,000 pamphlets and 20,000 posters to be distributed in pandals in peripheral areas of the city and at village fairs.


Mardi said the morcha, which is an alliance of 37 anti-land acquisition outfits active across the state, had decided on August 24 to intensify protests against land acquisition by industrial houses in the mineral-rich state. The decision to resort to poster and pamphlet campaigns at pandals during Durga Puja was part of the protest.


"Through the posters we have tried to make the villagers understand that selling their ancestral land to industrial houses will not be in the interest of villagers," he said.


September 27 / telegraph

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