ADKMSS demands Govt to probe allegations of unlawful dispossession of Adivasi land

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 16 Jun 2017 10:59:15


Staff Reporter,


Adivasi Dalit Kisan Majdoor Sangarsh Samiti (ADKMSS) has demanded Chhattisgarh Government to conduct a prompt, independent and impartial investigation into allegations by over 80 Adivasi villagers in Raigarh district that they had been unlawfully dispossessed of their lands by people acting as agents for two private companies. On June 14, 81 Adivasi women and men tried to file First Information Reports (FIR) at Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Welfare Special Police Station in Raigarh against the companies.

Addressing a press conference here on Thursday, ADKMSS Convener Manoj Kumar alleged that Advivasi villagers from four villages including Benghari and Katangdi were allegedly forced into selling their land- as a result of threats, intimidation, coercion and misinformation to agents of two companies, operating in collusion with local land registration officials.

Benghari village Sarpanch Pavitri Manjhi, who was also present at the press conference, said, “When the villagers refused to sell their land, the mediators said that the State Government had already given the village to one company. And if they did not sell their land, the company would occupy it and dump iron, ash and coal over it and villagers would get nothing.”

“The company people came to us and asked to sell our land. We refused to sell but a middleman said that since our land was in the middle of the proposed company site, we had to sell it. They frequently visited us and compelled to sell. They also threatened our family. Now the company has constructed a chimney there,” the Sarpanch added. Amnesty International India is helping the Adivasi villagers to provide justice in the case.

Lawyer Kishore Narayan of Amnesty International India said that the police accepted the complaints but refused to register FIR and stated that they would first conduct a preliminary enquiry to determine whether a cognizable offence had been committed. Under India’s Code of Criminal Procedure, preliminary inquiry is required to be concluded with 15 days or six weeks in exceptional situations.

Adivasi villagers have a constitutional right to access to justice. Chhattisgarh police cannot ignore their duty to investigate these allegations and prosecute those suspected of human rights abuses. Given the scale of the alleged abuses, the police must also investigate whether these allegations provide evidence of a pattern of wrongful dispossession of land. If the tribal people don’t get justice, the matter would be taken to the courts, he added.

Several members of local communities in the villages of Khokhraaoma, Katangdi, Bhengari and Nawapara Tenda, many of whom are not formally literate, told Amnesty International India that they had been forced into selling land to people acting as agents for the company in 2009, 2010 and 2011. The companies have established a 600 MW coal-fired thermal power plant in Khokhraooma and and another 12 MW biomass power plant in Bengari. Gram sabhas in the affected villages passed resolutions in 2015 and 2016 stating that their lands had been purchases through fraud and coercion. Some villagers also
alleged that that had not been paid the amount mentioned in the sale deeds or had been paid only part of it.

Programme Manager of Business and Human Rights at Amnesty International India Karthik Navayan, Digree
Prasad, Manohar, Smriti Singh and others were present at the press conference.