Special Report
All-India Adivasi Rights Convention At Ranchi
Adivasi Sangharsh Morcha

An Adivasi Rights National Convention was held on 14 and 15 November at Bagaicha in Ranchi. Delegates from Adivasi organizations across the country participated in the convention held on the occasion of the Birsa Munda anniversary. The Adivasi Sangharsh Morcha was formed for coordinating the Adivasi struggles ongoing in various parts of the country. More than 150 adivasi delegates from various states including Jharkhand, Odisha, Assam, Karnataka, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and West Bengal participated in the convention.

The convention began with the garlanding of the Birsa Munda statue and an Ulgulan song presented by Jan Sanskriti Manch. Addressing the convention, CPIML General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya said that the Company Raj against which Birsa Munda fought and raised Ulgulan is being repeated by Modi Ji who is handing over Adivasis’ jal-jangal-jameen, minerals and natural resources to Adani-Ambani's corporate companies. Adivasis are being targeted for corporate loot of water, forests and minerals. Birsa Munda's glorious anti-colonial anti-feudal legacy is being sought to be distorted and hijacked by the RSS. Live coordination of various struggles and initiatives is the need of the hour. CPIML will stand with the Adivasi movement to facilitate this coordination within the Adivasi movement as well as with other streams of people's struggles for democracy and comprehensive justice and social transformation.

The convention was also addressed by Adivasi leaders including Dayamani Barla, Premchand Murmu and Devki Nandan Bedia. A resolution on Adivasi issues was proposed which was discussed by many delegates including Walter Kandulana, Jerome Gerald, Gautam Singh Munda and delegates representing various states. A 30-point charter of issues for a nationwide adivasi movement was passed by the convention and a road map for the movement was decided. The convention was conducted by a Presidium comprising Pratima Enghipi and Ravi Kumar Phangcho (Karbi Anglong, Assam), Tirupati Gomango (Odisha), Sumanti Tigga Ekka (Darjeeling), Devki Nandan Bedia and Xavier Kujur (both from Jharkhand).

The convention elected a 13-member National Convening Committee, a National Council with representatives from all States, a National Advisory Council, and a Solidarity Council. Earlier, on 14 November the Jharkhand Jan Sanskriti Manch and Anjom Santali teams presented Adivasi people's songs and dances. A documentary film on Mahendra Singh directed by renowned film-maker Shriprakash was also screened.

The Adivasi Sangharsh Morcha (Adivasi Struggle Front) adopted a charter of struggle, as below.

Charter of Struggle

  1. Assert that the Adivasis are the original inhabitants of India. Reject all characterisation that seeks to denude Adivasi communities of their basic identity. Reject all efforts to deny the right and freedom to maintain their identity, culture and autonomous institutions of self-governance.
  2. Assert the right and freedom to practise and conserve their faith, customs and ceremonies.
  3. Assert the right to celebrate and preserve their culture, language and histories.
  4. Stop the plunder of natural resources, and dispossession of Adivasis from their forests and lands, under the garb of development and forest conservation.
  5. Fight the poverty, insecure livelihoods, dismal living conditions, denial of education and health services, resulting in the chronic impoverishment and destitution of Adivasi communities.
  6. Fight oppressive moneylenders, indebtedness, slave and bonded labour as also landlordism and land alienation.
  7. Extend Scheduled Tribes recognition to all Adivasi communities excluded till now.
  8. Ensure the proper implementation of the Fifth and Sixth Schedules in letter and spirit, and granting of status of autonomous state to Assam hill districts as promised in Article 244A.
  9. Pursue the declaration of areas with sizeable Adivasi populations in the states of West Bengal, Bihar, Uttarakhand, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, among others, as “scheduled areas”.
  10. Ensure the implementation of the Provisions of Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA Act), towards realisation of “hamare gaon mein hamara raj”. (Our Rule in Our Village)
  11. Ensure restitution/payment of compensation and rehabilitation, for all Adivasis who have been displaced by all developmental/conservational projects since Independence.
  12. Address the rampant migration of Adivasis to other parts of the country including protecting their livelihoods in their home States, as also their rights as migrant workers.
  13. Ensure justice to the de-notified, nomadic and semi-nomadic Adivasi communities who continue to face discrimination and brutal violence at the hands of society and state.
  14. Address the survival crisis faced by the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs), by countering their high mortality rates, chronic poverty, malnutrition, starvation and lack of access to adequate health facilities as well as the serious lack of protection of their livelihoods.
  15. Strict implementation of Chhotanagpur Tenancy Act, 1908, the Santal Pargana Tenancy Act 1949, and all other state and central enactments prohibiting transfer of lands from Adivasis to non-Adivasis.
  16. Strict implementation of the Forest Rights Act 2006 (FRA) including amending all other laws to bring them into compliance with the FRA. Specifically launch agitations for:

a) A special session of Parliament to discuss ways to fully implement the FRA in all forests areas in India.
b) Expedite approval of community land claims under FRA and other laws by Adivasis, Other Traditional Forest Dwellers and forest workers.
c) Make the process of approval and rejection of individual and community land claims under FRA completely transparent, so that rejections can easily be appealed.
d) Ensure accountability of officers who review Forest Rights Act claims
e) Launch a National Mission for Forest Rights Act with the following objectives:

  • Coverage of all potential Forest Rights Act eligible villages
  • Recognize all Community Forest Resource rights, ownership rights over minor forest produces, rights of PVTGs, nomadic and pastoral communities, rights of other traditional forest dwellers, women’s rights, rights of displaced communities and conversion of all forest, surveyed villages.
  • All rejected and pending claims be reviewed to secure rights of Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers.
  • Empowerment of Gram Sabhas for governance and management of Community Forest Rights (CFRs).
  • Allocation of forest development funds available under compensatory afforestation, MGNREGA etc directly to Gram Sabhas.
  • Integration and convergence of all relevant government schemes, such as MGNREGA, Public Distribution System and others, with the FRA.
  • Allocation of additional funds and provision of adequate human resources for implementation of the FRA.
  • All forest and landscape restoration programs for meeting climate change commitments are directly supported through Gram Sabhas.

17. Oppose and ensure withdrawal of various laws, including the recent pro-corporate 3 Farm laws, anti-workers 4 Labour Codes, as also the anti-people CAA/NRC, which will hit Adivasis equally if not worst of all.

18. Ensure profitable prices for Minor Forest Produce (MFP).

19. Ensure stern action against police and armed forces for custodial torture, rape and fake encounter killings against Adivasis, especially children and women.

20. Ensure unconditional release of Adivasis, Dalits and persons from forest dwelling communities,  rural and urban poor communities currently in prison as under-trials.

21. Judicial Commission be instituted in every state to conduct a time-bound review of all pending criminal cases against Adivasis and other forest dwelling communities, to ensure that false cases are quashed; innocents freed and compensated; and police personnel responsible for such malicious prosecution be identified and punished.

22. End the brutal state violence being perpetrated on Adivasis while sanctioning corporate loot and plunder. Stop the weaponization of criminal law and police killings against Adivasis struggling for their rights, and withdraw all criminal cases.

23. End the everyday tyranny in the lives of Adivasis, in the form of entrenched insidious violence including atrocities, discriminations and humiliations at the hands of the dominant sections ofsociety, police, forest and other officials. This includes the strengthening of the implementation of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

24. Ensure the full and complete demilitarisation and police rule of Adivasi areas.

25. Ensure the withdrawal of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 where it has been made applicable. All cases of extra-judicial killings, rapes and harassment by armed forces reported in these States shall be dealt with strictly and punishment will be ensured to the guilty.

26. Ensure special focus on ensuring that Adivasi communities receive the Constitutional benefits of reservation including provision of educational infrastructure and education in Adivasi languages.

27. Tackle the large scale destruction of forests and pollution caused by climate change and environmental crises due to landslides, earthquakes, heavy rains and floods, the loss of life and property has put thousands of people in danger.

29. Fight against the criminal nexus of elected representatives, officials and others occupying Adivasi lands and forests in the name of tourism industry.

29. Fight against the horrific exploitation of Adivasis employed in various industries by the non-implementation of labour laws.

30. Fight against the exploitation of Adivasis in tea and coffee gardens and all forms of bonded and slave labour forced on Adivasis.

The participants stated: “We are holding this Convention on the occasion of the 75th year of Independence. This freedom, which we celebrate, was the culmination of the struggle by various sections of society against colonial oppression. Leading this charge were the Adivasi struggles from the Halba rebellion in 1774-79 to Birsa Munda’s revolt in the late 1890s and many more. Yet, today the Adivasi communities languish without even their basic needs provided, the majority living in poverty and being dispossessed from their forests and lands by the ruling forces which are facilitating corporate loot and plunder of natural resources. These very same forces are also making a mockery of the freedom struggle and insulting the glorious contributions of farmers, workers, Dalits and Adivasis to the freedom struggle. In the same way, the Modi government is dispossessing Adivasis of Jangal-Jameen and denying them their rights, and yet wants to celebrate Birsa Munda Jayanthi as “Janjatiya Gaurav Divas” (Tribal Pride Day). Is it not an insult to the martyrs like Sindhu-Kanu, Fulo-Jhano, Birsa Munda and Maki Munda to dispossess Adivasis and then to talk of Pride Day? To protect our identity and fully realise their rights in free and modern India, we have to heighten our struggles against fascism, corporate loot and political repression, and advance the glorious legacy of Adivasi resistance.”

Adivasi Rights Convention