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INDIA: Adivasi community unable to grow food, asserts their right to land in Maharashtra

The last of the huts were destroyed in January 2005 by the Maharashtra. State Farming Corporation (MSFC) employees. Since the crops and huts of the adivasis were destroyed in the previous cropping season, the adivasis had to look for their livelihoods elsewhere. The MSFC employees took advantage of this and destroyed the majority of huts while the adivasis were working outside the area. The community was unable to put up the huts again because they were busy working as cultivators in other fields. This was not the case earlier, before the corporation destroyed over 1,000 acres of their farming land. Previously the adivasis could easily provide foodstuff for their entire community with their own food stuff. During this season however, only 16 people could cultivate their land. Further, the crop supply was under frequent threats by officials, and once by police. However, the adivasis managed to protect their crop.

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ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAM

14 April 2005
Update on Urgent Appeals: UA-35-2003: Two hundred Adivasis made homeless over land rights; UP-32-2003: Enquiry into the shooting of Adivasis in 2001; UP-34-2003: Landless people stand firm against continuing government attacks; UP-40-2003: Hunger strike of Adivasis calling for right to land and UP-13-2004: Please send a letter to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra calling for right to land for Adivasi people

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HA-08-2005: INDIA: Adivasi community unable to grow food, asserts their right to land in Maharashtra

INDIA: Right to land, discrimination against indigenous groups, John P. Abraham
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received updated information concerning a previous case of adivasis (indigenous people) made homeless by the Maharashtra State Farming Corporation (MSFC). On July 21, 2003 two hundred huts and more than one thousand acres of crops belonging to adivasis were destroyed by MSFC employees and police. The adivasis had been living on the land for several decades and were in the process of fighting for their legal rights to this land. Instead, the men, women and children of the area were rendered homeless.

In 1961, the Maharashtra Agricultural Land (Ceiling on Holdings) Act was passed whereby the MSFC had the right to cultivate this land. However, years later the land had been left unoccupied, and the adivasis moved in, staking a legal claim to the area. The adivasi community has been engaged in fighting for their right to this land for the past two years. This had included withstanding attacks on their community and false accusations and imprisonment by police as well as engaging in protests and hunger strikes. The community has now decided to make immediate repairs on their former homes in order to rebuild their community again. There is fear that the government will try to halt the work or worse yet, register false accusations against the community in order to hold them in jail, thereby also halting the restoration.

The AHRC urges you to write to the Chief Minister and other related officials asking them to not interfere with the renovations the community has begun so that the adivasis can have homes and land to cultivate crops. Further, please also stress that the registration of false accusations against the adivasis in order to delay the work is unacceptable.

Urgent Appeals Desk=Hunger Alert
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
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DETAILED INFORMATION:
The following detailed account, written by John P. Abraham, explains the food crisis that has resulted from the demolition two years ago and the strategy the adivasi group will now take in order to assert ownership of the land.

Food Crisis: The last of the huts were destroyed in January 2005 by the Maharashtra. State Farming Corporation (MSFC) employees. Since the crops and huts of the adivasis were destroyed in the previous cropping season, the adivasis had to look for their livelihoods elsewhere. The MSFC employees took advantage of this and destroyed the majority of huts while the adivasis were working outside the area. The community was unable to put up the huts again because they were busy working as cultivators in other fields. This was not the case earlier, before the corporation destroyed over 1,000 acres of their farming land. Previously the adivasis could easily provide foodstuff for their entire community with their own food stuff. During this season however, only 16 people could cultivate their land. Further, the crop supply was under frequent threats by officials, and once by police. However, the adivasis managed to protect their crop.

Strategy: Despite the work in the fields for their livelihoods, the adivasis found time to get their records in order. Around 250 applications were filed before the Tahasildar (Sub-district head) at Rahata Taluka (sub-district) in the Ahmednagar District asking him to do a spot verification of the adivasis¡¦ occupations as well as the remnants of the huts and remaining crops that could be cultivated. The Tahasildar referred the matter to the Thalati (village revenue officer) and ordered him to take the necessary steps.

The Thalatis in both the Puntamba and Shingva villages were using various tactics to delay taking action. The officials always responded to the adivasi¡¦s request to investigate the matter by delaying until the next week. The officials were often heard saying, ¡§We will do it next week or will give you the dates at a later time¡¨. The Thalati at Shingva now says that he can do it only in the month of August, or in other words, after the next sowing season is over. The adivasis in Shingva are deeply agitated by this and have decided to take matters into their own hands. Some of their crops are still standing. They are in the process of repairing their huts and within a few days they should be sitting in front of the office to demand for the panchnama (inquest to claim title to the land).

Meanwhile, the Thalati at Puntamba called the adivasis on Tuesday April 12, 2005 to give the date of the inquest. If a date is confirmed, then the agitation of Shingva will be more intense. Therefore, the adivasis are waiting to see what is likely to happen at Puntamba.

Huts: In the week starting April 11, 2005 the adivasis will begin repairing their huts. Since many were staying on the outskirts of the earlier occupied lands after the demolition, practically nothing remains in the fields. By Monday, about 8 huts will be completed in Puntamba. Within the following week, 100 more should also be finished. The adivasis are eager to see the responses of the MSFC officials after this first experiment. Around 200 huts should be standing within a fortnight. Many adivasis have migrated to far away brick kilns outside the area. They will only return to the land by the end of May and repairs on their huts will take place then. If the Panchama (inquest) takes place before then, these migrants will leave their work in the brick kilns to return home.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

Please see the following links for further details regarding this case:

1.    UA-35-2003: Two hundred Adivasis made homeless over land rights
2.    UP-32-2003: Enquiry into the shooting of Adivasis in 2001
3.    UP-34-2003: Landless people stand firm against continuing government attacks
4.    UP-40-2003: Hunger strike of Adivasis calling for right to land
5.    UP-13-2004: Please send a letter to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra calling for right to land for Adivasi people
SUGGESTED ACTION:

The AHRC urges you to write to the Chief Minister and other related officials asking them to not interfere with the renovations the community has begun so that the adivasis can have homes and land to cultivate crops. Further, please also stress that the registration of false accusations against the adivasis in order to delay the work is unacceptable.
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Dear _____________

Re: Maharashtra government must stop destroying homes and give adivasis their right to land

It has come to my attention that adivasis previously living on land destroyed by the Maharashtra State Farming Corporation (MSFC) on July 21, 2003 have decided to take control of their situation. In 2003, two hundred huts and more than one thousand acres of crops belonging to adivasis were destroyed by MSFC employees and police. The adivasis had been living on the land for several decades and were in the process of fighting for their legal rights to this land. They have continued to press for legal claims to the land and have decided to start repairing their homes during the week of April 11, 2005.

The struggle to renovate and fight for the right to land has lasted for several years. In previous attempts at repairing their huts, the adivasis¡¦ efforts were destroyed once again by the MSFC. Further, title to the land has yet to be given to the community despite consistent pleas and requests for something to be done. I am also deeply disturbed to learn that two years after the initial demolition, officials on the state (Maharashtra), district (Ahmednagar) and taluka (Rahata) level have yet to provide compensation, rehabilitation or repairs on huts. 

I do hope that this time around, the adivasis will be successful in their renovations. I urge you to ensure that local authorities do not interfere with these new repairs and that no registration of false charges be made against members of the adivasi community in order to delay their work. Secondly, I request that the inquest be expedited in order for the adivasis to claim title to the land. Finally, I ask that the adivasi community be given proper entitlement to government schemes for scheduled tribes so that the adivasis can provide for their own livelihoods.

Sincerely,
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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Vilasrao Deshmukh
Chief Minister of Maharashtra
Office of the Chief Minister
Mantralaya
Mumbai 400 032
Maharashtra
INDIA
Tel: +91 22 2202 5151 or 5222
Fax: + 91 22 2202 9214
E-mail: mailto:chiefminister@maharashtra.gov.in


2. Justice Arivind Sawant
Chairperson
Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission
Mumbai
INDIA
FAX No. 91 22-2885858

3. Justice A. S. Anand
National Human Rights Commission of India
Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg
New Delhi 110001
India
Tel: +91-11 23382742
Fax: +91-11 23384863
Email: mailto:covdnhrc@nic.in, mailto:ionhrc@nic.in

4. Mr. Kunwar Singh
Chairman
National Commission for Scheduled Tribes
Lok Nayak Bhawan, 5th Floor
New Delhi 110 003
INDIA
Tel: +91 11 2462 4628
Fax: 2462 4628
Email: mailto:ksingh_chairman.ncst@indiatimes.com

5. Mr. Jean Ziegler
UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
c/o Mr. Carlos Villan Duran
Room 4-066
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights,
Palais Wilson,
Rue des Paquis 52, Geneva
SWITZERLAND
Tel: +41 22 917 9300
Fax: +41 22 9179010
Email: sect.hchr@unog.ch

6. Mr. Miloon Kothari
UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing
Att: Ms. Cecilia Moller
Room 4-066/010
UNOG-OHCHR, CH-1211, Geneva 10
SWITZERLAND
Tel: +41 22 917 9265
Fax: +41 22 917 9010

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme-Hunger Alert
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

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