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INDIA: Tribal people's livelihoods threatened due to the confiscation of their land in Chitrakoot, Uttar-Pradesh

In 1991 the Revenue Department, in consultation with local Panchayats (village governments), gave a land entitlement to 46 landless Kol adivasis (indigenous tribal people) and other villagers in Ailaha Badhaiya, Chitrakoot. After precise measuring and mapping, the land was handed over to these families individually.

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ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAM

25 May 2005

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HA-11-2005: INDIA: Tribal people's livelihoods threatened due to the confiscation of their land in Chitrakoot, Uttar-Pradesh

INDIA: Hunger; denial of right to land and livelihood; government injustice; caste discrimination
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received new information from the Social Development Foundation (SDF) in Delhi concerning a disturbing case of potential hunger and starvation amongst the tribesmen and women in the Chitrakoot district of Uttar-Pradesh. The villagers, mainly landless Kol adivasis (tribal people), were forcibly removed from their land in 1998. Upon their eviction, and as a result of the complete absence of an alternative provided to them by the government, the Kol community lost their means of support. With no land to grow crops and no other means of subsistence, the Kol tribespeople now find themselves in a situation that threatens their very existence. Their plight is worsened by the government's refusal to recognise them as scheduled tribes; a title that would afford them deserved and greater rights.

The AHRC urges you to write to the relevant authorities listed below urging them to resolve the issue and entitle the villagers to their tribal land. Furthermore, the Kol community in this area should be recognised as scheduled tribes in the State.

Urgent Appeals Desk -- Hunger Alert
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
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DETAILED INFORMATION:

Location: Ailaha Badhaiya village, Manikpur, Chitrakoot District, Uttar-Pradesh, India
Persons affected: Forty-six villagers and their families originally entitled to the land, the majority belonging to the Kol tribal community.

In 1991 the Revenue Department, in consultation with local Panchayats (village governments), gave a land entitlement to 46 landless Kol adivasis (indigenous tribal people) and other villagers in Ailaha Badhaiya, Chitrakoot. After precise measuring and mapping, the land was handed over to these families individually.

However, in 1998 the Forest Department demanded the tribal community vacate the land on the ground that they had occupied it illegally. The department claimed that the area was forest land and that the Revenue Department had wrongly given land to the adivasis. Through this decision, the 46 advasis each lost on average one hectare of land. (The AHRC has, and can provide exact details of persons and land lost ). So ruthless were the forest officials that rather than filing a case against the Revenue Department, they dealt directly with the poor villagers. Their animals were captured and crops destroyed. Some adivasis were also imprisoned. Today, the indigenous community is still not aware of its status in this area.

It has been seven years since the Forest Department claimed the land and yet the department has done very little with it. While the tribal people are facing hunger and malnutrition, the land remains under-utilised.

The tribal land should be given to the villagers and adivasi community. Revenue Department officials, however, are keeping quiet and not interfering in the matter despite pleas from the villagers. This department should also have a direct hand in resolving the land dispute.

Although the government of India is planning a new act to ensure that indigenous tribal people receive land rights, the Kols of Uttar Pradesh will not be lucky enough to benefit from the law because they are treated as Scheduled Castes in Uttar Pradesh. This will further deny the adivasis to the land they once legally lived on. It will also deny them access to the same rights that other tribes receive in other states of India.

Attention should be brought to the growing unrest among the tribal community. If the situation remains unaddressed, this area may soon become one of the most volatile areas in the country. Chronic hunger and starvation will result if it is not resolved shortly. Currently, a severe water shortage exists in the area and it is already hard for the adivasis to support themselves.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write to the Chief Minister, officials at the Revenue and Forest Departments and other related officials requesting that immediate action be taken to provide necessary land to the villagers so that starvation and unrest can be avoided in the area.

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Dear Mr. ___________

Re: Tribal people's livelihoods threatened due to the confiscation of their land

I write to you to bring your attention to the growing unrest amongst the Kol adivasis of Uttar Pradesh, who have been stripped of their land and now face a real possibility of chronic hunger and starvation. If this situation is not remedied soon, my concern is that lives will be lost and illness will flourish. I also fear that as a result of this, the area in which these people live will become increasingly volatile and violence may erupt.
The plight of the Kol adivasis stems back to a decision made by the Revenue Department in 1991 and the subsequent and fundamental error of the Forest Department in 1998. In 1991 the Revenue Department, in consultation with local Panchayats, gave land entitlements to 46 landless Kol adivasis and other villagers in Ailaha Badhaiya, Chitrakoot. After precise measuring and mapping, the land was handed over to these families individually.

However, in 1998 the Forest Department asked the tribal community to vacate the land on the ground that they had occupied it illegally. The department claimed that the area was forest land and that the Revenue Department had wrongly given it to the adivasis. As a result of this, the 46 tribal people lost, on average, one hectare each. So ruthless were the forest officials that rather than filing a case against the Revenue Department, they dealt directly with the poor villagers. Their animals were captured and crops destroyed. Some adivasis were also imprisoned. Today, the indigenous community is still not aware of its status in this area.

It has been seven years since the Forest Department claimed the land and yet the department has done very little with it. While the tribal people are facing hunger and malnutrition, the land remains under-utilised.

The tribal land should be given to the villagers and adivasi community. The Revenue Department officials, however, are keeping quiet and not interfering in the matter despite pleas from the villagers.

Although the government of India is planning a new act to ensure that indigenous tribal people receive land rights, the Kols of Uttar Pradesh will not benefit from the law because they are treated as Scheduled Castes in Uttar Pradesh. This is further denying the adivasis to the land they once legally lived on. It is also denying them access to the same rights that other adivasis are provided in other States in India.

Attention should be brought to the growing unrest among the tribal community in Chitrakoot. If the situation remains unaddressed much longer, this area may soon become one of the most volatile areas in the country. Chronic hunger and starvation will result if the situation is not resolved shortly. Currently, a severe water shortage exists in the area and it is already hard for the adivasis to support themselves.

In light of this, I ask that you intervene in this matter. This issue stems from decisions made by the Revenue Department and the Forest Department, and therefore I believe it is their responsibility to remedy it. As the land has not been utilised for some seven years, I can only assume that it is not required by these departments. With this in mind, I urge them to return the land to the Kol advasis. The returning of this land would not only allow the Kol advasis to return to the lands they once occupied, but it would allow them the opportunity to better provide for themselves and reduce the likelihood of hunger and starvation that is currently threatening to occur. Finally, the Kol community should be recongised as scheduled tribes, so as to afford them the rights that they deserve.

I look forward to your intervention.

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. The Secretary
Government of India
Ministry of Environment and Forests
Paryavaran Bhavan
CGO Complex, Lodhi Road
New Delhi 110 003
INDIA
Tel: +91 11 2436 1896/ 2436 0721
E-mail: secy@menf.delhi.nic.in

2. Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav
Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh
Chief Minister's Secretariat
Lucknow
Uttar Pradesh
INDIA
Fax: + 91 522 223 0002/223 9234
Email: cmup@up.nic.in

PLEASE SEND COPIES TO:

1. 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

2. Justice A P Mishra
Chairperson
Uttar Pradesh Human Rights Commission
1/183, Vineet Khand, Gomti Nagar,
Lucknow - 226010
Uttar Pradesh
INDIA
Tel: + 91 522-2726764
Fax: + 91 522-2726743
Email: uphrc@sancharnet.in

3. 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: +91 11 2462 4628
Email: mailto:ksingh_chairman.ncst@indiatimes.com

4. 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
Fax: +41 22 917 9010
Email: sect.hchr@unog.ch

5. Mr. Pedro Medrano Rojas
Country Director
World Food Programme
2 Poorvi Marg,
Vasant Vihar,
New Delhi 110057
INDIA
Tel: +91-11-26150000
Fax: +91-11-26150019
Email: wfp.newdelhi@wfp.org


Thank you.

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

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