Tribals need special land road map: Aditya Khakhalry

Our Correspondent

KOKRAJHAR, June 30: The National Federation for New States (NFNS), an umbrella organization for coordination and collaboration for an effective struggle for emancipation of marginalized and voiceless communities, organized a national level seminar on ‘Tribal land alienation, protection, preservation and development of tribal language, culture, history and heritage’ at the District Library auditorium hall in Guwahati recently.

In his key note address, the president of the ABSU, Promod Boro said, “Land is the only component which ensures the life of all living beings. In the human society, some groups are using the land not for their shelter or living but as a means of their business and earning. They are directly not dependent on land for their living/livelihood like the tribal group.” He said after centuries of human civilization, some groups of people like them still could not think of survival without land because development could not embrace this group of people. Boro said land should be owned by those who really need it for their living and not those who want to do business. Therefore, the government must have a policy of land protection and land use in a proper way.

The seminar was organized to deepen the understanding of the nuances of land alienation and marginalization of tribes in India, thereby to deliberate on ways and means to prevent tribal land alienation and ensure protection, preservation and development of tribal culture, language, heritage and history.

Dhananjoy Debbarma, Tripura Civil Society, Government of Tripura, elaborated about the land status of Tripura regarding the legal position of land laws in Tripura. He proposed the amendment of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, including the direct funding to sixth schedule and empowering the Tripura District Council on land rights with legislative power. He also sought holistic amendment to TLRR Act to ensure the land rights of the tribals in Tripura.

Aditya Khakhalry, general secretary of All Assam Tribal Sangha (AATS), said the NFNS would have to make special road map for better solution to the land problem of tribals in India. Due to tyranny and subjugation the indigenous tribal people in Assam faced a lot of hardships, he said, adding that developmental projects had not been properly implemented in tribal areas and constitutional rights had been subjugated towards tribal people in Assam. He suggested that it was high time the 1886 land law of Assam be replaced with a comprehensive pro-people new land law in Assam, securing elaborately chapter- X of the Assam Land and Revenue Regulation Act, 1886. He also said that there was the long-pending movement for Bodoland statehood. The pertinent issue still remained unresolved, which mainly was granting land rights to the indigenous Bodo people in Assam.

Pratibha Brahma, vice-president of Tribal Co-Operative Marketing Development Federation of India Limited (TRIFED), said in spite of the Tripura land law placed under 9th schedule, it had not given protection to tribal lands from transfer to a non-tribal. Even the sixth schedule had not given any protection,” she said, adding that the shrinking tribal lands were going into the hands to the non-tribals and encroachment continued unabated.

Khorsing Teron, chairman of Joint Action Committee for Autonomous State, Karbi Anglong, said the NFNS should take initiative to engage social scientists and anthropologists to have extensive understanding and to make a road map to secure the tribal lands in the Northeast. Govinda Basumatary, general secretary of NDFB(P) said the implementation of ST and other traditional forest dwellers (Recognition of Rights) Act, 2006 and inclusion of Assam Land and Revenue Regulations Act, 1886 and the chapter-X in 9th Schedule were important.

Urkhao Gwra Brahma, former MP (RS) and president of UPPL, said that in Tripura, 70 per cent of the tribal lands were under the tribals but the State was ruled by the non-tribals. The de-notification of the tribal belts and blocks leading to large displacement of the indigenous population of the tribals in Assam was also a grave matter. He said that the government should come with special provisions to protect the tribal lands of India under the Tribal Affairs Ministry and included more secured provisions of land rights of the indigenous tribal people of the country.

Shrihari Aney, president of NFNS and chairperson of the seminar, who was also the former Advocate General of Maharashtra, said the identity of the tribals was linked to land, with cultural integration and economic affluence. Taking away land from the tribals would make them lose the character of cultural affluence, he said. Aney said the government had failed due to some stop-gate arrangements to tribal land issues. He also said the political solution to statehood was directly related to the defeat of the rights of indigenous people. Hence, political independence of statehood could alone be a final solution, he added. Aney said it was also necessary that a better study on the legal and social implications of land and tribals.