BHUBANESWAR: A citizens team that visited Narayanpatna has strongly defended tribals forcibly occupying the land of non-tribals. “The land struggle by tribals is just
Maoists on their way to the Bhubaneswar rally.
and genuine, which needs support from one and all. It is an organized mass reaction against exploitation and torture by a small non-tribal minority who have gone there and grabbed tribal land on different pretexts in the last few decades,” team leader Prafulla Samantra of Lok Shakti Abhiyan said.
Narayanpatna and the adjoining Bandhugaon blocks in Koraput district have been in focus in the wake of tribals occupying the lands of non-tribals resulting in frequent violent clashes and deaths. Both the areas also have strong Maoist presence.
Close on the heels of the recent land grabbing agitation nine police personnel, including eight special security force, were killed in landmine blast by the Left-wing extremists. This has given rise to speculation that the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh (CMAS), which has been spearheading the land acquisition movement, is a frontal organization of the extremists. More than 150 non-tribal families have since fled Narayanpatna area in the face of alleged harassment and threat to their lives by CMAS activists.
Samantra, however, rubbished the charges. “We met the CMAS leader Nachika Linga at his village, Bhaliapada, and discussed the situation. He strongly denied any link with the extremists,” he said.
The citizens team leader however cautioned that unless the government solved the land problems of tribals at the earliest the extremists would take over the area. He quoted Nachika as saying that in the last two years the CMAS had taken possession of over 2,000 acres of non-tribal land and distributed those to landless “who included poor non-tribals as well”. Samantra said non-tribals despite being only about eight per cent of the total population of about 38,000 in Narayanpatna block had been enjoying 85 per cent of the total land. “The mass illegal transfer of tribal land to non-tribals has been done in connivance with government officials rendering the former impoverished, deprived and suffer in penury for generations,” he said. “Many tribals including Nachika’s own family had to work as bonded labourers. Tribals in the region over the years have lost their lands to several mega projects like Dandakaranya, Nalco, HAL, Indravati. But poverty persists,” he said.
“It is not a struggle for occupying lost lands by native tribals from privileged and manipulative settlers from outside, it is also a struggle against all kinds of injustice done to tribals in the region in the post-independent period,” Samantra observed.
He referred to the ongoing agitation by tribal farmers against the CoBRA battalion proposed near Talput and Pangiput. “The location of the battalion on precious lands will take away the livelihood of poor tribals once and for all. Hence, they are resisting the Cobra battalion,” he said.
The team has suggested an 11-point formula for return of peace. This include constitution of a land commission to settle land problems in Koraput district and identification of tribal lands under actual possession of non-tribals.