National protest convention against the fifth schedule amendment, 8th - 9th July 2001
Provoked by the Government's threats to amend the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution and the recent moves in the direction, a National protest Campaign has been spearheaded by adivasis, adivasi support groups, NGOs, academicians, legal experts and others across the country to rise in united strength of solidarity.
The National protest Convention was convened between 8th and 9th July 2001 at New Delhi and attended by 170 leaders and representatives. The resonance of collective voice of adivasis, in clear and emphatic terms of leaders and representatives from all over the country, is a signal warning to the forces behind these machinations. their assertive declaration to exercise their inalienable and natural rights over land, resources and culture reflects their collective strengths in protecting them from mainstream political conspiracies hatched to erode the very soul of their righteousness.
This two-day protest convention presided by some Tribal Elders from the Fifth Schedule Areas included:
- A presentation of specific cases from all over the country;
- A resolution for collective action that was handed over to the President of India and
- A demonstration in front of the Office of the SC & ST Commission
The convention was held at Indian Social Institute, Lodi Road Institutional Area, New Delhi on 8th & 9th July 2001
Venue of the Demonstration Opposite the SC & ST Commission, Loknayak Bhavan, New Delhi 3 to 5 PM on 9th July 2001
(The following declaration was made at the convention and also handed over to the President of India by a delegation from the convention)
Declaration Of The National Convention To Protest Against Attempts To Amend The Fifth Schedule Of The Constitution Of India
The Constitution of India expresses the Nation's committment to ensure social justice and democracy. among the several explicit provisions of the Constitution, the Schedule V provides a protective shield to the adivasis and in consideration as the basic structure of the Indian Constitution. This has been included in the Constitution honouring the centuries old struggles of adivasis to safeguard communities rights over natural resources.
Though the bearing and intent of this provision is still to really begin with full earnestness, after fifty years of the Republic, the only Constitutional reinforcement of the natural rights of the adivasis is being undone. Over 3 crore(30 million) adivasis have been displaced, very large areas of land has been alienated, forest and other natural resources taken away.
Globalisation and the new market economy is forcing fundamental changes in policies across all natural resources and we are a witness to a spate of policies in agriculture, biodiversity, mining etc.. This new attack of globalisation and liberalisation is very transparent in how it is pro-rich and operates as a powerful tool to suppress our rights. The Central Government is bowing to the pressures of the multinational companies and the global capital exposing its failure to protect the rights of adivasis and other marginalised sections. Women, who will be most adversely affected being the most exploited section of our society. We will stem this oppressive trend. the state has virtually abandoned its role of protection and is using force for advancing global capitalists.
We are already aware and witness to the gross and subtle violations that are taking place all across the nation. we are also following the machinations of the government to directly or by subterfuge alter the core tenets of Schedule V. similarly the new agricultural policy reverses the time honoured policy of land-to-tiller and has substituted it for corporatisation of agriculture which completely ruin the tribal economy.
The enforcement of the general laws in the adivasi areas has virtually eclipsed our natural rights. The Panchayat Act for the adivasi areas (Extension to Tribal Areas) acknowledges the competence of communities to manage the resources. This must be respected. On the contrary the application of laws such as the Land Acquisition Act, Forest Conservation Act, Wildlife Protection Act. etc have been applied indiscriminately against the interest of the tribal. we strongly disapprove this trend.
Today the question before us is not only whether the Schedule V exists but also whether we are in a position to protect and safe guard our lives. Our land and our resources (jal, jungle, jameen) form the very basis of our lives and we have inalienable rights over them.
Expressing concern on the rapid erosion of adivasi rights, the Hon'ble President of India has as in his Republic Day message this year said:
"Let it not be said by future generations that the Indian Republic has been built on the destruction of the Green Earth and the innocent Tribals"
Reiterating his concerns we appeal to him to spare no efforts to stop the attack on the Schedule V.
Historically we have always struggled and resisted any attempts to snatch our rights not only by the mighty British but also our State and Central Governments. We will continue to resist all attempts to amend or alter the Schedule V and will not forego the inalienable natural right existing from time immemorial. We also express special concern for those adivasis who suffer for not being brought under the Schedule V.
We condemn the brutal killings of adivasis in Koel Karo, Kashipur, Devas and in other places. We express solidarity to their struggles for a right to life with dignity. we urge the Government to desist from using the brute force of the State in resolving matters of conflict over resources.
The struggle for command over natural resources is a national issue
which must be defended collectively. We collectively declare that
we the eighty million adivasis of this country will not refrain
from any form of democratic exertion of our rights and will resist
any tampering of our Country's Constitution. We also call upon all
the democratic forces of our country to understand the spirit and
ethos of the struggle of Adivasis for the natural rights over natural
resources which can play meaning role on the onslaught of global
capital. In our struggle for democracy we shall unite and fight.
9th July 2001
[This Declaration is the outcome of two days deliberations undertaken by leaders and people of Tribal communities. traditional tribal leaders, concerned citizens, social action groups and representatives of peoples organisations.]
Read what the Tribal leaders at the convention had to say about their concerns on the Fifth Schedule http://www.indiatogether.org/campaigns/schedule5/voices.htm
Complied by Bela Bhatia
Click images to view scenes from the recent National protest convention. Click button on right for convention details.