Jan Sangarsh Morcha Press Release
  23 September 2003
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Digvijay Singh government violates PESA, puts 29 adivasis and social activist Madhuri in jail for last five days for asserting the rights of the Gram Sabha

62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Badwani,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
Tel: 07290-22464
Email: badwani@narmada.org

Since the 19th of September, 2003, for the last five days, 29 adivasis of Badwani district and Madhuri, senior social activist with the Dalit Jagrut Adivasi Sangathan have been languishing in jail under Section 151, even as Sub- Divisional Magistrate, Badwani Shri Neelkanth Tikam refused to either physically accept or process their applications for release. In fact, he remained absent from his seat, every time the lawyers of the adivass attempted to meet him. In fact, it was the the Sub- Divisional Magistrate Shri Tikam himself who presided over the arrest of 22 adivasi men and 7 adivasi women at midnight on the 19th of September 2003, and thus aided the related contractors and small time local Congress leaders of the area who have economic interest in the mines. The arrested people were abused badly and the women were arrested in the small hours of the morning, all without the presence of any women police. Hundreds of adivasis from villages all over the area are sitting in peaceful dharna at Limbi since the 20th of September to protest the illegal arrests and asking for a stop to the illegal mining and the violation of the PESA rules regarding their rights in the Gram Sabha. The Jan Sangharsh Morcha demands Jan Sangharsh Morcha condemns the failure of the Badwani administration to fulfill their constitutional obligation to protect the adivasis and deplores their actions favoring the contractors and middle-men. The Jan Sangharsh Morcha demands the immediate release of those in jail, suspension of Badwani SDM and full judicial enquiry into the matter of the violation of PESA and other laws by the administration and the dubious circumstances of the adivasi's arrests.

The six adivasi women from Village Limbi and Madhuri are lodged in the women 's jail at District Khargone while the 22 adivasi men are in Badwani jail. Multiple and completely false charges of extortion and other charges have been levelled against these adivasis who were refusing to let the Contractor Prakash Marathe mine on a private field owned by Garsiya adivasi in Village Limbi in the Pati block of Badwani district. The contractor in question is well connected to the local Congress party as well as to the administration. This incident of brutal repression of these Adivasis by the Badwani district administration in conjunction with the contractors of calcite mines in the area is enough to expose the sordid reality of the much flaunted Panchayati Raj in Madhya Pradesh , considering that the adivasis were only and rightfully attempting to use the Gram Sabha to assert their collective control over the lands and natural resources of their village.

It may be noted that as per the PanchayatiRaj Extension to Scheduled Areas Act, 1997, it is compulsory for the administration to consult the Gram Sabha prior to mining of any minerals, and in fact as far as minor minerals are concerned, the decision about whether to give permission for such activity or not lies entirely with the Gram Sabha. Similarly, it is also patently clear that no mining activity can be done on the private land of any individual without his permission, or if the consequences are irreversible without land acquisition. But the mining in Village Limbi has completely flouted both these laws. The Gram Sabha of Limbi had unanimously passed written resolutions on two occasions - 26th January 2003 and 14th April 2003 - that they object to the calcite mine and that it should be cancelled. They sent copies of these Gram Sabha resolutions to the administration. On the 10th of September 2003, once again, nearly 362 members of the Gram Sabha of Limbi signed a statement saying that the Gram Sabha of Limbi has not given any permission for calcite mining in the village.

It may also be noted that neither had Adivasi Garsiya s/o Narsingh whose field was being mined given any permission for the mining activity. Garsiya had informed the Collector Badwani on the 4th of September 2003, that this mining was done without his permission and without any due process of law such as land acquisition. He had submitted an affidavit to this effect to the Collector. In fact, the adivasis have pointed out that while the administration is claiming that they have given permission for mining on Khasra no. 7, Garsiya's field falls on Khasra No. 11 which is 2 kms. away from Khasra No. 7 and in a different hamlet altogether. However, instead of intervening in this matter in favor of the adivasis, the administration chose to punish the innocent, hoping to intimidate them and crush their opposition.

On the night of the arrests, Manendra s/o Raisingh and mine contractor Prakash Marathe arrived with Truck No. MP 10 A 3075 and came to Garsiya's fields, and despite Garsiya's refusal proceeded to mine calcite and filled their truck with the material. Then Garsiya proceeded to inform the rest of the village. When the villagers gathered and opposed this mining, the SDM Badwani who had arrived by then, along with the Town Inspector, Pati told the adivasis that they would sieze the truck and invited them to come along to Badwani. After reaching Pati, the truck was allowed to go, while 29 men and women who had accompanied the truck and lured to Pati on false pretences were arrested. When Garsiya protested that he had been paid no compensation for the loss of his field and so the mining was illegal, he and others were charged with extortion !!

The Madhya Pradesh government relentlessly advertises both commercially and politically that it created a record of sorts in giving rights to the Panchayats and the Gram Sabhas, but the Limbi incident exposes the reality of how adivasis and villagers are systematically being denied the right to take decisions about the resources of their own village. It also reveals that in fact the right of decision-making by the Gram Sabha is being illegally appropriated by the administration, to serve the advantage of a handful of contractors and middlemen, usually connected to the ruling party, in this case, the Congress. Instead of stopping the illegal mining, the administration is repressing the villagers who are asserting their democratic and political rights and exercise of control over the natural resources of the village through the Gram Sabha.

The Jan Sangharsh Morcha and the Nimad Malwa Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan reiterate their condemnation of this incident and express their resolve to raise this incident and expose the machinations of the present Digvijay Singh government and the hollowness of their election slogans of Panchayati Raj at the state level in the coming months.

Kamla Yadav, Gendram bhai
Narmada Bachao Andolan, Adivasi Muktiti Sangathan
Chittaroopa Palit, Tukaram Alawe
Nimad Malwa Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan,
Jagrut Adivasi Dalit Sangathan