Ranchi – Jharkhand

7th – 8th May, 2010

“Let it not be said of India, that this great Republic in a hurry to develop, itself is devastating the green mother earth and uprooting our tribal population.”

President of India, Mr.  K.R Narayanan
25th Jan 2001 Eve of Republic Day

Contrary to what the head of the state said at the beginning of the new millennium, India has not only put  mother earth at great risk by its distorted development process, but also has caused great suffering to and impoverishment of the tribal and the indigenous people.

The process of liberalization, privatization and globalization has started showing its fangs of devastation through a massive land grab and theft of resources particularly of the tribals, dalits ad weaker sections of society. This is also leading to rapid ecological degradation. The  state has abdicated its responsibility to protect natural resources and the constitutional rights of  of people, and has instead  joined hands with the oppressive exploitative  corporations They have confiscated poor people’s land and resources by declaring war on them through Salwa Judum in Chhattisgarh and Operation Green Hunt in Jharkhand and all resource and mineral rich tribal states. 

The two day  Bhu Swaraj convention organized by Jharkhand Alternative Development Forum with the support of Navdanya highlighted the  violence and injustice unleashed by the corporations  and the government in central India – Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, West Bengal and Bihar. This civil society initiative invited all the land rights struggles of eastern India to join hands to restore people’s land sovereignty (Bhu Swaraj). 

The voices shared here are from the sessions at the convention in Jharkhand and a preface to the declaration on Bhu Swaraj passed by the people attending this convention.

Voices of Bhoomi: Big Picture

Mr. Prem Verma
(Convener of Bhu Swaraj Convention – Jharkhand Alternative Development Forum)

“Land is not a commodity it is our mother and is not for sale.”

Dr.  Alex Ekka
(Director Xavier Institute of Social Sceicne – Ranchi)

“Jharkhand is paying a heavy price for being the heartland of mineral resources of the nation. There is increase in national revenue at the cost of tribal displacement. As CRPF forces take over schools in Jharkhand and hunger and poverty reaches shameful heights we need to question what is - this development that we are chasing.”

Dr Vandana Shiva
(Founder Director Navdnaya)

“In the international Year of biodiversity the government of India has announced operation Green hunt and its truly a green hunt an attempt to hunt down and destroy India’s bio-diversity  and communities who live in biodiversity based economies to satiate corporate greed and uphold the shining India of double digit GDP at the cost of its indigenous population.”

Mr. B.D Sharma
(President of Bharat Jan Andolan)

“Land is made by god given to the people, where did the government come in the middle. Post liberalization in India land no longer belongs to the people but is become a commodity to be looted by corporation. This must stop.”

Mr. S.P Shukla
(Former bureaucrat and scholar)

“The Land reform movement so far has reclaimed 2 million hectare of land and the current special economic zones have under them 10 million hectare land under it while on paper there is only provision for 1 million hectare. At whose cost has the 9 million hectares been appropriated for these SEZ?”

Prof. B. P Keshari
(Veteran of Jharkhand movement)

“They tried to enslave us once under the British empire and we did not permit it and sent them away. Today in the time neo-colonialism they are trying to enslave us again, but we will not give up our freedom and land.”

Fr. Nirmal Minz
(Veteran of Jharkhand movement)

“The official position of the Indian government is that there are no Adivasi (Indigenous People) in India.  Yes there is talk of Schedule Tribes but not of Adivasi. If they don’t recognize we exists then how will we protect our way of life.”

Voices of Bhoomi: Jharkhand

Mr. Ram Dayal Munda
(Member of Rajya Sabha)

“Jharkhand needs development and industry as well, but one which geared towards the welfare of the people and not the welfare of a handful of corporate.”

Prof. Ramesh Sharan

“I once heard a man tell me that my father gifted the earth 50 trees when I was born, I have 3 children I must gift 150 trees to the earth for them. It is this understanding of land, ecology and development which today is under peril.”

Ms. Dayamani Barla
(Journalist and activist against Arcelor Mittal)

“We fought them (Arcelor Mittal) from one village and they go and occupy another. The Adivasi communities will not survive if they are alienated from the natural resources. How is it possible to rehabilitate or compensate us for our ancestral land which is priceless?”

Prof. Sanjay Basu Mullick
(Director Forest Institute Jharkhand)

“Jharkhand’s economy has to be based in Agro-forestry and we need to show to the world that agro-forestry is viable and will look after not only the earth but generations of people to come.”

Mr. Shambhu Mahato
(Veteran of Jharkhand movement)

“Multifaceted village based development keeping the balance of life is the future which will sustain all not the current industrial model of development.”

Mr. Arvind Anjum
(Veteran of Jharkhand movement)

“If we (a community) define and implement development ourselves then we are living in a democracy, if this is done for us by some one else then it is bureaucracy. Whether is be social bureaucracy of the NGOs or the political bureaucracy of the parties or the corporate bureaucracy of the current government. So the question is not what is development but who is doing this development for whom? ”

Mr. Gladson Dun Dung
(Young Activist, Writer and Researcher)

“The government through operation Greenhunt is creating a livelihood and economic crisis. As anyone who engages in a village in regular economic activities of selling forest produce or agricultural produce is proclaimed a Moist and jailed, schools are being converted into barracks for paramilitary forces and this leading to large scale migration. Thus as the otherwise self sustaining economy is being made redundant the claims of the development mongering corporations are becoming stronger. It is no co-incidence that the time operation green hunt was announced was also the time that the government did an operation Ariel Mineral Survey hunt. 

Ms. Vasavi Kiro
(Indigenous journalist, activist and seed keeper)

“The Nehruvian model and the temples of modern India (dams, mines etc) have increased hunger, poverty and destitution. Today we have a blueprint in the government for terms of displacement and compensation of millions but are not given a blueprint for a development framework where people (Adivasi) and their opinion matter. The people of the forest have a different vision of development based on community and co-existence why doesn’t our development framework take that into consideration.”

Ms. Munni Hansda
(Women Social Activist who spent 7 months in jail for opposing land grab)

“Land binds the adivasi society. Land is our culture, livelihood, identity and our core of existence. If there is no land then there is no us, without land our community is just a bunch of scattered individuals. However today when we claim our rights over our land today we are faced with police brutality and government pressure to give up our claims.”

Voices of Bhoomi: Orissa

Mr. Prafula Samantrai
(President Lok Shakti Abhijan)

“37 people have already lost their life in Orissa in democratic struggle against state repression and land grab, how many more need to die before we understand that it is the land that feeds and sustains us for generation and not mining? We will never quit our land.”

(Village leader standing against Land grab)

“Land is not a commodity to be owned but a heritage which our ancestor have kept up with their blood and toil. Heritage cannot be sold. Development should come with peace and not force.”

Asha Devi
(Women Leader – Tribal Welfare Society)
(Referred by her coworkers as Home Minister – Get people unlawfully jailed out)

“I mobilize 500 women every time they try and capture our men or young people who are protesting the land grab and put them in jail. People have strength if they unite.”

Voices of Bhoomi: Chhattisgarh

Mr. Anand Mishra

“When my sons and daughters go to Maharashtra for work they are asked if they are Marathi or not. However when my district supplies electricity to Pune then why doesn’t anyone ask the electricity if it is Marathi or not? Our forest and lands are destroyed, we are deprived food, water and our rights to land for this and the benefits if they can be called that go to whom? Who faces the brunt o the development and who is getting developed?” 

Mr. Vijendra

“The seven J make the basis of life in Chhattisgarh Jal (Water), Jangal (Forest), Jameen (Land), Jeev (Animals and other species), Jan (People) and Jaiv-Vivdhta (Biodiversity). Today all seven are under-siege. Water, Forest and Land is being usurped for mining or making army bases, Animal have no where to go and people – the Adivasis are disenfranchised thus tin such a situation biodiversity cannot be sustained.”

Fr. James Toppo

“There is a complete failure of the education system. People are taught about environment but not about how they are connected to it. Children are never taught about land and its importance in sustaining us. If there is no understanding of land, environment and adivasi way of life in peoples mind why would they wish to protect it?”  

“Today in Chhattisgarh schools have become barracks of the paramilitary forces so where will the children go?”

Mr. Pravin Patel
(President Tribal Welfare Society)

“When systems to uphold democracy like public hearings become a farce and exploitation of displacement rises we need to ask if we are living in a democracy at all. What are people to do in such a situation to protect their rights?”

Bhu Swaraj Declaration 

A two day Bhu Swaraj (Land Sovereignty) Convention was organized in S.D.O Ranchi by of the Jharkhand Alternative Development Forum. In this convention people and organization from various part of India- Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal and Delhi came in large numbers. During the convention through discussion and experience sharing it became clear that the current definition of development needs to be challenged and all MOUs signed between the Jharkhand State Government and corporate houses need to be null and void. In the name of moist threat Operation Green Hunt announced by the government is detrimental to the people and needs to come to an end. Violence is not the solution, as guns create problems and not solve them. Thus violence in all forms must be stopped in this region and solution should be found through peace and not guns.

We the undersigned announce that:

  • Land, Water and Forest give us Life. It is the basis of society.
  • Land and all other natural resources are not commodities to be sold in the market. They are not for sale.
  • Land and all natural resources like – water, forest, mineral etc are commons and the right to take any decision regarding them must fall upon the communities which are connected to them.
  • The use of mineral resources must take place keeping in mind the welfare of humanity and the generations to follow.
  • The historical injustices met out to the people displaced form their land and forest need to be rectified and there rights over their resources need to be restored.
  • An economy based on Agro-Forestry needs to be rejuvenated and made self resilient as one of the key tool for the development of the nation and as an answer to the large scale poverty and hunger faced by the majority of citizen in this country.
  • All MOUs signed by the government and corporate houses for the exploitation of natural resources should be rendered null and void.

We call upon all organizations, movements, groups and forums working in the country to join us to form a united front on the issue of Land Sovereignty and saving our mother earth.

Dr Alex Ekka

Prem Verma

Dr Vandana Shiva

Arvind Anjum

Sanjay Mallik

Gladson Dung Dung

* 70 other who attended the convention

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About Navdanya

Navdanya means “nine seeds” (symbolizing protection of biological and cultural diversity) and also the “new gift” (for seed as commons, based on the right to save and share seeds In today’s context of biological and ecological destruction, seed savers are the true givers of seed. This gift or “dana” of Navadhanyas (nine seeds) is the ultimate gift – it is a gift of life, of heritage and continuity. Conserving seed is conserving biodiversity, conserving knowledge of the seed and its utilization, conserving culture, conserving sustainability.

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