Chhattisgarh must investigate allegations of dispossession of Adivasi land through coercion, cheating

 

Amnesty International India

Press Release

The Chhattisgarh police must conduct a prompt, independent and impartial investigation into allegations by over 80 Adivasi villagers in Raigarh, Chhattisgarh that they had been unlawfully dispossessed of their lands by people acting as agents for two private companies.

Amnesty india logo 201311

On 14 June, 81 Adivasi women and men tried to file First Information Reports at the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Welfare Special Police Station in Raigarh, alleging that they had been forced into selling their land – as a result of threats, intimidation, coercion, and misinformation - to agents of TRN Energy and Mahavir Energy Coal Beneficiation Limited (MECBL), operating in collusion with local land registration officials. The police accepted the complaints but refused to register First Information Reports and stated that they would first conduct a ‘preliminary enquiry’ to determine if a cognizable offence had been committed. Under India’s Code of Criminal Procedure, a preliminary inquiry is required to be concluded within 15 days, or six weeks in exceptional situations.

“Adivasi villagers have a constitutional right to access to justice,” said Karthik Navayan, Programme Manager, Business and Human Rights at Amnesty International India. “The Chhattisgarh police cannot ignore their duty to investigate these allegations and prosecute those suspected of responsibility for human rights abuses. Given the scale of the alleged abuses, the police must also investigate whether these allegations provide evidence of a pattern of wrongful dispossession of land.”

Several members of local communities in the villages of Khokhraaoma, Katangdi, Bhengari and Nawapara Tenda, many of whom are not formally literate, told Amnesty International India that they had been forced into selling their land to people acting as agents for TRN Energy, a subsidiary of ACB India Power Limited, in 2009, 2010 and 2011. TRN Energy operates a 600 MW coal-fired thermal power plant in Khokhraooma.

Similarly, residents of the villages of Bhengari said they were forced to sell their land to agents for MECBL in 2004 and 2007. MECBL operates a 12 MW biomass power plant in Bhengari. Gram Sabhas (village assemblies) in the affected villages have passed resolutions in 2015 and 2016 stating that their lands had been purchased through fraud and coercion.

 Pavithri Manjhi, the sarpanch of Bhengari village, said, “When the villagers refused to sell their land, the mediators said that the state government had already given the village to TRN. And if they did not sell their land, the company would occupy it and dump iron, ash, and coal over it, and villagers would get nothing.”

Karamsingh Rathia, an Adivasi man from Katangdi village, told Amnesty International India: “The company people came to me and asked to sell my land. I refused to sell, but a middleman said that since my land was in the middle of the proposed company site, I had to sell it. They frequently visited me and compelled me to sell. They also threatened our family. Now TRN has constructed a chimney there.”

Kalamati Rathia, an Adivasi woman from Bhengari village, said: “I had two acres of farmland at village Bhengari which I got from my father. A middleman for Mahaveer frequently visited us and compelled us to sell our land. One day along with other villagers, they took me to another person’s house where they took my signature and gave me 2000 rupees. We thought that the company had purchased our land, but the sale deed listed someone else’s name as a purchaser.”

Some villagers alleged that they had not been paid the amount mentioned in the sale deeds, or had been paid only part of it. Many said that their land had been sold at prices far below the market value. Some also said that they had been first told that only part of their land would be sold, but later found that all their land had been registered as sold. Some of the plots of land sold appear to currently be under the possession or use of TRN Energy and MECBL.

The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (PoA Act)  - a special law to protect the rights of Dalits and Adivasis - criminalizes the wrongful dispossession and interference with the lands of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. In January 2016, Parliament passed an amendment to the Act, which, among other things, inserted an explainer stating that the word “wrongfully” included dispossession or interference done “without the person’s consent”, or “with the person’s consent where such consent has been obtained by putting the person…in fear of death or hurt”.

  1. 9 May, the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes directed action to be taken under the PoA Act in cases where Adivasi land was transferred to other people through forgery. The order followed recent allegations that over 300 acres (121 hectares) of Adivasi land had been unlawfully transferred to non-Adivasis in Kunkuni village, Raigarh between 2009 and 2015.

Amnesty International India wrote to TRN Energy on 27 April and to MECBL on 3 May seeking their response to the allegations of Adivasi communities. The companies have not responded to date.

Under international human rights law and standards, states have an obligation to protect the rights of Indigenous peoples to free, prior and informed consent on decisions that affect them. This right is recognized in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and also by UN treaty bodies interpreting the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, to all of which India is a state party.

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights state that businesses have a responsibility to respect human rights, and reiterate that states have an obligation to protect against human rights abuses by business enterprises, including by taking appropriate steps to investigate, punish and redress such abuse.

****
For more information, please contact,

Smriti Singh
+919818890199
 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

 

Other Related Articles

Forging the New Indian 'Genius': the RSS roadmap
Saturday, 19 August 2017
  N. Sukumar and Shailaja Menon I like the religion that teaches liberty, equality and fraternity ~  B.R. Ambedkar The RSS-BJP combine has fine tuned its political strategy and chameleon... Read More...
Communalism and the Pasmanda question
Wednesday, 09 August 2017
  Lenin Maududi It's time for us to understand that politics is at the centre of every society. It follows then that if politics is of a poor quality, it is futile to expect any improvement in... Read More...
Why Buddhism?
Monday, 07 August 2017
  Dr. R. Praveen The growing atrocities on dalits in the name of hindutva fascism need to be countered with a formidable retaliation, one which leads us to path of progression and helps us to... Read More...
When erasure from memory is also a human rights violation
Wednesday, 02 August 2017
  Dr. Sylvia Karpagam The human rights organisation, Amnesty International has brought out two reports, one in 2016 and another in 2017, highlighting details of prisoners facing death penalties... Read More...
Why Ram Nath Kovind, and not L K Advani?
Sunday, 16 July 2017
    Doleswar Bhoi Recently, the Indian National Congress and Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) nominated Meira Kumar and Ram Nath Kovind as presidential candidate of India respectively. Both... Read More...

Recent Popular Articles

The Rise of the Bheem Army
Saturday, 13 May 2017
  Vinay Shende Exclusive details on the recent caste incidents in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh, and the role of the Bheem Army. This report is based on a member speaking to Round Table India on the... Read More...
UP में गाय माता तो सुरक्षित है लेकिन दलित माताओं का क्या...?
Sunday, 09 April 2017
  शोभना स्मृति एवं कुलदीप कुमार बौद्ध  भारत को आजाद हुए 70 साल बीत गए... Read More...
The Betrayal of Ambedkar and Dalits
Friday, 14 April 2017
  Raju Chalwadi There has been a race among the ruling class and especially among the ruling political class to project itself as true Ambedkarites or Ambedkar Bhakts, but will it dare to follow... Read More...
Bheel Intellectual Forum: Heartbeat of Dalit Activism in Pakistan
Wednesday, 29 March 2017
  Sufi Ghulam Hussain On 26th of March, the Bheel Intellectual Forum (BIF) organized a Scheduled Caste Jagarta Rally, the first ever rally that saw the participation of all major Dalit... Read More...
Institutional Discrimination in Academic Agrahara
Tuesday, 21 March 2017
  Bansidhar Deep "When equality is denied everything is denied. There is no equality in M.Phil/Ph.D admission, there is no equality in viva-voce, there is only denial of equality, denying prof.... Read More...