Press Statement of CPI(ML) Red Star:
Severely Condemn Modi Government’s Fascist Action Forcibly Removing Shaheen Baghs!
Shaheen Bagh where women came out on the streets and started an indefinite dharna demanding the repeal of the CAA, and NPR/NRC based on it, had become the symbol of people’s resistance against CAA,NPR,NRC. The mobilization of women and their supporters had reached massive levels on many occasions. Very soon Shaheen Bagh like resistance centers came up in all cities, towns and even in villages, there number reaching more than 3000 by the end of February, with hundreds of thousands of women got mobilized every day challenging Modi government’s fascist move to impose the NRC based on CAA through the NPR to be launched from 1st April at all India level.
During last three months or more there were many efforts to remove this symbol of the people’s movement. But, every time the women and people supporting them had defeated these moves, always taking care that it shall remain a peaceful women’s resistance. When the COVID 19 outbreak started, and government took various steps including issue of prohibitory orders, the number of participants were reduced first to 30-40 and then to 10, maintaining all orders. In spite of this, today morning the Delhi police arrested the 10 women continuing dharna there, and by force demolished the pandal and occupied the dharna place. We unequivocally condemn this fascist action. There are reports from Raichur,North Karnatak and other places of such fascist action by the police.
If Modi government thinks that the resistance movement of people, and of the Shaheen Bagh women who are spear heading it can be put down using the measures taken to contain the threat from COVID 19 as a cover, we want to warn that it has completely mistaken the strength of this mass movement. As soon as the lock down is over, not only Shaheen Bagh at Delhi, many more Shaheen Baghs shall come up all over the country defeating whatever measures Modi government takes to impose the NPR/NRC based on CAA. The people shall defeat the conspiracy to get the NPR completed by clubbing it with the Census also. No Census measures shall be allowed till CAA, NPR and NRC are scrapped. We appeal to all popular forces, the Muslims, dalits, Adivasis and other oppressed sections along with the democratic secular forces rallying with them to get prepared to once again launch the movement with more vigorously..
CPI(ML) Red Star
24th March 2020, 3.00 PM.
Press Statement from CPI(ML) Red Star:
Boycott NPR and Census Launched From 1st April, Intensify Anti-CAA/NPR/NRC Movement.
Compatriots, comrades! The people’s movement against the CAA/NPR/NRC is intensifying day by day, in spite of all attacks including the latest Northeast Delhi pogrom savagely targeting the Muslims organized by RSS goons. The call for blocking the launching of NPR from 1st April, to boycott it and to launch a countrywide Non Cooperation Movement is getting increasing support. Already six state assemblies have passed resolutions against NPR and many more states have announced that they will not implement NRC. Confronted with such resistance, the Modi government is now trying to fool the people by launching NPR clubbing it with the Census. We are not against the Census carried out in every decade, but when it is used as a cover by Modi government to launch the NPR some way or other, we have no other alternative but to boycott both. Our demand is: First scrap CAA, NPR, NRC, then go for Census!
If NPR survey is allowed to take place, following its completion by 30th September, all citizens who could not give full details demanded under it shall be noted as “Doubtful Citizens” (DCs). It is our history that from the time of large scale Hindu-Muslim riots followed by division of the country in 1947, and before and after 1971, when Bangladesh separated from Pakistan following violent strife, there were large scale movement of people across the borders. Many of them have no records. Not only majority of the 20 crore Muslims, but the scheduled castes (Dalits) and scheduled tribes (Adivasis) along with other backward sections are landless and houseless, illiterate, who migrate to new areas of work, and ravaged by floods and other natural calamities, whose number will be around 50 crores, have only voters’ identity cards, ration cards, Adhar cards or Pan cards which are not accepted as proof of citizenship under Modi rule!. They have no other records or papers. So, in a vast country like India with an expected 140 crores population, with nearly 50 crores extremely poor, at least 20-25 crores may become DCs if the NPR is allowed to be completed. As happened following the Assam NRC, they will be given 3 months time to prove their citizenship before the Foreigners’ Tribunals.
It is at this stage the CAA shall be applied. Based on it all the Muslims with DCs will lose citizenship. The others, the Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Budhists, Parsis and Christians, can get citizenship based on CAA, if they prove they migrated from Pakistan, Afghanistan or Bangladesh due to religious persecution, which 99% of them cannot prove. So, in this first phase of the communal, ethnic cleansing based on Brahmanical, Manuvadi qualification, as RSS ideologues Savarkar and Golwalkar preached, nearly 20-25 crores of people, one third or half of them Muslims shall become stateless. They will be thrown to Detention Camps being constructed all over India. If Modi’s rule continues, more such cleansing shall follow till a Hindurashtra of Savarnas is achieved!
Recognizing the horrific consequences of the CAA, NPR/NRC process, spearheaded by students and women, the unprecedented people’s movement is sweeping the country. Frustrated by it, Modi government is targeting Muslims to divide the movement and unleashing state terror creating atmosphere of fear to suppress the people’s resistance and to impose the CAA/NPR/NRC at any cost. As a last resort, it is now trying to get the NPR done by combining it with the census. It is a trap. We should not be fooled by it. So, along with all other struggling forces, the CPI(ML) Red Star calls for boycotting the NPR even in its new form, clubbed with the Census! It calls for launching countrywide Non Cooperation Movement. As the tension is mounting as the 1st April is coming nearer, we should be clear that if the NPR is not blocked a humanitarian tragedy of colossal magnitude, a hundred times more horrendous than what happened under Hitler in Germany in 1930s shall happen in new form, under the corporate fascist Modi rule guided by RSS, the largest terrorist organization in the world.
Already the Indian Diaspora around the world have come out against this communal, ethnic cleansing under the pretext of NPR/NRC. Many governments across the world and democratic forces have expressed concern. The UN Commissioner for Human Rights is trying to intervene in the Supreme Court hearing on this question. In spite of all these, the Modi government is arrogantly rejecting the growing people’s resistance within the country, but also the international public opinion by claiming it is India’s internal question!
In this grave situation, the CPI(ML) Red Star appeals to all people to out-rightly reject all wily tactics of Modi government to impose NPR by clubbing it with the Census. Let us make it clear: We are not against Census, but firstly scrap CAA, NPR, NRC, then go for the 2021 Census! The Central Committee once again calls upon all party committees to join with the struggling masses and wage uncompromising struggles to stop the NPR even when it is coming along with Census to cheat the people! Defeat RSS/BJP’s fascist tricks and block NPR!
CPI(ML) Red Star
05th March, 2020.
Comrades, Compatriots, Though the BJP leaders from PM Modi and HM Shah to their local level cadres as well as the RSS parivar, with the help of main stream media and social media, are frantically engaged in a vitriolic disinformation campaign to mislead the people that there is nothing harmful in the CAA for the present citizens of India, and it is only for giving citizenship to those who are forced to migrate from the Islamic countries, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh due to religious discrimination ( belonging to Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Budhists, jains and Parsis but except Muslims), during the last two months of struggle to revoke the CAA and to reject the NPR/NRC, the people of India are understanding day by day the dangerous consequences if the NPR is allowed to be launched on 1st April, and the NRC is allowed to be prepared based on the CAA. Millions of Muslims shall be declared stateless and thrown to Detention Camps being constructed all over the country, while three or four times more from among the dalits, Adivasis and other socially and economically backward sections shall become stateless without any rights.
The CAA based NPR/NRC is a well planned RSS agenda to overthrow the 1955 Citizenship Act, and to replace it with citizenship based on religion and Manuvad, to convert India in to the homeland of the “Hindus”, the Hindurashtra as defined by Golwalker, where ultimately the religious minorities and all those outside the Savarna Castes shall be denied citizenship. This master plan is started with spreading hatred against the Muslims, but will soon affect the large number of people from other religions and all Avarnas, the shudras, ati-shudras, Adivasis and other most backward sections also. If, as Modi and Amit Shah say, the CAA is only for giving citizenship to those ‘religiously discriminated refugees’ from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, whose number is about 30, 000 only, such a huge poject like a countrywide survey and preparation of NRC of the 135 crores of people spending many billions of rupees and engaging lakhs of employees for months was not required, it could be done in a month through executive orders under present Citizenship Act. An over view of the planning of the Modi government with the launching of the NPR enumerations from 1st April shall show that it is nothing but preparation of the NRC for Hindurashtra.
This whole process start invariably with the preparation of the National Population Register (NPR) from 1st April to 30th September based on 21 questions including birth certificate of the applicant, citizenship of parents when the applicant was bone, documents to prove present address etc. Seeing the increasing opposition from the people, the central government is now consoling that many of this queries shall be avoided now. In state like Kerala, W. Bengal etc, where the state governments have refused to prepare the NPR, it is done under the cover of Census also. The master plan is to get the list of the present residents in India collected somehow or other with whatever details possible out of the 21 queries. In the process of preparing this register, the enumerators will be asked to note D, ie doubtful citizens, against the name of all those who have not sufficient papers or who refuse to give answers.
Once this NPR is somehow completed by 30th September, the second step, preparation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the list of the Doubtful Citizens (DC) shall be prepared, as was done in Assam. Then the third step starts: all those in the list of DC shall be asked to go to Foreigners’ Tribunals (FT) with necessary papers to prove their citizenship. It is in this phase the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) enters. Based on this all Muslims in the DC shall be declared stateless and go back to any of these countries, Afghanistan, Pakistan or Bangladesh. As all these countries have made it clear that none of these migrants are from their countries, there is no question of receiving them. In the NRC of Assam, a state with about 3 crores of population, published on 31 August, 2019, 17 lakhs were declared stateless, out of which about 5 lakhs are Muslims. After the expire of 3 months given to them to prove their citizenship before the FT are over, except very few most others are confirmed as stateless. As CAA is not applicable to DCs as and when they are prepared. All others, 14 lakhs of ‘Hindus’ who are also stateless can get citizenship under CAA, if they can prove that they are refugees from Bengladesh, for which they have no papers as they are residents of Assam even before Bengldesh was formed in 1971. So, these 14 lakhs of people, Adivasis, dalits, Nepalese and other most backward sections without any papers are remaining in Assam without voting or any other rights of the citizens!
If this picture is projected at all India level, including the many millions of Bengali workers who have migrated to different parts of India from the time of 1947 division of India, at least 20 millions or more Muslims shall become DCS and declared stateless. Under CAA, all of them shall become stateless and sent to the DCs. What about the 300 million dalits and Adivasis and about 100 million other most backward sections, 90% of whom have no papers of any sort including land pattas? All of them shall invariably fail to prove before the FTs that they are citizens according to the provisions of the NPR. Neither they can prove that they are refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan or Bangladesh, which they are not. They will be declared stateless, thrown out of their present habitats, facing a horrendous situation. Same will be the fate of dalit Christians and the poorest among the other minorities also. All these stateless people shall be forced to new slums, providing cheapest labor for the corporate houses, while their present habitats shall be turned in to land banks, to provide sufficient cheap lands to the corporate and real estate mafias. As all the stateless have to be thrown in to DCs, the corporate houses shall get trillion dollar contracts to construct them also!
Even before such a horrific situation is created by the CAA/NPR/NRC process, according to latest accounts, 1095 Indians are daily migrating to foreign countries, and already there are large number of migrated Indians in practically every country in the world. If the RSS concept of Hindurashtra is implemented by all these countries around the world, what will happen to these many millions of migrants is also forgotten by the RSS parivar and all those enamored with the Hindurashtra concept.
Comrades, Compatriots, Already voluminous materials have come out including videos explaining the horrendous consequences of this fascist project of RSS imposed by the Modi government. In order to impose it at any cost, divisive politics is brazenly pursued, creating atmosphere of hatred and fear, already leading to savage state terror created under Yogi in UP, the pogrom during the Delhi riots etc. If the RSS is not resisted more barbarous developments may break out in coming days. It is in this situation, the great significance of blocking the launching of the NPR from 1st April should be seen. It is the urgent responsibility of all secular democratic forces, all the organizations of the toiling masses, the trade unons and peasant movements, all those who uphold the democratic spirit of Indian Constitution and the anti-caste, secular values of the renaissance and independence movements, to join the oppressed people who are on the streets, the Muslims, dalits, Adivasis and other most backward sections now spearheaded by the students and women, to further intensify the ongoing people’s movement against the CAA/NPR/NRC in to a mighty storm that will block the launching of the NPR on 1st April.
Comrades, Compatriots, Let us dare to think about what shall happen if the present challenge is not boldly confronted; Let us dare to struggle uniting all the forces who can be united to resist and beat back the forces of reaction! It shall definitely lead the masses of this country to great victory in beating back the fascist forces who want to pull back India in to medieval barbarism!
CPI(ML) Red Star
1st March 2020
On 24th February when Trump and Modi were displaying bonhomie, and Trumps was spewing Islamophobia boasting about how US administration has put down Islamic terrorists making the largely RSS mobilization at Ahmedabad stadium happy, and the mainstream media was eulogizing these neo-fascists power, Modi’s own RSS men, the Hindutva terrorists, led by BJP leaders indulging in hate speeches had started surrounding the Muslim areas of Northeast Delhi and indulging in large scale arson, looting and killing. As happened in Gujarat in 2002, the police was not visible for two days, or if present, were helping the RSS men on 24th and 25th February, resulting in large scale arson of Muslim shops, workplaces and houses, killing of 23 and bullet injuries to hundreds. By the time Amit Shah opened his mouth giving ‘shoot at sight’ orders to the saffronized Delhi police, and Modi appealed for peace on 26th February, what the RSS wanted was started and realized in a big way, terrorizing the Muslims, in their latest bid to show that the Muslims are entirely responsible to the Anti-CAA, NPR, NRC movement. It was surprising that when a defeated Assembly candidate of BJP, Kapil Misra, could lead the attacks by the RSS men, none of the elected AAP MLAs or leaders of the mainstream opposition parties were also not visible in the streets to support the victims of this aggression by Hindutva forces. Reports from this area on 26th also shows that, in spite of putting the whole area under prohibitory orders and police making flag marches, RSS men are still on the streets and they are still burning down if any shops, factories or houses of Muslims are still remaining in this area. As a result, hundreds of Muslim families are fleeing from their houses to more safe areas in Delhi. Instead of addressing this state of affairs and to arrest the RSS muscle men indulging in these crimes, BJP is justifying their actions by comparing what Congress did in 1984! It is an outright criminal approach! As far as the masses are concerned they unequivocally condemn all criminal acts of pogroms in 1984, 2002 as well as what is happening in Delhi now in order to communalize and suppress the Anti-CAA, NPR, NRC movement.
Modi government cannot justify what the RSS men are doing in the streets of Delhi, indulging in large scale arson and killings by their muscular forces providing state support. A whole section of the population, the Muslims, are subjected to barbarous attacks in order to communalize and brutally suppress a peaceful movement by masses of people, not only Muslims, but also the Dalits, Adivasis and other most backward sections spear headed by the students and women on a large scale. What the Modi government is doing is illegal, unconstitutional and cannot be justified at all. So we demand his government should resign taking responsibility for what is happening in the country to impose the CAA, and to go ahead with the NPR from 1st April, to be followed by the NRC process after 30th September, the entire process aimed at making tens of millions of people stateless, as was done under NRC/Assam in that state, rendering 19 lakhs of residents stateless.
We appeal to the Masses of Muslims undaunted by the criminal attacks by the Modi government, the Dalits, the Adivasis and other most backward sections of people, along with all secular democratic forces who are part of the present Anti-CAA, NPR, NRC movement, to intensify the movement to its highest levels so that the Modi government can be prevented from launching the NPR anywhere in the country. Along with this, let us intensify the campaign demanding the banning of RSS which is the largest, uniformed, trained and armed terrorist organization in the world, as well as the resignation of Modi government which has subverted all its constitutional responsibilities, resorting to criminal acts to impose the majoritarian, Hindutva agenda of fascist RSS.
K N Ramachandran
CPI (ML) Red Star
26th February 2020
Muslims, women, Dalits and tribals to be the worst affected The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) have brought together the nation to agitate against the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) divisive policies. In Assam, where the NRC had already been implemented, 19 lakh people were rendered to be ‘stateless’, with the burden of proof being on them to prove themselves to be the citizens of India. Now, with an all-India NRC on the cards; it will be repeated in Assam again, trade unions and activists say that the worst hit of the entire lot will be the unorganized sector of the country.
What is the Strength of the Unorganized Sector in India?
There have been no conclusive numbers on the strength of the unorganized or informal workforce in India. The Economic Survey of 2018-19 released in July this year says that in India, “almost 93%” of the workforce is “informal”. In a report – Strategy for New India at 75 by Niti Aayog, the informal sector “by some estimates” is supposed to be employing 85% of all workers. Another report by the National Statistical Commission, 2012 pegs it at “more than 90%” of the total workforce. However, going by the numbers, more than 400 million of the people in India work in the unorganized sector.
Who Comes Under the Unorganized Labour Force?
According to the Ministry of Labour, Government of India, the unorganized labour force is categorized under four groups – occupation, nature of employment, specially distressed categories and service categories.
- Under Terms of Occupation: Small and marginal farmers, landless agricultural labourers, share croppers, fishermen, those engaged in animal husbandry, beedi rolling, labelling and packing, building and construction workers, leather workers, weavers, artisans, salt workers, workers in brick kilns and stone quarries, workers in saw mills, oil mills, etc. come under this category.
- Under Terms of Nature of Employment: Attached agricultural labourers, bonded labourers, migrant workers, contract and casual labourers come under this category.
- Under Terms of Specially Distressed Category: Toddy tappers, scavengers, carriers of head loads, drivers of animal driven vehicles, loaders and unloaders come under this category.
- Under Terms of Service Category: Midwives, domestic workers, fishermen and women, barbers, vegetable and fruit vendors, newspaper vendors, etc., belong to this category.
These workers mostly belong to scheduled castes / scheduled tribes and other backward classes and mostly do not possess a permanent residential address, birth or school certificates and find it difficult to apply for voter IDs and Aadhaar identification numbers.
Last year, informing the Parliament about how many people were issued the Aadhaar Card, KJ Alphons, the Minister of State for Electronics and IT, said that more than 89% of the total population had been granted the same.
In 2019, India had around 900 million eligible voters, with 95.64% having a photo identity card.
While the government planned to offer benefits like insurance and pension to over 40 crore unorganized workers using the Aadhaar, it hasn’t made it clear whether the biometric identifier or the voter IDs will be regarded as proof of citizenship.
During the Assam NRC, the basic criteria to appear in the NRC list was that the name of the applicant’s family members had to either be in the first NRC prepared in 1951 or in the electoral rolls up to March 24, 1971. Other than that, applicants also had the option to present documents such as refugee registration certificate, birth certificate, LIC policy, land and tenancy records, citizenship certificate, passport, government issued license or certificate, bank/post office accounts, permanent residential certificate, government employment certificate, educational certificate and court records. However, it must be noted that 19 lakh citizens were left out of the Assam NRC and scores were wrongly dubbed ‘foreigners’ or ‘illegal immigrants’ even after producing the required proofs.
Who Face Document Woes and Why
According to a report by Down to Earth, in India 95 percent (195 million) women were employed in the unorganized sector or engaged in unpaid labour.
Deccan Herald reported that according to Garment Labour Union President Rukmini VP, women are still finding it difficult to enroll for Aadhaar because more than one document is required for address proof. “Migrants often find it difficult to produce them, as their homes are in other states,” she said, urging the government to stop imposing multiple citizenship proofs. The SC, ST and OBCs have historically been kept away from education and property ownership and they are all set to be affected said city-based advocate S Balan who works for the welfare of purakarmikas and daily wage labourers. He also said that at the APMC market in Bengaluru itself, over 3,000 headloaders don’t have any documents, not even voter IDs.
According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy Pvt Ltd, out of the 400 odd million people in India employed in the labour force, 39 million are Muslims. A little more than a hundred million muslims are in the working age bracket in India, i.e. they are of 15 years of age or more. Of these, 42.3 million actually participate in the labour markets by either working or looking for work. Muslim women have a lesser participation in the labour force, compared to other faiths. Out of the 39 million, 36.5 million are men and only 2.5 million are women. Some households have only one working member, mostly a male and if that person has to run from pillar to prove to gather documents, his household is bound to suffer extreme financial losses.
The NRC process in Assam saw many women being left out of the list. Women from poorer backgrounds were excluded due to lack of documents. It was not compulsory in Assam to register birth or deaths until 1985. The NRC process does not recognise this. Several women were married off they turned 18, so their name will not be on the voter list along with their parents. With no awareness of the NRC process and emotional and financial dependency on the patriarch, coupled with practices like early marriage and the dwindling girl-child education robs them of their valid identity proofs. Most of the women in rural areas or conservative households do not register for voter identity cards. Without educational degrees and land documents, women don’t possess independent identity documents which makes them particularly vulnerable to the NRC process.
Dalits and Tribal Communities
The rampant illiteracy and lack of awareness of maintaining documents is going to affect the Dalits and the tribal communities of India. A Delhi-based rights lawyer had claimed that in the Assam NRC over 100,000 Scheduled Tribes who were original inhabitants of Assam were left out of the list due to the inability to prove their legacy from 1971. Overall, the NRC is set to hit the poor the most especially with them running from pillar to post, gathering documents and facing undue harassment from authorities. The NRC process to the exchequer itself may cost over Rs. 50,000 crore in administration expenses, Rs. 2 – 3 lakh crore to construct detention camps and Rs. 36,000 to take care of the citizens who will face a future in detention camps (National Herald).
According to The Times of India, the cost of reclaiming citizenship will go up to Rs. 50,000 per person. In Assam, people left out of the NRC spend Rs. 7,836 crore for hearings. Will the economically crippled labour of India be able to bear the cost of the NRC if and when it does hit the country especially when over 22 percent of the country’s population is below the poverty line?
Last week, the Union Cabinet approved the updation of the National Population Register (NPR), sanctioning funds of over Rs. 8,400 crore for the same. The NPR exercise, scheduled to be updated April onwards, is being seen as the first step to the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
With protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and the NRC gaining ground, the arguments against the citizenship amendments have moved from solely criticising the religious binarial divide of Hindu-Muslim to incorporate the concerns of the historically disadvantaged communities that will be adversely affected. With tribals constituting 8.6 percent of the total population, there are growing concerns regarding the implications of the citizenship law and the NRC for the indigenous and forest-dwelling communities of India. The primary issue is regarding documentation. Forest-dwelling communities have faced a long-lost battle with displacement for the sake of development. In the wake of the NRC, this displacement, that forces them to leave their land and migrate to far-off settlements, has placed them in yet another precarious situation.
According to Aloka Kujur, Jharkhand-based Adivasi rights activist, the state of Jharkhand, being a “Scheduled Tribe/Adivasi area” has witnessed a long history of displacement due to projects including Bokaro Steel Plant, and mining for coal, uranium and bauxite. Displacement continues, even today. “Due to this, many people’s villages have disappeared. So how will these show up in documents?” she asked.
“These people are constantly migrating from one place to another. If you tell them to give documents of their father or grandfather, or ask them where they took birth, how will they tell you? Because even the name of their village has been removed, it has disappeared. It is not in the system anymore. Even if they name the village, where is it? Which district? This is a major issue,” Kujur told The Citizen.
Kujur gave the example of Nilamber Pitamber village in Jharkhand. “Modi sarkar came and inaugurated the Mandal dam. If due to the Mandal dam, there is again an order for displacement, then the entire village will be submerged. Those who are then displaced to other areas, unka naam, pata, thikaana badal jaayega (their name, address and locality of residence will change),” stated the activist, who has a sedition case filed against her for posting on Facebook supporting the Pathalgadi (or Pathalgarhi) movement in Jharkhand.
CR Bijoy, with the Campaign for Survival and Dignity, a national forum for tribals and forest dwellers stated, “The whole point is that if you ask me if I have a birth certificate, I don’t. In my generation, I don’t think any one of us has a birth certificate, because it was never considered at that time as a necessary document.” “Now what I have is what is available in my school records. I do have a passport. But the point is that if you are making a birth certificate a fundamental evidence even to validate my passport, what do I do?” How then are the tribal and forest-dwelling communities expected to furnish such documents, he asked.
Kujur referred to the 2019 Supreme Court order that called for the eviction of lakhs of people belonging to tribal and forest dwelling communities, whose claims to forest land rights were rejected under the The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act (FRA), 2006. “People are living in the forests without Aadhar. They migrate and live in these areas. How will they provide documentation? How will they prove their citizenship?” she asked. Kujur further stated that the tribal populations who fall under the category of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTG), earlier known as Primitive Tribal Groups (PTG), do not have any documentation and will find proving their citizenship an extremely arduous task.
As per the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, there are 75 tribal groups spread across 18 states and the Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands that are identified as PVTGs. With “pre-agricultural level of technology, stagnant or declining population growth, extremely low level of literacy and subsistence level of economy”, PVTGs constitute “the most vulnerable section among tribals and largely reside in isolated, remote and difficult areas.” Even the Dalit population in Jharkhand does not have any property in their name, but sustain themselves by working as daily-wage labourers, Kujur told The Citizen. According to her, while documentation is one hurdle the tribal population will find hard to cross, the granting of citizenship based on grounds of religious persecution will create yet another obstacle in their path.
“One thing that has been mentioned in the Citizenship (Amendment) Act is very significant for Jharkhand. The Indian government is saying citizenship will be provided based on religion. In Jharkhand, the adivasi population has become Christian. Sarna Dharmik group is another group that is not mentioned in the Indian Constitution. They have not been given recognition by the government. In this situation, where will this dharmik group go?” Kujur stated. “Apart from this, Birsa Munda had made a Bhisai Dharma. This Bhisai Dharma is practiced within the Munda community. This has also not been recognised by law,” Kujur told The Citizen. Adivasis, being primarily animistic, worship the forests they inhabit and resources they derive sustenance from, rather than the recognised forms of organised religion today.
She further explained that there was a Tana Bhagat team that worked with Gandhi during the freedom struggle. “Even today there are Tana Bhagats. They live a simple life and they are fighting their own property battle to be settled on land of their own by law. This is an issue on the basis of religion. In this situation, the adivasi population, if they practice and follow different dharmas, then if they need to provide identity documentation for citizenship, their ethnic identity will be completely destroyed,” Kujur said.
Against the backdrop of the CAA that will grant Indian citizenship to members of six persecuted religious communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, tribal rights activists also fear that the land inhabited by the indigenous populations of India will become a “dumping ground” for the refugees.
“As far as Central India is concerned, the likelihood is that for the Indian state and the upper ruling caste/class to see the lesser populated tribal region as an easy dumping ground for any person, whether they are internally displaced or foreign ‘illegal’ immigrants,” Bijoy told The Citizen.
Giving an example of the Tamil Sri Lankan repatriates who became estate labourers upon entering India, Bijoy said that about three lakhs were “dumped” in Tamil Nadu’s Nilgiri District, primarily occupying the Gudalur and Pandalur Taluk which were originally tribal regions. “In fact, today the situation is that these repatriates who are estate labourers and tribals are jointly fighting for their land rights,” Bijoy said.
Land rights and the legal security they offer for tribal and forest dwelling communities remain a matter of contention. “There are millions of tribals who are officially landless but holding on to small bits and pieces for their survival,” Bijoy stated. He explained the difference between the two forms of land rights—revenue land and forest land.
“According to the government’s own estimates, there are about 40 million hectares of forest land that fall within the purview of the Forest Rights Act, according to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. Out of which, if we actually look at the extent to which the land has been titled, that is maybe about less than 15 percent,” he said.
While forest land has a component of collective ownership under the Forest Rights Act, the revenue land law primarily talks about individual rights. “If you look at the actual holding of the tribals in the revenue land, you will find that only a very insignificant part of what they really hold is actually titled. So under the government, they are officially ‘landless’ but they are actually holding the land. The reason is that we do not have a revenue law that actually goes through the process of determination of rights,” Bijoy told The Citizen.
Access to documentation is a rare luxury for those living in far-flung regions of the country. While many do own ration cards and Voter IDs, the confusion regarding the documents necessary to prove citizenship is continuing to create anxiety among the populace. The label of ‘landless’ that hangs over the tribals and forest-dwellers further adds to their quandary. “The government here has made a land bank,” Kujur said.
“Within this land bank there is a lot of land. There are people who sustain themselves on the basis of that very land. If it is part of a land bank, it becomes the property of the government. Then the identity of the adivasi community that lives there is threatened,” she told The Citizen. The granting of residential status under the FRA differentiates between those belonging to Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFDs). STs must prove that they have been living on forest land since before December 13, 2005. OTFDs must prove that at least three generations have been residing on the land in question, prior to the same date.
“Three generations means a person who is currently alive, whether his father and grandfather were seen around the area. If there is some elder person who says we have seen them around, then you can say that at least for three generations they have been residing here,” Bijoy said.
Highlighting the issues created by the bureaucratic takeover of granting of land rights in this manner, he stated, “The mischievous thing was that bureaucrats subsequently twisted that particular provision. When it became an Act, they put 25 years as one generation equivalent. So they now require documents from 1930 onwards.”
Meanwhile, protests in North East India have emphasised concerns regarding the ethnicity of the indigenous populations being destroyed in the wake of the citizenship amendments. According to Bijoy, the historical influx of refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar has created a precarious situation for the indigenous population in the North East.
Protective legislations have also been enacted differentially in the North East. Bijoy further stated that people from the Oraon and Munda communities have not been recognised as Scheduled Tribes in Assam.
“There is a different history for North East, as far as the mainland is concerned and therefore inapplicability of varieties of Indian laws, be it revenue laws, the forest laws. Say for instance, most of the North East except for Sikkim—particularly states like Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh—there are areas called ‘unclassed forests’ where the Indian forest laws are not made applicable,” he said.
“Same thing with land, and therefore people believe the community still has control over the land and resources. With immigrants getting merged with the Indian population, the fact of the matter is that a sizeable section of people are becoming invisible to the state,” Bijoy told The Citizen.
While activists and concerned citizens have been bringing up the implications of the CAA and NRC for the Adivasi population, how much do the people belonging to tribal communities truly understand the citizenship law? A recent report by Hindustan Times highlighted the lack of awareness among those living in the tribal-belts of India. While most had heard of the CAA and NRC, they were unaware about the implications of the same, wondering whether the documentation they currently have would suffice to prove their citizenship…
“Right now, it is a huge mess,” Bijoy claimed. Coming back to the complications created by the certification process for tribals in the aftermath of the citizenship law, he stated, “Community certification for tribals should actually be done by the community, not by bureaucrats who are external alien creatures who know nothing about that particular place. So the most ignorant are the ones who are authorised to deal with it. Even in this Citizenship Act, it is going to be the same old colonial bureaucracy who is going to have a field day.”
(The Citizen, 31 December, 2019) n