ASAD ASHRAF | 5 MARCH, 2019
Bharat Bandh on Forest Rights Returns the Focus on India’s Poor
Bandh successful in North Indian states
NEW DELHI: As the ruling coalition intensifies its electoral campaign in the wake of recent tensions with Pakistan, opposition parties, several Tribal and Dalit organizations today called for a Bharat Bandh in protest against evacuation orders of tribals living on forests land and Supreme Court’s recent dismissal of the review petition against 13 point roster.
The organisations supporting the Bandh today staged a demonstration in Delhi as well to protest against the central government’s failure to protect the rights of the tribal communities in the court of law. The Bahujan organizations and the opposition parties pointed out that the new 13 point roster will drastically cut down the representation of the backward communities and scheduled caste and tribes in faculties in universities across India.
According to ground reports the Bandh has largely impacted Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkand and Chattisgarh. Prominent opposition leaders like Tejasvi Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav have issued strong statements in support of the Bharat bandh. Tejasvi Yadav also maintained that his Rashtriya Janata Dal is also opposed to the 10 percent reservation for upper castes introduced by the Modi government.
The central government, feeling the heat of the Bandh have come out with a statement from Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javdekar stating that the current government opposes the 13 point roster and and prefers the older 200 point roster as well. But could do little as the apex court dismissed the review petition filed by the government. The Minister indicated that the government might bring an ordinance in support of the 200 point roster.
Nevertheless, the opposition believes that this assurance from the HRD minister is merely a gimmick because of the impact of the demonstrations today.
Speaking to the Citizen, Senior RJD leader and National Spokesperson Dr. Naval Kishore, maintained that they cannot trust this government on any of its assurances.
“This government so far has failed to bring an ordinance to stop the 13 point roster. The truth is that they do not want to do this. They are anti-reservation Manuwadis. They were simply buying time to understand the electoral impact the 13 point roster will bring along. Today after the protests, they have realized the intensity of anger among the Bahujans and are hence compelled to cool it down by issuing statements about bringing an ordinance. The fact of the matter is that they will not bring an ordinance,” he told The Citizen.
Reiterating Kishore’s remark, senior opposition leader Sharad Yadav, who parted ways with Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) to form Loktantrik Janata Dal stated that if the government was serious about Tribal rights it would have acted and not given assurances.
“It’s been enough of assurances, we don’t want them anymore. We want justice for 10 lakh tribals and similarly in the roster system in our universities. Social justice means nothing to this government”, he said.
The impact of today’s strike could be felt largely in Uttar Pradesh where Samajwadi Party workers stopped several trains, Students at BHU continued to stage a Dharna in the campus till late evening. Parts of Bihar and Jharkand have been substantially hit by the Bandh where people blocked road in major cities like Patna, Ranchi and Giridih.
Gauging the impact of the Bandh, Congress President Rahul Gandhi also issued a statement in its support and said that false promises made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had brought the Dalits and Tribal on the road today.
Earlier on February 28, a Supreme Court bench comprising Justice Arun Mishra and MR Shah had stayed its own order of Feb 21, 2019 where it had directed states to ensure the eviction of all those persons from forests whose claims under Forest Right Act had been rejected. In the February 28 order the Supreme Court asked the state governments to file affidavits providing details of the process adopted in rejecting the claims made by the Forest Dwelling Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers.
The tribal groups participating in today’s bandh are demanding that an ordinance be brought in immediately to ensure that their rights are not violated and look at the Supreme Court stay as a temporary reprieve in the absence of any proper law.