Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Orissa’s Lalgarh: Un-divided Koraput

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Reported by Manoj Kumar Das;

Koraput: Several agitated tribals in Orissa’s Koraput district have resorted to forcible eviction methods of private companies from the forest land, in the disguise of restoration of land to tribals, the so-called ‘real’ owners. The forest land, however, had been sold off by the non-tribals owners to private companies.

Protesting the ownership of private companies on the forest land, members of Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh (CMAS), a newly created and a ‘pro-tribal group’, has forcibly occupied 300 acres of the land in Bandhugaon Block of the district. They also fell down several teak trees planted by the private company. The step has once again displayed how this Maoist-backed group is gaining popularity and establishing its hold among tribals day-by-day. These lands were previously compelling the non-tribals to leave their houses and vacate this area for tribals, has taken a quantum leap with the latest occupation of land.

Also, earlier, the members of the CMAS were involved in acquiring lands from the non-tribals and distributing it among tribals, which according to the group are the ‘real’ owners. This time the members of the CMAS have began to target private companies that purchased the lands to set up industries here. In the latest incident, the 300-acres of land, which was under a Govt. plantation programme and was sold off to the STM Company, has been taken over from its owners and distributed among tribals and non-tribals. The forcible eviction or occupying of the land in this area has created a sense of unease and fear among the multi-national companies who intend to invest in poverty-stricken Orissa and set up industries here.

Meanwhile, the government is trying to restore the tribals by providing them their land as per law. Nearly 500 acres of land has been restored and the process is further on. But the tribals say it’s a tedious process and irritated by its slowness and thus resorting to extreme measures like occupying lands by force.

Orissa has just got its own Lalgarh. Naxal-backed tribals in Koraput district forcibly reoccupied lands that non-tribals, local businessmen, Pvt. companies and other outsiders had cheated them of many years ago. About 200 tribals, with red bandana-like pieces of cloth on their heads and wrists, marched into the rain-soaked agricultural fields in Koraput’s Narayanpatna block and started tilling them. This alarmed over the growing incidence of violence. Another group of 150 tribals, armed with swords, spears and other sharp-edged weapons stood guard. The area of land occupied by the tribals could not be ascertained. Koraput is the heart of Naxal territory in Orissa. The district administration is practically non-existent in some parts of this remote district and how local villagers now take their complaints and grievances to the Maoists.

People in backward regions lack economic opportunities. They are deprived of fruits of developmental efforts. People in socio-economically depressed regions often carry a deep sense of frustration and discrimination against their better off neighbours. Poor and disaffected people are often easily manipulated by anti-social elements and powerful vested interests. These pockets of poverty breed serious socio-economic problems. There is corroborating evidence that the problems of terrorism, Naxalism, increased incidence of crime, law and order and social strife in many pockets are attributed to social and economic depression of such regions.
mkdas612@yahoo.co.in

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