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Tribals must be allowed to decide how they want to live

"Why should we move to the land of the tribals and grab them in the name of development? Why should we force them to leave their land and forests for our desire? Isn’t it there right to decide how they want to live their life with simple dignity? If tribal people of Niyamgiri are happy there and are living life peacefully, why are we forcing them to leave the place and move to the colonies?"

Basudev Mahapatra : October 07, 2009

Tribal communities, more specifically the tribal women, have been the worst victim of the imposing development policies that have led to a clear conflict over natural resources, said a resource person from Church of North India Synodical Board of Social Services (CNISBSS) during a workshop on empowering tribal women organised by COT-NCCI and ISPCK and hosted by SPAR at CYSD building in Bhubaneswar.

Be it the conflict between the tribals and corporate forces over Niyamgiri hill range of Kalahandi, Forests of Kashipur and Land rights in Kalinga Nagar, or the conflict between tribal and non-tribal communities in Kandhamal and Koraput’s Narayanpatna, the reason is non other than issues related to the right over natural resources like water, air, land and plants or forests. In all the cases we the outsiders behave like their guardians and impose our ideas of life and development on them, said Bibhudutta sahu of CNISBSS.

Asked about the ongoing opposition by tribal communities to various development and industrial projects, Bibhudutta reacted by bouncing another question, ‘whose development is it’ and ‘who needs industries’? As to him, ‘20% of India need industry for their requirements and rest 80% are still fighting for a minimum living. Go to the communities living in Niyamgiri, Kashipur and other pockets where tribal communities live in and ask them what they really need. Ask them, if they are interested in Industrialisation over their land, their forests that have been associated with their life since generations. If they say yes, then proceed with industrialisation. But why are we imposing our perceptions of development on them?'

Bibhudutta rejected the general perception of tribals as backward and less civilised. To him, we the so called civilised communities are pushing the earth to face the wrath of global warming to fulfill our desire for luxury. We are into the habit of polluting and wasting natural resources like water and forests. But, on the other hand, the tribals do worship them because they live on water and forests. Are they more civilised than us or less civilised?

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We are pushing the earth to the brink of collapse through our ‘greed’ and not ‘need’. Consumerism is driving us beyond sustainability. But, why the tribals are being sacrificed for this? Why should we invade the land of the tribals and grab them in the name of development? Why should we force them to leave their land and forests for our desire? Isn’t it there right to decide how they want to live their life with simple dignity? If tribal people of Niyamgiri are happy there and are living life peacefully, why are we forcing them to leave the place and move to the colonies?

The basic question raised by Bibhudutta is that don't the tribals have the right to decide how they want to live? Are they subjected to live on the desires of non-tribals and outsiders who always think the tribals worthless third class citizens? Is it what our planners and government want? Then why these hollow slogans of tribal development and empowerment?

Do the planners think that converting a self-sustained tribal community into an industrial labour community is true development? Now, the government has to rethink over these questions and plan for the development of tribal communities. In fact, what the tribals of India need is ensuring and protecting their right over the resources they have been enjoying since generations. Neither the government nor the profit monger corporates should impose their selfish ideas of development on the innocent tribals.

 

 

 

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