India: Native People’s Rights Being Upheld  Native people complain of dicey ‘privatization’ schemes by local crony capiatlists, free speech restrictions…rights are diectly handled in India Constitution

The Naxalite campaign in the so-called Red belt in central and south India, has been poorly treated by this democratic disconnect. The tribal people of the region are fighting for the rights to their lands, and their demands are no more than an Indian community fighting for their dignity. The tribals want nothing more than to be protected by the 5th schedule of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees indigenous people the right over the land they live in.

Under the protection of the Indian state, the Naxalites want the government to implement land reforms, namely, handover to the occupants the endowment and government of their lands; implement policies of industrialisation and other schemes based on local resources in place of the liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation policies being followed now; and implement the Land Ceiling Act. The act was introduced in 1976 with the intention of preventing the hoarding of land in private hands and facilitating the government in executing social and common welfare schemes. The Centre scrapped the law in 1999. Additionally, the Naxalites demand the government not prevent agitations, peaceful demonstrations and meetings; lift the ban on the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) P.W. and other organizations; and order a judicial probe into all fake encounters and punish the police officers responsible.

Not many may be aware, but there is a legal precedent for the rights of the tribals in the Naxal areas. In 1997 the Supreme Court made a landmark judgement in the Samatha vs. State of Andhra Pradesh case. Mining leases were given by the State of Andhra Pradesh to several non-tribal persons in the Borra Reserved Forest Area and surrounding 14 villages. The appellant, an NGO called Samatha filed petitions against the State Government and the mining lease holders contending that the area that was leased falls under a notified scheduled area and that it was against the Andhra Pradesh Scheduled Areas Land Transfer Regulation, of 1959 and Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980. The Andhra Pradesh High Court gave a judgement in favor of the State Government. The appellants moved to the Supreme Court. The High Court decision was subsequently reversed.

The apex court established that government lands, tribal lands, and forestlands in the scheduled Areas cannot be leased out to non-tribals or to private companies for mining or industrial operations. Consequently, all mining leases granted by the State governments in Schedule Areas therefore became illegal, null and void and the State Government was asked to stop all industries from mining operations. The Court advocated that mining activity should be taken up only by the State Mineral Development Corporation or a tribal co-operative if they are in compliance with the Forest Conservation Act and the Environment Protection Act. It also directed that at least 20% of the net profits should be set aside as a permanent fund for basic amenities like health, education and roads. Thus, we can see how both the Indian Constitution and the Apex Court of India have upheld the objectives of the Naxalite campaign.

The Naxalites do not desire a separation from India, but to be protected by its Constitution. Painting the campaign ‘Red’ is irresponsible as it misleadingly describes a crusade of Communist fanaticism, something unfortunately history allows to be easily grasped by audiences.

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