Interview

I was forced to sign on the land acquisition papers: Sukhram Munda

Sukhram of KochangSukhram Munda is the village headman of Kochang, located in Khunti district of Jharkhand (India). The village was widely known after the incident of gang-rape and it is still in the news for illegal and forceful land acquisition. Gladson Dungdung spoke to Sukhram Munda on the Issue. Excerpt from the interview.

Gladson: How did you join the Pathalgari Movement (Movement for installation of stone slab)?

Sukhram: We were not aware about the provisions of the Indian Constitution. When we heard about the Pathalgadi Movement, some members of the Gram Sabha (village council) participated in some meetings of the Pathalgari Movement, and found is as crucial for the village to protect our land, territory and resources because our area comes under the Fifth Scheduled of the Constitution, where land cannot be acquired without the consent of Gram Sabha. Soon, I conducted a Gram Sabha’s meeting to discuss on Pathalgadi, where all members participated and agreed to install a stone slab at the entrance of our village. Thereafter, we collected the money and bought a stone slab, where the constitutional provisions were curved and installed at the entrance of village on 25th February, 2018.

Gladson: The government authorities claim that Pathalgari Movement is unconstitutional. What is you respond to it?

Sukhram: I don’t think it is unconstitutional. In fact, we have curved the constitutional provision on the stone slab to educate and make aware our Adivasis. Pathalgari is our tradition. We install stone slabs in many social and cultural occasions.

Gladso: The Indian Media claimed that the Adivasis have put barricades at the entrance of the villages. The President of India, the Prime Minister, the Governor, the Chief Minister and other government authorities cannot enter in the village without permission of the Gram Sabha. They must pay tax to the Gram Sabha before entering to the village. Are these allegations true?

Sukhram: These are fake allegations. We have not stopped anyone from entering to our village. Everyone is freely moving here. There is no such barricade or tax system.

Gladson: Pathalgadi leaders Joseph Purty had given a call to boycott the government’s welfare schemes, health & education facilities and developmental activities. Do you agree with him?

Sukhram: Kochang Gram Sabha is very clear about the Pathalgadi, which is good for our village to protect our natural resources but we are against of boycotting welfare schemes, health & education facilities and developmental activities. I have given my land for school in free of cost, health sub-center is being run in my house for last couple of decades and Aanganbadi center was also in my house. Therefore, how can someone blame me of boycotting government’s schemes?

Gladson: You claim that Pathalgadi Movement is to protect land and other natural resources, can you tell me what kind of threat is on the village’s natural resources?

Sukhram: After Kochang gang-rape incident, a police camp was setup in school of my village. I have given land for school in free of cost but another 14 decimals of my land were grabbed for construction of toilet for Jawans(constables) without my consent and compensation.

Gladson: Do you want compensation for your land?

Sukhram: No. I want my land back. How can the government acquire anybody’s land without his/her consent? I know that Adivasis will not survive with compensation. We need land for our existence.

Gladso: Did government take your consent for using school as the security camp?

Sukhram: No. It was done in the night. The para-military forces landed in the night and school was vacated. The teachers were told that their school is merged with the Middle school of Ruguddih village, which is four kilometers far from here.

Gladson: How many children were studying in school? Where are they now? have they shifted to the Middle School, Ruguddih?

Sukhram: 35-36 children of Kochang were studying in the school. Now, they have stopped going to school. The school is far so they don’t want to go. How will I convince them to go to school? This is denial of right to education of our children.

Gladson: Is there any other case of land grabbing in Kochang?

Sukhram: Yes. There is a major case of land grab. The government authorities are violating the power of Gram Sabha for grabbing land of the village. The government intends to setup a permanent police camp in the village but we are against of it. We don’t need a security camp. We are safe without the police.

Gladson: Can you tell me how the government authorities are violating the laws to grab the land in Kochang.

Sukhram: The Circle Officer (CO) of Arki block issued a notice to conduct the Gram Sabha’s meeting for acquisition of 2.47 acre of land for the construction of a community hall. We objected it because how can the CO issues such notice? Only the Gram Sabha has the power to call such meeting. We already have a community hall in the village therefor we don’t need one more community hall. We wanted to know that what kind of community hall the government is going to build in such a huge patch of land? We were surprised to know that government wants to acquire our land for the security camp under the guise of a community hall to avoid the protest, and when we started objecting, the government authorizes are suppressing our voices.

Gladson: Can you explain me how your voices were suppressed and what kind of power is being used to acquire the land?

Sukhram: I was harassed by the police. I’m under their surveillance. On 29th October, 2018, I had gone to Ranchi to attend a seminar. While returning home, the police caught me in Khunti and I was taken to Khunti police station where the Officer-in-Charge (OC) of Arki police station was also present. The OCs of Khunti and Arki forced me to sign on the land acquisition paper. They threatened me to imprison in the false charges of participating in Pathalgari Movement if I disobey them. They said that once I were imprisoned, I would never get out of the Jail. I’m already facing four false cases therefor I was afraid of them so signed on the land acquisition papers. They released me at 11 PM after signing the papers.

Gladson: What kind of cases you are facing?

Sukhram: All four cases are regarding the Pathalgari Movement. I was falsely accused of participating in some events of the Pathalgari Movement, where I was not part of but I was in Ranchi during those events. I have proof too. For instance, I was charged in a case of Kanki, where police personnel were hostage by the Gram Sabha but I was not present in Kanki that day. I was in Ranchi for treatment of my eyes.

Gladson: What happened after you were released from Khunti police station?

Sukhram:  After going back to village. I called for the Gram Sabha’s meeting on 30th October 2018, obeying the CO’s order for land acquisition but the government officers did not turn up. Our time was wasted. On the next day, the OC of Arki police station arrived at Kochang’s village market with three Vehicles. Two vehicles are loaded with Sarees and Dhotis (cloths for Men and Women) and another vehicle was full of police personnel. They distributed the cloths among men and women who were present in the village market and got their signature and thumb impression on blank papers. When some villagers asked them the reason for clothe distribution, they said that they are distributing clothes for ‘Sohrai’ festival. Later, we came to know that the document was converted as the Gram Sabha’s resolution for land acquisition. Immediately, we had a meeting in the village and sent a protest letter to the District Land Acquisition Officer, Khunti. I also met the DLAO, who told me that the Gram Sabha has given its consent for the land acquisition. He showed me the papers which I had signed in the police station and the villagers had singed and impressed their thumbs for receiving clothes. This is how we were cheated and betrayed.

Gladson: Now what will you do to protect the land?

Sukhram: We will fight till our last breath. We have no choice. We will also approach to the Jharkhand High Court.

Gladson: Are you not afraid of the government? The police camp is near your house are you safe? Is there any incident of police atrocity in the village?

Sukhram: Do we have any choice rather than fight for our survival? We have not yet faced any such atrocity in the village but it will not remain the same forever.

Gladson: The Pathalgari Movement is blamed for opium cultivation. While coming to Kochang, I saw opium plants both side of the road. What you have to say?

Sukhram : The Pathalgari Movement has nothing do with the opium cultivation. You have seen how opium is being cultivated in the region openly. The police camp is in Kochang and Jawans go for patrolling everyday but they don’t destroy the opium plants. I’m surprised! I have told the police officers several times about it but they don’t bother for it. I don’t know why?

Gladson: Kochang village was defamed worldwide for gang rape. Can you tell me about it?

Sukhram: I don’t know much about it. The victims also did not meet me. I came to know about the unfortunate incident through newspaper only. But I can say that Fr. Alphonse is innocent but he was falsely accused because he creates awareness among the Adivasis.

Interview

Writers and historians have done grave injustice to Adivasis : Gladson Dungdung

gladson october 2014

Adivasi Author Gladson Dungdung writes prolifically on Adivasis’ struggles for their identity and on their existence. He tells Vidya Bhushan Rawat about the challenges facing his community.

Your new book Endless Cry in the Red Corridor has hit the stands recently. What is the central message of this book?

I want to tell the world that the rulers of this country have looted the Adivasis. There is this area of around 92,000 square kilometers, extending from Andhra Pradesh to Nepal. They call it the Red Corridor. They say that there are Maoists in this corridor. But just pick up the map of India and you will find that there are Adivasis, forests and minerals in this corridor and they call it the Red Corridor! Why do they call it the Red Corridor? Because they want to exploit the natural resources of this area, they want to loot and sell the minerals and the water and the forests. In 2008, the Government of India commissioned the British company, Execution Noble & Company Ltd, to study the economic potential of the Red Corridor. It concluded that it has immense business opportunities. If it is exploited, the Indian economy can take a quantum jump, the company’s report said. [Then home secretary] G.K. Pillai promised that the Red Corridor would be vacated by 2013. This was duly given in writing. And to fulfil the promise, two lakh paramilitary troops were sent to this area. Look, how they killed the Adivasis after branding them as Naxals. In at least three states, I have seen how the Adivasis were branded as Naxals and brutally killed them. Later, it came to the fore that they were innocent. They have killed at least 1,000 innocent Adivasis in this manner. More than 500 tribal women were sexually exploited. They were subjected to all kinds of atrocities. In Odisha, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, they threw over 27,000 persons behind bars. The book unfolds the brutalities.

In the Saranda forests, about which I have written a book, Mission Saranda … the government says it cannot run schools in that area, it cannot establish Aanganwadis, it cannot build roads. But I have exposed that the mining companies are extracting minerals in that area. If the State cannot do anything there, how are the mining companies operating. They are paying money to the Maoists – some are paying Rs 50 lakhs, some are paying Rs 25 lakhs. They also provide arms to them. But, if an Adivasi even serves food to the Maoists on gunpoint, you put him in jail.

It is obvious that government wants to snatch the land and mineral resources from Adivasis. An English proverb goes, “Give a dog a bad name and hang him.” The government is doing exactly that vis-à-vis the Tribals. Brand them as Naxals and kill them. And no one protests. What is sad is that those who are talking about development for the Adivasis know nothing about them. There is no disputing the fact that development is needed. But how can they decide what is development? How can they decide how to bring it about? I’m sure you remember Chidambaram telling Parliament that Tribals are not a museum piece. Of course, not but how can he talk about the development for Tribals without knowing anything about them?

For argument’s sake, let us accept this definition of development. Now tell me, mining began in the Saranda forests in 1925. Every year, the government extracts iron ore worth Rs 3,000 crores from there. But there is no good road for the Adivasis in the forest, no good school, no good hospital. Why? Why 70 per cent women of the area are anemic? Why 80 per cent Adivasis children are malnourished? Jharkhand is a Adivasi-dominated state but even here Adivasis have been marginalized.

See, whether it is the BJP or the Congress, their agenda has been the same – annihilate the Adivasis. Since the time of Independence, the slogan was that the Adivasis and the Dalits have to be brought into the mainstream. And what is the mainstream? Leave behind all that is yours and come and join us. They want our identity to be destroyed. So, our battle is for our identity. The Supreme Court had said on 5 June 2011 that Adivasis are the indigenous inhabitants of this country. They fear this fact and that is why they want to finish everything. Besides the rest of the world, the Supreme Court has also admitted that the Adivasis are the original inhabitants of this country. What is stopping the government from accepting this fact?

There was a long debate on this issue in the Constituent Assembly during which Jaipal Singh Munda had unequivocally declared that they wanted the “Adivasi” word in the Constitution. “We would settle for nothing less than that,” he said. The word “Adivasi” was inserted in Article 13(5) of the Constitution. Babasaheb Ambedkar did not want the word to be included in the Constitution. Some say that Babasaheb feared Dalits going with the Adivasis if the latter were called the original inhabitants. Babasaheb also said that the word “Adivasi” had no meaning.

Do you have any reference to support your claim?

Of course, I have the proof. On can see the debates of the Constituent Assembly. He said during the debates that the words “Adivasi” and “Untouchable” have the same meaning. This means nothing. He himself faced great persecution. I feel that perhaps, he did not get the time to study the Adivasis community, to understand it. I am saying this because in one of his speeches he said that the government should work for the development of the “uncivilized” tribals. Why uncivilized? Why did he have such a negative perception about the Tribals?

It was not negative. Dr Ambedkar was deeply involved in the problems of his own community. Tribals were not victims of untouchability. So, first we should bring the debate in the Constituent Assembly to light. There were many others in the Constituent Assembly besides Ambedkar and Munda. So, we cannot make this charge against Ambedkar.

I’m not making any charge. I’m just trying to understand things. Ashwini Kumar Pankaj has written a book that says all this.

I also have talked to him about this. I told him that when Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes were being discussed in the Constituent Assembly, Ambedkar was standing by both.

See, I consider it wrong to categorize Adivasis as a caste. They are not a caste. Calling them “Anusuchit Janjati” is wrong. It should be “Anusuchit Jan”. Today, caste certificates are being issued to Adivasis. When you are not a part of the caste system, why do you need a caste certificate? They should be given certificates saying that they are Adivasis or belonging to the Adivasi community.

Another thing, whether it was Ambedkar or Nehru or Jaipal Singh Munda, all were educated in the West. They learnt about liberalism or democratic liberalism or Western liberalism from the West. On the one hand, we took lessons in democracy from the British; on the other hand, they had colonized us. This is mutually contradictory. Similarly, “aboriginal” and “uncivilized” are used to describe the same people. 

Describing Adivasis as aboriginals may have been negative but it put the others in a difficult situation. It meant that the Adivasis were the original inhabitants and others they came later. But from the very beginning, they have not considered Adivasis as humans. At best, they considered them a slightly developed animal. So, this is the reason Adivasis issues are not in the center stage today.

When we analyze the Ambedkarite movement, people say that it brought about a social revolution because Babasaheb called upon Dalits to shed antiquated traditions and march forward. Shouldn’t the Adivasis do the same?

No. There is no question of tradition here. Since the Adivasis are not a part of the caste system, we don’t need to shed anything. This misconception arises because of the lack of exposure to tribal philosophy. This is why the Adivasis were suppressed. When you want someone to give up something you simply paint a negative picture of it and that person will himself abandon it. This was what was done with the Adivasis. No society is as equal as Adivasis society. They have both social equality and gender equality. Among Adivasis when a prosperous farmer employs a poor man to work his fields, he works shoulder to shoulder with him. He eats food with him, he celebrates festivals and happy occasions with him, he invites him to his place and he visits his place. Just see what happens in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar and other states. There is nothing like this anywhere. In fact, there is discrimination based on the rich and the poor. Secondly, Adivasi girls choose their own life partner. And what happens in your civilized society? Lakhs of women are burnt alive, murdered for dowry. Girls are not allowed to be born; and if they are born, they are killed. This is your civilized society?

The way you blocked the CNT [Chotanagpur Tenancy] Act through your relentless struggle is an example for other states. What changes was the government bringing about in this Act?

The issue is not limited to CNT alone, it also includes SPT [Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act]. They were trying to amend sections 21, 49 and 71 of the CNT Act and section 13 of the SPT Act. The first amendment pertained to declaring agricultural land as non-agricultural. This was a very dangerous game and they were playing it very shrewdly. As soon as Modi and his team came to power, it amended the Land Acquisition Act. They did it thrice. Why did they do it? Because the Rehabilitation Rules 2013, framed under the Act, clearly stipulate that there will be no acquisition of land in the Scheduled Areas unless it is very essential. Secondly, even if land is acquired, it should not include agricultural land. And in case this has to be done, you have to provide agricultural land of an equal area to the farmer. So, what did they think of doing to circumvent this problem? They wanted to acquire the power for declaring agricultural land as non-agricultural. Now, if they moved court, they would argue that it was non-agricultural land and they had the power to acquire it. They have still not repealed section 49. We are still fighting for it. According to this section, they can acquire land for industries and mining. It says that the land that has industrial and mining infrastructure, can be regularized by paying one per cent tax within a period of three months. That is why businessmen unitedly support the BJP; that is why they provide funds to the party. And in a quid pro quo, the government protects them. They fear that if in the future, the tribals become judges or enter the government, they will get the mining and industrial infrastructure on tribal land razed. Their objective is to facilitate the businessmen. They want to grab whatever land remains.

In Jharkhand, the leadership of the movement is in the hands of Adivasis. In other states, non-Adivasis are leading the Adivasis. Your take?

Efforts are being made here, too. Others are trying to take over the leadership. But whenever they try, the Adivasis community throws up one leader or the other. That is because Jharkhand has a 300-year-old history of agitation and movements. Writers, litterateurs, poets and historians have all cheated the Adivasis. They say that 1857 was the first war of Independence. Then, what about 1855 when 15,000 Santhals were killed, Sido and Kanhu Murmu were hanged? Those who are wearing their patriotism on their sleeves – let them point out a single place where they had declared that the British rule was not acceptable to them. The Adivasis did that. Sido and Kanhu had the support of 60,000 Santhals and they had told the British in clear terms that they are their own rulers, that the rule of the British was not acceptable to them. When the British opened fired on them, they took the bullets on their chest. Talking of the even earlier times, in 1770, the British told Baba Tilka Manjhi and the Hill Adivasis that they would have to pay land revenue. The Adivasis’ reply was that land, water and forests were the gift of god and they would not pay any tax on them. When the demand for Pakistan was being raised, Babasaheb demanded Dalitsthan. Then, Jaipal Singh Munda also demanded Adivasisthan. But their Adivasisthan was not like Pakistan or Dalitsthan. They said that they wanted to live in India but they should be given autonomy in their areas. There should be no government interference in these areas.

Dr Ambedkar was saying the same thing. He was not demanding a separate Dalitsthan. But the main problem in India is its electoral system. Non-tribals are posted in tribal areas. Non-Muslims are getting elected from Muslim areas. How will they work when they don’t understand the pain of the people they are meant to serve? So this is a major lapse on the part of Parliament for which everyone is responsible …

Sometimes I feel there was no discussion at all between Babasaheb Ambedkar and Jaipal Singh Munda. I haven’t come across any mention that they met outside the Constituent Assembly or held discussions. Just imagine, had they met, had they forged a common strategy, the condition of the Adivasis and the Dalits might have been different.

After Independence, Dr Ambedkar worked in tandem with many others like Dr Ram Manohar Lohia. They held discussions on how to free Dalits and the other poor from poverty. Dr Ambedkar died in 1956. This was a big setback. But what about Captain Munda? He was ignored.

I feel that though he [Jaipal Singh Munda] was in the Congress, in his speeches, which are available in writing, he targeted the Savarnas. He said that the Savarnas did not want we Adivasis to progress. So, Jaipal Singh Munda understood this and after the formation of the Jharkhand party, he won 32 seats. This put the fear in the Congress that they could become a major threat for them in the future. So, the Congress started suppressing them. Secondly, Dr Ambedkar’s friends and others have written much about him. But no one wrote anything about Jaipal Singh Munda. Instead, some began deriding him. Later, the tribal leaders also did not talk about him – whether it is Shibu Soren or Babulal Marandi or anyone else. You see, at that time he had won nine gold medals. He was until then the only Tribal to captain an Indian sports team. When the movement for the creation of Jharkhand state began, the RSS and the BJP were the first to oppose it. They said that we wanted to Balkanize the country. And now, it is they who are enjoying it the most. The RSS-BJP do politics of religion. The day conflict over religion ends, the BJP will be finished.

Don’t you think that every major movement has to take the support of one or the other religion? Dr Ambedkar, for instance, chose Buddhism.

You see, the RSS was born in 1925 and the work for organizing the Adivasis had begun in 1915-16. Jaipal Singh Munda emerged as a political force in 1952. RSS achieved that political status only after 1980. But it is now ruling the country. When Jaipal Singh Munda and his group constituted the Adivasi Mahasabha, they became very powerful. They raised the same basic issues (language, culture, identity, water, forests and land) that are relevant even today. But a big folly on their part was converting Adivasi Mahasabha into Jharkhand Party. Due to this, the Adivasi Mahasabha lost its identity. What they should have done instead was that they should have taken the Mahasabha forward; Jaipal Singh Munda should have handed over its leadership to someone else and founded another organization for doing politics – just as the RSS had done, and which we are trying to do now.

Secondly, we are working on Adivasis literature. Literature has assassinated the Adivasis. Nothing was written about them. Or whatever little was written was full of inaccuracies. It was said that the Adivasis are barbarians, they are illiterates, they move around naked. This was a conspiracy to obliterate us. But now we are writing what is true and we are rebutting what is wrong.

There is this talk of the Dalits and the Adivasis coming on a common platform.

If we are talking about the long battle and the pan-India context, we have launched a Moolniwasi movement. I believe that this is necessary. There should be unity. We cannot fight separately for a long time because if we are divided, we will be sitting ducks for the enemy. But a lot of spadework needs to be done for this because the issues are different.

Looking ten years ahead, don’t you think that Adivasi life is the best, especially in view of the blind race for development we are witnessing today? What do you have to say? 

Over the past three-four years, I have been travelling to Europe frequently. There, people tell me that if we are to continue living, we will have to lead our lives as you do. Around 25 families of London have shifted to the forests of Wales. They are living in small houses. They don’t want internet or mobile. When I asked them why they are doing it, they said that what was being described as development was actually insanity. When this Earth won’t survive, how will we? Hence, if this world has to be saved, we will have to tread the path of Adivasis.

The growing population of outsiders in Jharkhand has become a big challenge for the Adivasis. Your take?

Under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, there should be restrictions on outsiders settling in tribal areas. But when we advocate it, people quote Articles 19 (1) (2) (3) (4) to argue that every Indian has the right to settle anywhere in the country, to work anywhere. But they do not talk of 19 (5) (6), which allow a state to impose restrictions on outsiders.

How does the media look at Adivasis? 

The media publishes news about Adivasis only when it thinks it will sell. The media sees them as a product. It is the most intellectual but at the same time the most racist institution in the country. You won’t find a tribal news editor or bureau chief in the tribal areas. All of them are outsiders. Some of them cannot even write Hindi well. But they are there. This is shameful for the media. They have barred the Adivasis, though you will find Adivasis occupying top positions in many other fields.

Why is there so much emphasis on privatization in India?

This is a shrewd move, because when you complain why reservations are not being given, they can say that the institution concerned is privately owned. How can we give reservations now? You talk of merit. Are Dalits and Adivasis lagging behind in merit? Then, tell me, there is so much corruption in India. Are the Dalits and the Adivasis looting the country? You ran the country for 70 years. Could you solve even one problem? Just tell me one scheme, one programme that was implemented 100 per cent. They build roads and they are in pieces within two years.

What are your future plans?

Protecting the tribal land, water, forests, languages and culture of the Adivasis – for this, the tribal community will have to turn intellectuals. I hold the view that the battle for saving the Adivasis should and will be an intellectual battle. The day an intellectual revolution comes about in the tribal community, it will become invincible. Today, they don’t know the law. They don’t understand how the government is grabbing their land. They do not understand the new laws. On the one hand, the BJP presents itself as a well-wisher of the Adivasis; on the other hand, it is killing Adivasis in Chhattisgarh, branding them as Naxals. Their women are being raped. And this is happening in a state where the BJP has been ruling for the past 15 years. The Adivasis will be able to understand all this only after an intellectual revolution. They will be able to analyze things.

Secondly, people say that conversions are taking place. Christians formed 2 per cent of India’s population in 1951. The 2011 census also says that they are 2 per cent. Where is the question of conversions then? The Christian missionaries run the highest number of educational institutions in the country and children of other religions also study in them. If these institutions were involved in conversions – as the BJP and the RSS say – then the Christian population would have increased. If not more, they would have been at least 10 per cent. All the movements being run by the RSS and the BJP are based on lies.

Shouldn’t Parliament apologize for the atrocities against the Dalits and the Adivasis?

One day, they will have to apologize. That is why we are conducting so much research. If you won’t apologize on your own, we will make you apologize. The day the Dalit-Tribal-OBC unity is established, the rulers will have to apologize for doing injustice to us. That is why cases are being filed to silence people like us. We are being stopped.

Should others also join this battle?

Yes. There is no problem with that. But I have a problem when the non-Adivasis want leadership. People like Medha Patkar and P.V. Rajagopal – there are others also. I salute them. But why do they want the leadership? In her writing, Arundhati Roy wonders what the Adivasis would have done without the Maoists. How can she write that? And that too about the Adivasis, who did not allow the British on their land, who forced them to retreat.

I will give you an example. Gandhi Foundation, London, had to honour the Adivasis of India. And whom did they choose – Bulu Imam and Dr Binayak Sen. I salute their work. But the honour was meant for Adivasis. I objected. I wrote to them asking why they couldn’t find two Adivasis from among the 100 million of them in India? What they told me was astonishing. They said that they were given in writing that there was not a single Tribal in India who could come to London and express his or her views in English. Then, I wrote another letter asking whether the two individuals proved more than a match for 10 crore Indians. I said that if they wanted to honour those two people, they should not have invoked the Adivasis of India. I wrote that this was an insult to the Adivasis and they should apologize. And they did apologize. Initially, some people welcomed me with open arms. These greedy people were thinking I would play into their hands. But when they realized that I would do what I felt like, they started ignoring me.

Someone asked, “What problem do you have if Dr Sen is being honoured?”

What problem could I have? Let them give the Nobel to him. But this honour was meant for Indian Adivasis then how non-Adivasis got it?

Some people say that you have personal issues. Like that about your passport. You raise them frequently?

No, there are no personal issues. My passport was seized twice. There are some IB people who tell me that my passport was seized because I had made Saranda a major international issue. There was no personal issue involved in the seizure of my passport. What happens is that as you rise, you create more and more enemies. Some people are jealous of you. They will try to put you down by raising personal issues. Let them be. This happens. I have my own commitments. I will fight for society till I am alive.

You have struggled a lot in your life. Tell us about your struggles.

My family was very prosperous. My grandfather was a teacher. He was also involved in social work. He was famous locally. He had two sons – my father and his elder brother. My village is Birni, very close to the Kelaghat Dam in Sindera. When my grandfather got a job, he moved to another village. There, he worked as a teacher and did some other work too and bought 10 acres of land. He thought that if he settled his two sons in different places, they would not quarrel over land. The dam was built in 1980. I was not born then. The entire agricultural land in my ancestral village was submerged. We got some money. A case is still pending in the court. My father was forced to move to the other village after my grandfather’s death. So, the land that was purchased for one brother had to be divided between the two brothers. My father’s elder brother got a job. Our situation was such that there was not even enough to eat in our house. I was very young. I remember that my father brought wood from the forests and sold it at a place 17 km away to arrange for food. Then, the forest department foisted cases on my father saying that he felled trees. The police came and took away my father in the night. At the time, my mother’s arm also got fractured. After my father was released, he filed a case about the land in a court in another village. Later, he became a Munshi. He won the case. The other party comprised many people. When, on 20 June 1990, my father and mother were going to court, they were murdered in a valley that fell between the village and the court. Our relatives took us four brothers and sisters into their various homes. I was barely 12 at the time. I was studying in standard eight. Later, I came back to the village. Everyone, including the teachers, knew me. I was kept in a hostel. Then, I quit the hostel and started living in the village. There, I started studying in standard nine. I grew crops to purchase my uniform and books. I passed the matriculation examination but could not arrange Rs 250 for paying college fees. So I could not get admission. I then started working as bicycle mechanic. I lived with my father’s elder brother. I also took his buffaloes for grazing.

My sister lived in Patna. She worked for just Rs 900 a month. When she came to the village, someone told her that she should take me to Patna, for otherwise my life would be ruined. So, my sister took me with her to Patna. But she did not earn enough to send me to a regular college. She had me admitted but I could not attend classes. So, I started studying in the library of an organization called Ekta Parishad. Pradeep Priyadarshi was the head of the Parishad. One day he called me and asked how I could look after the library just like that. So, I started sweeping the floor and cleaning the toilets of the library. If there was a visitor, I used to prepare tea. They saw that this boy is doing all this for free. So, he asked me to take care of the library and do whatever I was doing and said that he would pay me Rs 500 per month. When I started getting Rs 500 per month, I learnt typing. Then, I joined English language coaching. In six months, I picked up a little English, not much. At the time, I saw that the people who had hired a labourer were giving him food in another plate – like they would do to a dog. At the time, I visited Bhojpur for the first time. I worked with the Dalits in Ekta Parishad. Then, a case came up which filled me with great self-confidence. It was a case related to a farmland. The Savarnas had broken the leg of a Dalit woman. They came with her to our office. There was no one at the office then. I did not know what to do. “Let us go to the Naubatpur police station,” I said. The policemen did not register an FIR. I went to the police station in-charge and argued with him, though I was afraid. But I succeeded and the FIR was registered. Those who were booked, they were staring at me; they were trying to threaten me. I did not know their background, so I wasn’t afraid. I came back home. The next day, I was praised effusively at the office – that this little boy had the FIR registered and that too against musclemen. After that, the people of the organization started sending me out for fieldwork.

How long were you at Ekta Parishad?

For around five years. I passed my intermediate exam. Then, I learnt how to operate the computer. There was a problem. The director asked me, “How can you possibly learn here to use the computer?” There was a catholic priest in Patna supported me. He said that since I knew typing, I could work for him and get paid Rs 1,000 per month. That was a challenging time. I had to pay room rent and the college fees with just Rs 1,000. But I had the passion. For six months, I attended a computer class during lunchtime. Then, I got an opportunity to study at the National Centre for Advocacy Study. That brought about a change in my life. There, Dr Gyan Prakash was giving a lecture on Anthropology. I knew nothing about Anthropology. My knowledge of English was also rudimentary. The other students had studied in good colleges. There were one or two friends who had a similar background but they too had attended college. I only had a degree. I felt that it was the end of the road for me. If they asked questions, I wouldn’t be able to answer them. That day, when I went to my room, I could not sleep the whole night. I kept thinking that this was a golden chance for me and I decided that I would study only English for the following one year. After six months, I wrote an article. It was titled A World called Equality. It was about Dalits. I had worked with them and at the time, in 2002, some Dalits were lynched at Jhajjhar. That article was published in a national magazine called Indian Currents. John Dayal was the editor of the magazine. He praised the article. Then, I went to Orissa for my dissertation. I lived in the forests for six months and researched on forest rights. I worked in 10 villages populated by Adivasis. There, some RSS people came after me. They had a news item published in a newspaper that conversions had begun in the area. Then the Graham Staines incident happened. I feared that they would burn me alive. I came to Jharkhand and became associated with the Ekta Parishad again. We organized a month-long cycle rally during which we raised questions on human rights. We went from village to village, from forest to forest and fought for human rights. We took cases to courts, to commissions. We went to the areas from where people were being displaced. We made them aware. Then we studied the documents and wrote about the cases.

 How many books have you written so far?

Around 20 ­– three of them are in English. I write mostly in Hindi. I write small booklets so that they can reach the people living in rural areas. I write in English so that the world can know about the pain of the Adivasis.

https://www.forwardpress.in/2018/06/gladson-dungdung-writers-and-historians-have-done-grave-injustice-to-adivasis/

Interview

Is the Modi government scared of this man?

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Tribal rights activist Gladson Dungdung was offloaded from an Air India flight to London on Monday, May 9, 2016. In a Facebook post, the activist wrote that this was not the first time this had happened to him. In 2013 his passport had been impounded. Dungdung is the author of the recently published book, Mission Saranda: A War for Natural Resources in India in which he outlines the plight of tribals in Jharkhand’s mineral-rich Saranda forest. The book, he says, highlighted the government’s anti-people industrialisation policies. Dungdung spoke to Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com.

This is the second time you have been detained at an airport and deplaned. Why?

It is clear. For the last one decade, I have been raising the fundamental question about Adivasi rights. As you know the Red Corridor, which begins from Nepal to Andhra Pradesh, is called the mineral corridor. This is the same corridor where Adivasis live. The Indian State intends to clean this corridor and hand it over to corporate czars. This is what I have written in my latest book, Mission Saranda: A War for Natural Resources in India. I have proved in the book that this war is not to clean the area of Maoists, but under the guise of flushing out Maoists, the State is intent on waging war on the Adivasis to grab the natural resources. I have been speaking about this for many years. 

Why were you deplaned?

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to the United Kingdom he was asked a question about this (Adivasis and the environment). We are raising these questions globally. People are also questioning investors by telling them that it is because of their money that the Adivasis are getting killed. Many investors withdrew from the Arcelor Mittal project in Jharkhand. Therefore, the Government of India is targeting activists who are going abroad and raising these questions in international fora or the United Nations.

Why were you going to London?

I was going for an international conference on Environmental Politics of South Asia. I was to speak about the Saranda forest and how we will lose this forest because of the mining companies. At present, 22 new mining leases have been given and I have been highlighting this issue. At the same time, Adivasis are not being given rights under the Forest Act. The State does not like to hear uncomfortable questions and that is the main issue.

You said Vijay Mallya was allowed to leave the country, but an activist like you were detained.

Of course, and this is not surprising. Despite Mallya being a huge defaulter of bank loans, he was allowed to leave. Therefore, I said defaulters like Mallya can’t be offloaded, but activists like me are. And that too for raising questions.

All I am saying is enforce the Indian Constitution and the law of the land, which they (the Centre) are not doing. They are only talking about business, business and business. This business is not only a threat to Adivasis, but also to our ecology. You see, we have only 21 per cent forest left in India. India’s government commitment is to maintain at least 33 per cent coverage in India. In 2011, the Government of India came out with a forest survey report which said that the forests are the only place where Adivasis live. So, imagine what will happen if Adivais are not there. There will be no forests. What next? So, the economy must go with ecology. I say if you sell everything for money, what will happen next? We are not thinking of oxygen. See what is happening in Tokyo. They have oxygen cafes. Now, a Canadian company is ready to sell oxygen in India and that is why I am concerned. When we talk about economic growth without ecology we cannot grow. We are making a hell of this country.

Can’t you talk to the government and work together rather than just criticise it?

We are talking to the government. I met Jairam Ramesh, the environment minister of the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government several times. He said he would not allow private mining companies in the Saranda forest. He did not allow it.

Later, Jayanthi Natarajan replaced him and she allowed Jindal and two other companies in the Saranda forest. I am always ready to talk to the government, but this government is not ready to engage with dissent voices. How will you talk to this government?

What is the position in the Saranda forest with regards to mining?

The last government gave 22 new mining leases. Now they are trying to give more mining leases. Environment Minister Prakash Javdekar says he is trying to make it easy to do business. Earlier, it used to take 560 days for forest and environment clearances for any project. Now, they have brought it down to 190 days and now he is saying he will bring it to 100 days. I’m surprised how a minister who is supposed to protect the forests and the environment is happy reaching out to investors for more and more clearances. It is surprising what is happening to India. 

But we need jobs too.

I do not agree with this. Only few jobs are created. Take the example of Tata Steel. When Tata Steel was producing steel up to 1 million tonnes per annum, 70,000 people were employed. Now what is the situation? In 2009-2010 they started producing 8 million tonnes, then how many people must be employed? More than 500,000 right? No, they had only 20,000 people. Employees were reduced. So, where are the jobs?

But that is because of automation. There are other kind of jobs too. If Tata Steel employs 20,000 people, then other jobs get created on the periphery.

You read the book by Dr Ashish Kothari and Dr Aseem Srivastava (Churning The Earth) on jobs in mining companies. You will understand the situation.

We are not focusing on the agriculture sector. In 1950, the contribution of the agricultural sector (to the national economy) was 51 per cent. Today it has come down to 18 per cent. Today, we are focusing more on mining, industry and services. The service sector is fine, but mining and industry do not really care about climate change and deforestation. For money, we cannot sell all our forests and trees. We have to find other ways.

Don’t you think Adivasis too need development?

That is where India fails to understand and globally too, people fail to understand, what development means. Development does not mean taking people out of the forest. You want to run away from nature in the name of development. We are running away from nature and therefore climate change is affecting the world. Development means we need to live with nature. Everybody should go back to nature. Nobody opposes development. Everybody needs education, food, electricity and roads. You provide that and who is objecting to that? Today what is the meaning of development? Take over land, water and forest from the Adivasis and hand it over to corporates. I do not agree with this view. We are losing everything in the name of development and that too for only one per cent of the population. Only 1 per cent of the population holds 99 per cent of the resources of this country. Is this development? The Indian Constitution guarantees economic and social justice to everyone. When will equality come? Government policies are creating more and more disparity. The money coming from mining companies is not going back to the people, but going to Jindal and other industrialists. Take the example of Jharkhand. Each year, there is an income of Rs 15,000 crore (Rs 150 billion) from mining alone, which is almost equal to the annual budget of Jharkhand. Check the below poverty line figures of the state. Around 46 per cent of the people still live below the poverty line. Why? If so much money is coming (from mining), why are people living in poverty? Who is supposed to respond to this question? The Indian State needs to respond.

One charge against you is that when you go abroad you bring disrepute to India’s development agenda.

In the name of development, the Indian State is taking resources from poor people and handing it over to the rich. That is a fact. They are not concerned about people living below the poverty line. All these government schools have become khichdi serving centres. Only Adivasis and Dalit students study there. The rich people send their children to private schools. How will equality ever be attained? The State is working against the Constitution. The ruling elites do not realise this and they must. Today or tomorrow, they have to realise there is no other way and they cannot run away. The Constitution guarantees everyone the Right to Life, Freedom, Liberty and Equality, therefore the State cannot wither away.

What is the status of your passport?

My passport has been seized by the immigration officer. The local passport office authority says there was no question of impounding the passpoprt. They said earlier it was impounded but everything is clear and there is no need to impound it again. I feel there is mischief from the ministry of home affairs. They do not want me travel out of India.

When you were not allowed to board the flight, what did you do?

I narrated the whole story of my passport being impounded in 2013. At that time, they told me that there was an adverse police report against me.

What happened this time?

They said that after my passport was impounded in 2013 it was not cleared and hence, they are impounding it again. This is not true because I had surrendered my passport and got my passport in 2014. I had gone to Denmark then. I went to London twice in 2014 and 2015. I suspect the ministry of home affairs played a dubious role after my book was released. It was released in July 2015 at JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University).

What about the allegations that you are being funded by foreign NGOs to stop India’s development? Also, that you are funded by church money.

My travel was funded by the University of Sussex. It is a government fund and not a NGO.

What is the difference between the Congress government and the Narendra Modi government as both governments detained and deplaned you?

I don’t see much difference. The economic policies are obviously the same. The Modi government is aggressively going for Hindutva whereas the Congress played with soft Hindutva. One difference was that during the UPA tenure, you could talk to them, you could share the table. In the Modi government, that space has gone. You cannot discuss and debate with the Modi government. They are not ready to listen. Our prime minister loves to address people through the radio but does not like to face a press conference. When the prime minister is not ready to face the media, how can you expect that he will speak to common people?

https://www.rediff.com/news/interview/is-the-modi-government-scared-of-this-man/20160510.htm

 

Interview

The Government has betrayed us: Gladson Dungdung

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Gladson Dungdung is a renowned Activist, Author, Researcher, Public Speaker and Motivator. Some of his path breaking books are ‘Endless Cry in the Red Corridor’, ‘Mission Saranda: A War for Natural Resources in India’, ‘Whose Country is it Anyway?’, ‘Crossfire’, ‘Adivasis aur Vanadhikar (Adivasis and Forest Rights) and ‘Vikas Ke Kabragar (Graveyard of Development)’. He comes from the Kharia Adivasi community of the Indian state of Jharkhand. Today, he is one of the recognized Adivasi voice in India. Sunil Raj Philip has spoken to him. Excerpt from the interview.

You are an ardent activist author for human rights violation especially for that of the Indigenous Peoples. Who/what was the inspiration/event that motivated you?

I come from a family, who has paid the heavy price for so-called development. Our agricultural land was submerged in ‘Kelaghagh Dam’ constructed over ‘Chhinda River’ for irrigation project near Simdega town in 1980. Unfortunately, we were neither rehabilitated, nor compansade and the water of Dam also never reached to our remaining land. We were simply betrayed in the name of development and forced to live in the forest area, and later coined as encroachers too. However, my father became one of the well known social activists in the region, later; he was brutally murdered along with my mother while they were going to attend Simdega Civil Court related to a case of land dispute in village in 1990. My father used to say that in whatever situation we may be, but we must fight for the people. I have seen him, while struggling for our survival; he was also fighting for the people. At the beginning of my activism, I travelled across the state of Jharkhand, I could see the pain, suffering and agony of our people, who were alienated, uprooted and displaced from their lands, houses and forests for the so-called public interest, national interest and development, but they were hardly able to raise their issues. Therefore, I decided to take up their causes. My parents especially my father is the main source of my inspiration.

Is there any specific area that concerns you the most regarding the violation of Indigenous People’s rights?

In October 2009, when the joint anti-Naxal operation largely known as ‘Operation Green Hunt’ was launched across the Red Corridor of India by the Indian State, which is actually the Adivasi Corridor, I could see that hundreds of innocent Adivasis were brutally killed in fake encounters, women were raped and thousands of them were brutally tortured and imprisoned by the Security Forces falsely implicating them as Naxals. Anybody who would raise the questions against displacement and police atrocity would be targeted by the State therefore, most of the people decided to keep silent. But my inner voice didn’t allow me to do so therefore, I started roaming in the Red Corridor, did fact finding and filed petitions with the National Human Rights Commission and Jharkhand High Court on the cases of fake encounter, rape, molestation, torture and falsely implicated cases. As a result, the State was forced to accept the gross human rights violation caused by the Security Forces in the Red Corridor. The investigations were done; fake encounters were established and family members were also compensated but the most unfortunate part is that the perpetrators were hardly brought to justice. This is how the impunity continues in our Country, where the Constitution guarantees for the social, economic and political justice to each and everyone. However, the major concern is that the Indian State has been waging war against the Adivasis in the name of bringing peace, good governance and development in their territory but the actual aim is to grab the natural resources, which means there is biggest threat to the existence of Adivasis, wildlife and biodiversity.

Tell us about your book – “Mission Saranda” that was launched in Ranchi, JNU, New Delhi and Brunei Gallery, SOAS, London as well as Suxess Univesity, UK?

 In this book, I have documented, reviewed and analyzed the issues of Saranda Forest from a holistic approach, which begins with the challenges of travelling in the Red Corridor. It goes further with the discussion about the relationship between forest and Adivasis and the iron ore mining and its impact in the lives of the Adivasis. It analyses the forest movement and the State suppression, the Naxal Movement, its nexus with the corporate houses and impact on the Adivasis. Further, it analyses the war and human right violations including brutal killing of innocent Adivasis and the role of the National Human Rights Commission. The book reviews the status of health, education and basic needs like drinking water in the Saranda Forest. It analyses the role of media, politicians and local self governance. It also unfolds the corporate houses’ foul play during the public hearings by bribing the community, traditional heads and local politicians. The book analyses the biodiversity and forest rights of the Adivasis. But most importantly, it exposes the failure of the much hyped ‘Saranda Development Plan’, which was propagated as a model for the development of the Naxal affected areas of India.

The book ‘Mission Saranda’ intends to tell the world about the pain, suffering and agony of the Adivasis of Saranda Forest, who are residing over the mineral wealth. It exposes the State sponsored gross human rights violations committed in the name of economic growth, development and establishment of peace and good governance. And of course, it exposes how the Indian State has been waging a war against its own people with clear intention to grab their natural resources, especially the mineral resources and hand those over to the corporate houses. The book aims to bring the Adivasis’ issues at centre stage of the public debate so that the Adivasis are no longer be treated merely either as victims or beneficiaries but they are included as the opinion and decision makers in the corridor of power, which may pave the way for solution to their endless problems.

The case of Saranda Forest in Jharkhand is one of the best examples of how India’s civil war is not about cleansing away the CPI-Maoist so that peace and good governance can be restored in the conflict zones. It is the State’s well planned war against the Adivasis for mineral resources. Although the State, the Corporate Houses, the CPI-Maoist and the Adivasis are the major stakeholders in the war, the losers are the Adivasis.

Presently, on which issue are you working/focusing on?

I’m focusing on the violation of civil and political rights as well and economic, social and cultural rights. For instance, extrajudicial killing, rape, torture, falsely implicated cases by the security forces during anti-Naxal operations. At the same time, I’m also raising the issues of right to life, force displacement, land alienation, freedom of thought and expression, freedom of religion, forest rights, Adivasi identity, autonomy, language, culture, etc.

What is the most challenging obstacle that you face in you ventures?

The State is run by the corporate houses today, who are not allowing to exercise the real democracy, Indian Constitution and people centered Laws. Secondly, there are multiple division among the Adivasis i.e. ethnic group, religion and language, etc., which are not allowing them to unite in one forum. Thirdly, there is also competition among the Adivasi Activists, writers and public intellectuals, which is creating a kind of enmity among us. However, since, I’m in the middle, who have been raising uncomfortable questions against the State, the Corporate houses and the Naxal organizations therefore, I’m targeted from all the corners but I’m least bothered about them.

What are your expectations from people/specifically from the religious Institutions?

The leadership of these institutions must understand the Adivasi issues, Adivasi identity and culture. They should promote the youth leadership in all the areas. Today, providing merely health and education facilities to the Adivasis without critical awareness on their issues will not serve the purposes in long run. There is a thrust need of intellectual revolution among the Adivasis, which will bring back their lost pride, identity, language, culture and autonomy.

What all are the new challenges you find for the Tribals and Adivasis in India under the present Central Government?

The Present government is much more oppressive. Since, the Prime Minister comes from a business community, he sees everything in that perspective therefore, his government has been trying hard to grab the Adivasis’ land, territory and resources by adopting legal route and the Land Acquisition Ordinance is one of the examples of it. He is in too hurry for handing over the natural resources to the corporate houses in the name of economic growth, development and national interest. Besides, this government has been attempting to eliminate the identity of Adivasis by coining them as ‘Vanbandhi’ through government programmes, which is quite dangerous. The right wing Hindutava forces the RSS and its allied organizations used to call the Adivasis as ‘Vanvasi’, which is a derogatory for the Adivasis. Therefore, the Adivasis must understand about the vote bank politics because unless they come together, they are not going to protect their land, territory, resources, identity, culture, tradition, language, etc. And without these, there won’t be Adivasis.

Your message especially to the Indigenous People.

On 5th January 2011, the Supreme Court of India through a landmark judgment has said that the Adivasis and tribals are the real owner of this country and rest are the decedent of either immigrants or invaders. Therefore, the Adivasis must feel proud of being Adivasis, practice their identity, culture, tradition, language and autonomy without fear. Besides, they must take up leadership in all the areas – politics, judiciary, media, literature, education, health, business and what not. If they become leaders, the tide will surly turn on the other side.

Note: Interview was taken in 2016.

Interview

Let’s rebuild our Adivasi society : Gladson Dungdung

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Gladson Dungdung is an Activist, Writer and Motivator. He is the author of “Ulgulan Ka Sauda”. He comes from the Indigenous community of Jharkhand. His family was displaced during the construction of Kelaghagh Dam situated at Simdega and his parents were brutally murdered in 1990 when he was only 12 years old therefore he had to undergo through a long struggle. Finally, he could complete the Post Graduate in Human Rights from IIHR, New Delhi and 18 months Internship Programme in Public Advocacy from the National Centre for Advocacy Studies, Pune. He is associated with the various People’s movements. Lovio Kujur talked to him. Excerpt from the interview.

Livio: Johar Gladson, welcome to joharadivasi.org and thank you for sparing your time to be with us… please tell us something about yourself.

Gladson: Thank you Livio. I belong to Kharia Adivasi community. I come from a village called Lathakhamhan situated at 20 kilometers in south from the district headquarter of Simdega. I have one elder brother and two elder sisters. Our sufferings begin from the ‘Kelaghgh dam’, which is the most beautiful dam constructed on Chhinda river in Simdega district of Jharkhand. A village called Bernibera was my ancestral village situated at a distance of 5 kilometers in the eastern part of Simdega and close to the Dam. We are one of those unfortunate victims of Bernibera village faced displacement while construction of Kelaghagh Dam. My family was well-off as my grandfather, Jakarias Kharia had 20 acres of fertile land in the village and he was also working as a teacher in a government primary school. He had also purchased another 10 acres of land in a village called Lathakhamhan, where he used to teach is a school with a dream of making a good life for his two sons by settling them in two different places so that there would be no chances of any conflict between them. But his dream was washed away by the dam. The land of Bernibera village was submerged in the dam and he was given merely Rs. 11,000 as compensation for 20 acre of land.

Finally, we had no option than settling down in Lathakhamhan village, where we had 10 acres of land. The land of Lathakhamhan village was divided between two brothers-my elder father Mangaldas and my father Isaac, which led to a huge division in the family. Though Mangaldas survived because he got the government job as teacher in place of my grandfather but we suffered the most as we had no alternative. All these happened when I was just one year old. The conflict in family increased for the property day by day which lead to the brutal killing of my parents in 1990. We all kids left the village and lived with our relatives in different places. As usual they started treating us like servants. I was put in an Adivasi Hostel in Simdege in free of cost. But my batch mates started humiliating. Then I left hostel and went back to my village, where I lived with my uncle. Somehow I completed my matriculation but unable to get admission in college due to lack of Rs. 250. Consequently, I lost two valuable years. I migrated to Patna and started serving tea, cleaning office and toilet. I got my first salary Rs. 500 in November 2005. It was amazing! I got admission in college but never attended as I had no time for it. The survival was my first question to address. Finally, I completed graduation and also had a huge experience of working with social change organization. Once I was also caught by the People’s War Group and they locked me in a room but after a long discussion they liberated me. In between I learnt typing, computer and project management. In 2002, I was selected for an internship programme on public advocacy in Pune. I was shocked on the first day as the lecture was in English and you hardly get one Hindi book in the library. I thought that I may not survive in the institution but knew that this was the only opportunity to change my life and the opportunity never comes twice. That night I decided to do hard work – day and night. I planned well and followed it up. Just after three month, I wrote an article on the issue of discrimination in English “the bird called equality”. The Indian Currents has published it. There were huge compliments and praise for me from the all corners; I went far ahead from my batch-mates, who had come from the bigwig English medium colleges. I did a research on impact of forest policies on tribal people of Orissa thereafter I got many job offers from the international organizations but I wanted to work for my people in Jharkhand therefore returned to Jharkhand. I have done 450 fact findings on police atrocities and human rights violation. I have trained 2000 professionals on Human Rights including Police Officers, Lawyers, Journalists, Teachers, Doctors, Psychiatrists, Elected Representatives and Social Activists. I have also written about 200 articles (in Hindi and English) on the issues of Indigenous rights, displacement, Human Rights, land alienation and social change published by various leading dailies, weeklies and web portals.

Livio: You witnessed the construction of Kelaghagh Dam situated at Simdega and were displaced, tell us how or what inspired you to carry on the education.

Gladson: I belong to a well-educated family. My grandfather was a teacher and well known social activist as well. Later, my father’s elder brother also became teacher and my father was selected for the Air Force but my grandmother didn’t like him to go for it therefore he opted a job in the Block Development office. Since, we had 30 acres of agricultural land in two places (before the construction of Kelaghagh Dam); my father left his job and went for the cultivation as per suggestion made by his elder brother. But unfortunately, the tide turned after the construction of Kelaghagh Dam and the well-off family was washed away. My parents knew that only the education can bring back us in the right track again therefore they suffered a lot to ensure our basic needs till they were alive. They had built up the foundation in our minds and behaviours. Therefore, I suffered a lot without parents but my target was to complete my education and I was aware that only education can change my life so I did it.

Livio: Now that you are a Human Rights Activist, tell us something what exactly Human Rights Activist means in simple language?

Gladson: See, the Human Rights was made global on 10th December, 1948 after the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Then, it was decided that all the members’ county must incorporate the UDHR in their constitutions. The basic Human Rights in India are rights to live, right to freedom, right to equality and right to dignity of individual guaranteed by the Constitution of India (in Preamble, the Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principle of the State Policy), embodied in the international covenants (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1976 and International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights 1976) and enforceable in the Courts of India. The people who work for the protection and promotion of Human Rights are called as Human Rights Activists. The one who wants to become a human rights activist, the person must have to be well equipped about the human rights, international standards and domestic laws. It is very challenging because often you must face the police, the bureaucrats and bigwigs as they are the most human rights violators as well as law enforcement agencies.

Livio: You have written a book “Ulgulan Ka  Sauda”, tell us something about it.

Gladson: This book is all about displacement. The focus is on the steel giant Arcelor Mittal, who has signed a MoU with the Jharkhand government for establishing 12 Mt Steel Plant at Torpa- Kardara region near Ranchi. The company requires 25,000 acres of land and 20,000 Unit water per hour for the plant, which means a Dam will also come up with the steel plant at Koel-Karo rivers, which has witnessed 30 years of people’s struggle, where 8 people had died in police firing. If the steel plant comes up 265 villages will be displaced. Munda, Kharia and Orao Adivasis will pay the price of development but where will they go? What happened in Jamshedpur? It was also an Adivasi dominated area but after establishment of the Tata Steel, the Adivasis disappeared. Where they went? You won’t find them.

The book exposes that how the Arcelor Mittal Company is playing tricks for acquiring the land of Adivasis. The book also talks about why Adivasis are resisting against displacement across the state. It also gives a road map for the development of Jharkhand. My argument is since the land belongs to our ancestors, who are we to sell if. If we are selling our land for the profit means, we are also selling our ancestors. How can we do that? Birsa Munda, Talka Manjhi and Sidhu-Kanhu fought to save the land, territory and resources but our so-called Adivasi leaders like Arjun Munda, Babulal Marnadi and Madhu Koda sold the land to the corporate houses merely for the profit. Where are we the Adivasi people heading towards? Is our glorious history of struggle over?

Livio: Any message for the joharadivasi.org readers?

Gladson: Let’s rebuild our Adivasi society, which is based on community living, co-existence with the nature, collective decision making, non-profit and equality for all. Now, the world is heading towards a critical situation therefore we must show a road map of inclusive development to the so-called developed people, whose development theories are based on exploitation, injustice and against the nature. Friends, you may have a very good education, an inspiring job, an amazing life partner, a beautiful house and a wonderful car but do you know the most of our Adivasis brothers and sisters cannot get good education, their lands are taken away, their houses are broken, they don’t have jobs and they are left to die. Who will think for them? If you don’t bother about your own people, mind you nobody will. They need our support. Do whatever you can do for the empowerment of our people. Surely, you can be a change maker. But will you?

Livio: Thank you Gladson for sparing your precious time to be with us, we wish you all the best for your work and activity that you are doing for the development of our community.

Gladson: It was really a great opportunity to interact with you. Thank you so much.

Note: The interview was taken in 2009. Source: www.joharadivasi.org