Aarey tribals take on Film City to wrest control of their farmlands | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Aarey tribals take on Film City to wrest control of their farmlands

BySabah Virani
Dec 05, 2023 07:30 AM IST

The protest gathered force by Monday. 250 Adivasis, mainly women, walked from their farms to the offices of Film City to voice their protest. Joint managing director of Film City, Sanjay Patil, said, “The landfilling was stopped on Monday. We may resume it after checking the permissions and the land use”

MUMBAI: Tribals living within the confines of Aarey were taken aback by trucks loaded with soil arriving from 11 am on Friday, to flatten their agricultural land, to facilitate filming of a television serial. When the disruption continued through the day, a group of around 250 Adivasis -- most of them women, decided to stand up against the violation.

The four-day resistance eventually bore fruit on Monday. But it was not an easy win.
The four-day resistance eventually bore fruit on Monday. But it was not an easy win.

The four-day resistance eventually bore fruit on Monday. But it was not an easy win.

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After the first lot of trucks wheeled into Kisan Bhagat’s paddy farm in Devicha pada, Film City, on Friday, Adivasis from this and neighbouring padas pooled their energies to oppose the destruction of their ancestral land. “We asked them to show permissions for the landfilling, but they refused to listen to us as they were backed by police protection,” said Dinesh Habale, from the neighbouring Habale pada.

The result? Six of them, including women, were detained at the Vanrai police station on Friday. “We were made to sit there all day and allowed to leave only at 7pm.”

That did not soften their resolve, and a handful of protesters gradually burgeoned to 100-150. By now around 50 trucks had dumped sand on their farms, with no sign of the operation ceasing.

This compelled the tribals to stand on guard of their own land round-the-clock through the weekend, after a few trucks that tried to resume dumping on Saturday were physically restrained from coming into their properties.

The protest gathered force by Monday. 250 Adivasis, mainly women, walked from their farms to the offices of Film City to voice their protest. Joint managing director of Film City, Sanjay Patil, said, “The landfilling was stopped on Monday. We may resume it after checking the permissions and the land use.”

‘Jal jangal zameen pe, Adivasi o ka haq hai,’ became the slogan for the protest. “We have been living on this land for generations. The Film City came up after us,” said a protestor, Vandana Umbersade. “We have a right over the land. Instead, authorities of the Film City stop us from farming and bar our children from playing in the open.” Another protestor, Pramila Bhoir said, “We will not hand over our land. This is our fight.”

Staring at the damages already done to a part of his 2-acre farmland, Nitin Bhagat, Kisan’s son, said, “We had planned to grow vegetables. Now, our space for farming has suddenly become limited.”

Looking at the heaps of fresh mud on his land, another protestor, Prakash Bhoir, insisted that the “dumping be investigated and action taken against the dumpers”. “The sand must be cleared out immediately. Did they even have the collector’s permission? Why weren’t the farm owners given any notice before the trucks rolled in,” said Bhoir.

Environmentalist Stalin D , who shot off am email to the Mumbai suburban collector on Sunday, said, “To the best of our knowledge the eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) committee has not permitted this activity. This is a paddy field, used for cultivation by the tribals. Change of land use is not permissible nor is landfilling legal.”

On Monday, the complaint was forwarded by the secretary of the ESZ zone to the managing director of the Film City.

Jagdish Deshmukh, senior police inspector of Aarey sub police station said women had gathered at the gates of Film City with written grievances. They met the authorities and left after voicing their grievance.

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