Adivasis hold protest demanding land, forest rights
Adivasis from across the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) on Friday gathered in Azad Maidan as part of a mahamorcha, seeking fulfilment of land and forest rights. The protest was led by the Kashtakari Shetkari Sanghatana, which monitors community issues and works for tribal welfare in north Konkan
Mumbai: Adivasis from across the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) on Friday gathered in Azad Maidan as part of a mahamorcha, seeking fulfilment of land and forest rights.
The protest was led by the Kashtakari Shetkari Sanghatana, which monitors community issues and works for tribal welfare in north Konkan.
About 1,500 to 2,000 adivasis participated in the mahamorcha. Majority of the protesters belonged to three locations—Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Aarey Colony, and Gorai—where some of the city’s largest adivasi padas are concentrated.
The morcha marked one of the largest demonstrations by the city’s indigenous population in recent years, with protestors laying down a broad list of demands, including issuance of caste certificates for tribals, recognition of customary land rights, denotification of a proposed zoo in Aarey Colony, prevention of wrongful displacement under the guise of slum rehabilitation, implementation of the Forest Rights Act and stopping harassment by law enforcement authorities.
“There are 222 adivasi padas in and around Mumbai, but other than Baburpada in Gorai, none have been demarcated and declared as gaothan lands. In Sanjay Gandhi National Park at Sai Bangodapada, we have been termed as encroachers and our farms and fruit trees have been destroyed. In Aarey, the government has given more recognition to buffaloes than to the original inhabitants of the forest. We are not allowed to even harvest minor forest produce today, which our ancestors had been doing for generations,” Vitthal Lad, tribal rights activist and Sanghatna head, said while addressing the gathering.
The protestors also called for relocation of non-adivasi residents from forest areas to suitable locations elsewhere, creation of marketplaces for adivasi farmers and horticulturists to sell their produce, establishment of basic amenities for adivasi padas (accessible roads, primary healthcare centres, electricity and anganwadis).
The implementation of the FRA was a key topic of contention. As Ramesh Ghatal, patil (chieftain) of Sai Bangodapada, explained, “There are 500 to 600 families living in Sai Bangodapada. We are entitled to benefits under the FRA, but the Act has till date not been implemented in Mumbai. When we have tried to file claims under the Act, but the police have rejected them. There have only been promises from the state government towards guaranteeing us our rights, no action.”