Tribals migrated from Chhattisgarh face eviction in AP, Telangana | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Tribals migrated from Chhattisgarh face eviction in AP, Telangana

Feb 25, 2022 11:53 PM IST

Forest authorities however, say they are driving out people from forest regions to stop them from cutting down trees and clearing the area for cultivation.

Hyderabad: Hundreds of Adivasis who migrated from strife-torn areas of Chhattisgarh into border areas of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh over 10-15 years ago are yet again facing the loss of their habitation.

According to tribal rights activist Shubhranshu Choudhary, who is heading a non-governmental organisation called ‘The New Peace Process’, the forest authorities in both states have raided around 70 villages as of now. (HT Photo)
According to tribal rights activist Shubhranshu Choudhary, who is heading a non-governmental organisation called ‘The New Peace Process’, the forest authorities in both states have raided around 70 villages as of now. (HT Photo)

Forest authorities have started a drive to clear out habitations of tribals from Bhadradri Kothagudem district of Telangana and East and West Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh bringing pressure on them to go back to Chhattisgarh. Forest authorities however, say they are driving out people from forest regions to stop them from cutting down trees and clearing the area for cultivation.

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Sodi Sukaiya migrated from Korra hamlet of Sukma district in Chhattisgarh in 2002. On February 13 this year, authorities destroyed his farmland in Enguppanagar hamlet of Mukmamidi gram panchayat of Bhadradri Kothagudem district and prevented him from entering their farms.

Though he arrived in 2022, Sukaiya still does not own any land in the region. He started farming on land that was cleared by cutting trees deep in the forest. “Now, there is no livelihood for us for the last one week,” Sukaiya told HT.

Sodi Iramaiah of Chinturu block in East Godavari district abutting Chhattisgarh is in the same situation. He lamented that the forest department had destroyed some of the houses in his hamlet Kothuru.

According to tribal rights activist Shubhranshu Choudhary, who is heading a non-governmental organisation called ‘The New Peace Process’, the forest authorities in both states have raided around 70 villages as of now.

“They are preventing migrant Adivasis from taking up cultivation inside forests and are bringing pressure on them to leave their hamlets and go back to their native places in Chhattisgarh,” Choudhary said.

Going back however, may prove to be a challenge. For over one-a-half decades, these forests have become home for these migrants. Faced with violence between security forces and Maoists, these Adivasis – now referred to as Internally Displaced People (IDPs) -- chose to migrate to more peaceful parts.

“In the morning, we used to get beaten up by the police on the pretext that we were providing food to Maoists and in the night, Maoists used to assault us for providing information to the police about their movements,” recalled 35-year old Ravva Madaiah, who migrated from Sukma district in 2006 and settled in Cheepurugudem in the interior forest area of Kukkunuru block in West Godavari district.

According to Shubhranshu, there are at least 270 settlements of IDPs in both Telugu states, including 147 in Bhadradri Kothagudem district of Telangana, with a total population not less than 30,000.

A majority of the adivasis -- Koyas, Gothi Koyas, Murias and Gonds -- refuse to go back. “We are safe and secure here. Why should we go back and get caught in the crossfire between Maoists and the police again? We don’t have any attachment to Chhattisgarh now,” says Madaiah.

Children in these tribal settlements are also going to schools run by local NGOs. At Chintakunta settlement of Burgampahad block in Bhadradri Kothagudem district, the Integrated Tribal Development Authority (ITDA) is running a small school called ‘Bala Velugu’ for the children of migrants from Chhattisgarh.

Kalma Mangai (27), who ran away from his native village in Dantewada district in 2010, completed his class 12 at Arlagudem tribal area of Dummugudem block in Khammam district, before settling down at Cheepurugudem.

Now, several of the community’s members have made representations to the Andhra and Telangana government seeking pattas for the forest land they have been cultivating on.

Forest department officials confirm that the drive is going on and say they are only doing their jobs. “The revenue authorities have given them ration cards and Aadhaar cards. The government can even give them pattas for revenue lands. But these people are adamant living only inside the forests, so that they can fell the trees and occupy large areas for cultivation,” said P Mohini Vijayalakshmi, forest range officer of Kunavaram, bordering Bhadrachalam.

“We have sympathy towards them, but we have to do our duty. We cannot allow them to destroy forests. We need to go by the law of the land,” she added.

Bhadradri Kothagudem Integrated Tribal Development Authority (ITDA) project officer P Goutham could not be reached for comment on rehabilitating these migrant tribals.

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