Thousands of tribals participated in a rally in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, over the weekend over a demand for implementation of constitutional provisions in tribal areas.
Protesters said the Indian Constitution guarantees forest dwellers and tribals land, water and forest rights, and mentioned that nobody can deprive them of these.
They claimed they were being exploited in the name of development and that their lands were being sold to big corporate houses.
They blamed the state government for not implementing the Forest Rights Act and the Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas Act in the right spirit.
Former chairperson of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Dilip Singh Bhuria, who participated in the rally, said: "Our demand is that we should have governance in our villages. We should be allowed to live the way we want to. The British never intervened in our lives, therefore, the present government should also not do so."
"After independence, they introduced many laws which have become a nuisance for these tribals. According to the Constitution of the country, the governance of villages inhabited by Scheduled tribes should be given to the tribals," Bhuria added.
Apart from acute poverty, hunger and social unrest, massive displacement and disintegration have been major issues of concern in tribal areas. Extractive mining and private take-over of land and forest have already created havoc in the life and livelihoods of tribals living in these areas.
In order to protect and safeguard the lives and the natural resources, the Supreme Court of India had given a progressive judgment called Samata Judgement in the year 1997.
But the government of Odisha deliberately ignored the judgment and deprives the tribals of their land and other resources. Allegedly, there are multiple mechanisms and fraudulent means which are used by the expropriaters of land and resources from the scheduled areas.