On 30th July 2017, in commemoration of the great hool movement, the adivasis in Bengal, Jharkhand, Assam and Orissa staged a protest against the Jharkhand government for the bill proposing amendment in the Chotanagpur Tenancy (CNT) Act and Santhal Pargana Tenancy (SPT) Act. The current proposed amendments to the CNT and SPT act are a conspiracy to strip adivasis of their remaining rights on their homestead and agricultural land.
The CNT and SPT act grants some individual and community rights to adivasis in Jharkhand over agricultural land, village community land and forest land. It provides some provisions which regulates sale and purchase of tribal land to non tribals. Through these acts the govt. for the first time had to recognize the traditional and customary rights of the adivasis other than their codified rights. It was the struggle led by Tilka Majhi to Sidhu Kanu and great leaders of the adivasis that compelled the British to enact such laws.
The BJP Government has amended three sections and abolished one sub-section of CNT Act, while one section of SPT Act (SPT) has been amended. It has been amended empowering government to make rules for non-agriculture use of the agriculture land. The sub-section in SPT Act that deals with tribal land transfer after compensation has been abolished. Sukhdeo Bhagat, a former bureaucrat, points out that the tribals of Jharkhand are seeking compensation in 64,000 cases and by abolishing 71(A) section of SPT Act, these claims are likely to be null and void. Section 13 has been amended to allow the government to use the tribal land for purposes other than agriculture. Rashmi Katyayan, a land rights advocate in Ranchi high court, says “The amendment has opened doors for land grab and complete dilution of tribal land rights.”
According to the Ministry of Rural Development’s Annual Report 2004-2005, Jharkhand topped the list of adivasi land alienation in the country, with 86,291 cases involving 10,48,93 acres of land. After 1947 and up to 1990 over 26 lakh people were displaced in Jharkhand due to “development” projects such as dams, industrial projects, etc. – majority of them were tribal people. It has been estimated that about 22,00,000 acres of tribal land has been lost since 1947. These statistics speak clearly that the CNT Act has failed to protect the interests of poor tribes.
The ruling class has always violated the rights and provisions that they have granted in pressure of the peoples’ movement. Moreover, The Provisions of the Panchayats Act, 1996 (PESA) grants rights to the Gram Sabha and the Panchayat for making decisions regarding their lands which in turn are mostly in control of the feudal ruling class of the villages and most of the time does not reflect the true will of the people.