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Shyama Prasad Rout 1999
Centre for Political Studies
School of Social Sciences
Jawaharlal Nehru University
New Delhi - 110067.
A CASE STUDY OF MAYURBHANJ DISTRICT IN
Tribal people's rights being a part of the broad human rights phenomena has acquired significance in recent times. As human beings the people who live in tribal lands acquire a similar set of rights like others. Being citizens of the country they are entitled to a number of privileges as well. From time immemorial there have been violations of their fundamental rights. In contemporary society the state comes to their rescue to some extent. The increasing awareness of the concept of human rights under the aegis of the UNO, world media, NGOs etc. proves beneficial to the victims.
Human rights are those conditions which are inherent to nature and without which one can not live as a human being. These rights and fundamental freedoms allow one to develop fully and use one's human qualities, intelligence, talents and conscience to satisfy one's spiritual, physical, social and other needs. They are based on human kind's increasing demand for life in which the inherent dignity and worth of each human being will receive respect and protection.
Human rights constitute a variable category as is adequately demonstrated by the history of the last few centuries. The list of human rights has been modified and continues to be modified in changing historical circumstances. Thus rights may not be fundamental by nature. That which appears to be fundamental in a given historical era or civilization is not fundamental in other era or civilization. Since the time of Hobbes and Locke, liberal political theorists have made it their primary purpose to explore relationships between the individual and the State..lh9
It is not enough to think in terms of two level relationship, the individual at one level and the State at another nor is it enough if the nation is added. Considering the heterogeneity of mankind and of the population of virtually every existing State it is also necessary to think of ethnic communities and certain other kinds of groups, and to include them among the kinds of rights and duties bearing units whose inter relationships are to be explored.
Rights that belong to individuals may go the them either as human beings or as members of a group. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights enumerates rights of the first sort ; they go to, "everyone.... without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status".
With regard to the legal rights of groups, ethnic communities are sometimes treated as political units within countries, both through territorial delimitations and through the use of separate electoral rolls. Ethnic communities in many countries are differently treated with respect to rights of property and residence; it is not only a question of territorial reservation for the indigenous but also a question of special measures designed to make it possible for the communities to preserve their distinctive identify. In case of less advanced groups that have suffered discrimination, it is now not uncommon to give them a right to expect special measures (affirmative action) designed to promote their quality, e.g. in the educational and economic realms.
Human rights are often held to be inter-related and mutually complementary. According to this view the 'first generation,' civil and political rights form the bedrock of 'second generation' economic, social and cultural rights, while collective and solidarity rights, such as the evolving indigenous rights constitute a 'third generation' of human rights. Further human rights are often said to be compatible with the rule of law and representative democracy. As per Stig Toft. Madsen's (State, society and Human rights in South Asia) hypothesis, "some instances of human rights do not form an integrated whole but are rights in intergenerational conflicts."
The conflict according to Madsen is between the presently dominant 'first generation', civil and political rights professed and guaranteed by a liberal State accepting the ideals of democracy and rule of law and the rights of legal and political, cultural and economic autonomy enjoyed by tribal groups. The outcomes of the conflict between the two incongrous orders of rights has been a working understanding or compromise. While this compromise has guaranteed the survival of tribal cultures, it has also meant that the tribal in question have been denied many of the rights enjoyed by others. So the question is how the tribal autonomy or collective right to autonomy including legal autonomy have circumscribed first generation rights, democracy and the rule of law.
The recent international thinking on indigenous rights is exemplified by the draft of Universal Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples. According to this draft, "indigenous people have the right to participate fully in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the state while maintaining their distinct political, economic social and cultural characteristics".
The Rio de Janerio Declaration on Environment and Development, adopted on 14th June, 1992 by the United Nations conference proclaims that states should recognize and duly support indigenous peoples' identity, culture and interest and enable their participation in the achievement of sustainable development.
Indigenous people and their communities have an historical relationship with their lands and are generally descendants of the original inhabitants of such lands. They have developed over many generations a holistic traditional knowledge of their lands, natural resources and environment. According to the Rio Declaration, they shall enjoy the full measures of human rights and fundamental freedoms without hindrance or discrimination. Their ability to participate fully in sustainable development practices on their lands have tended to be limited as a result of factors of an economic, social and historical nature.
The International Labour Organisation also in its convention No. 169, year 1989, on "Indigenous and Tribal Peoples", suggested that governments must consult with indigenous and tribal peoples within their countries on development projects and other activities effecting them. It provided for respect for their land rights. This right include protection of their lands and right to refuse displacement form their lands except in exceptional circumstances and against compensation.
Tribal Rights in India :-
At the time of independence the Indian Government inherited a large tribal population. The Govt. of India has made a number of plans to protect the rights of the tribals and to integrate them into national developmental planning. The Minority Commission, the National Human Rights Commission etc., are there to prevent atrocities against them and to bring their plight to national lime light. Above all, in the Constitution of India the rights of the tribals were explicitly recognized and clauses were included to permit positive discrimination in their favour.
But the evaluation reports have pointed out that these special provisions have so far failed to bring about any positive gains to the tribal population. As per the Planning Commission Document 1973, "Reviewing the policies and programmes of the proceeding Five Year Plans we are of the opinion that the efforts so far made for social and economic development of the scheduled tribes have not brought an appreciable change in their condition." There can be a number of explanations for the failure of the governmental programmes for tribal development. However, the oppression and appropriation of the tribal people by the economically and politically more powerful groups have led to tribal movements or tribal unrest. For instance, the Santal rebellion, the revolt by Birsa Bhagwan, the Praja Mandal Movement, the Tana Bhagat Movement, the Naxalbari Movement, the Jharkhand Movement etc., are all attempts by the tribal people to shake off the yoke of exploitation.
In recent times the traditional territories of the tribal people have been subjected to incursions. Their lands are taken away in the name of economic advancement of the country. But in return they receive landlessness, impoverishment and long term degradation of the environment on which they totally depend. For almost two centuries now, tribal communities, like many other non-tribal peasants and forest dwellers, have been witness to the collapse of their multiple relationship with the land, the forest and among themselves. The basis of their cultural ethos, their systems of meaning have faced the collective unslaught of outsider exploiters, the disruptive impact of proselytizing Christianity, and of foreign models of economic betterment which have been conceived without their participation and implemented without their consent. Laws like Land Acquisition Act and the Indian Forest Act legitimise the continuing decline in access and control over forest resources that are the basis of their subsistence economy.
Initiatives from the Bharat-Jan-Andolan, Shosit Jan Andolan, the Indian Council of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, Adivasi Sangamams in South India, PUCL, PUDR etc., are indicative of these modest attempts to raise - fundamental issues and define an alternative political agenda that frontally challenges the institutions and structures of our bourgeois democracy.
State Policy and the Tribals :-
The edifice of colonial forestry was inherited
by the Government of Independent India and immediately put to work in the
service of the State's primary goals of repaid industrialization. The National
Forest Policy 1952 underlies continuity of the colonial policy. It reinforced
the claim of the State to exclusive control over forest protection and
production. Significantly this policy identifies shifting cultivation as
one of the main threats to State forestry. But in turn this affects the basic
rights of the tribals to be dependent on forest resources. Hence, many tribal
groups mounted a sustained challenge to the continuing denial of their rights.
The Khanwar tribes of Madhya Pradesh protested in 1957 against revenue collection
and called upon the people to defy forest laws which violated their customary
rights. Their slogan, "Jangal Zamin Azad Hai", (forest and land are free
gifts of nature) succinctly expressed the opposition to external control
and commercial use. Another concept of conflict is the 'Contractor System'
which is the modus operandi of forest working in India. The State's unwillingness
to replace the contractor system has given rise to militant movements. Naxalite
movement is one of the results of this type of exploitation.
Process of Depeasantization and Land Alienation :-
An overwhelming majority of the tribals are
agriculturists. They owned the land in their own rights. Their entire life
process was centered and built upon two major means of production i.e., the
forest and the land. To understand the dynamics of land problem in the totality,
one needs an understanding of the logic of the underlying forces that govern
its ownership pattern. The specific economic form in which unpaid surplus
labour is pumped out of the direct producers, determines the relation of
the rulers and the ruled. Hence land problem of a particular area has to
be understood from its historical perspective. Historical evidences are ample
which proves the conception of depeasantization as a net result of the uneven
structural changes that have taken place from time to time due to the
commoditization of the tribal economy in which land plays a critical and
Land Alienation as a Concept :-
As per Marx, in a Capitalist society an alienated man lives in an alienated nature and he performs estranged labour and the product of his labour becomes alien to him. Alienation as a concept is used by many social scientists in India, merely as a sociological phenomenon. Since land alienation is the crux of the depeasantization of the tribals, the concept assumes utmost importance in the analysis of tribal rights as a part of human rights discourse. The problem of land alienation is a much deeply connected phenomenon with full of contradictions related to the existing socio-economic order. The separation of land from the tribal communities can be understood in a more scientific way with the assistance of the theoretical formulations of the concept of alienation.
Alienation was defined by Hegel and was used
by Marx to describe and criticise a social condition in which man far from
being the active initiation of the social world seemed more a passive object
of determinate external processes. Marx says, alienation is fundamentally
a particular relation of property, involving involuntary surrender to
autagonistic 'other'. Alienation is inherent in exploitative relations of
production and its nature varies with that of exploitation. Hence alienation's
manifestations also differs among societies based on slavery, serfdom and
capitalism etc. Thus the concept of alienation may be interpreted to understand
a specific problem of the tribals where land becomes the primordial source
of exploitation and results in the creation of a society where exploitative
production relations exit.
Violation of Land Rights :-
The question of land is not just result of the existing situation but its origin may be traced to the periods of deprivation of tribal lands or to periods of the withdrawal of their rights to exploit forest. Gradually, due to various structural changes within and outside the tribal systems, the more advanced groups forced the tribals either to retreat to the nearest jungles or to become landless labourers. Though land is the only source of their livelihood, as their other assets being extremely meagre, tribals were severally deprived. Basically, moneylenders, traders, the feudal lords, or the rich peasants exploit the tribals most. It is an established fact that there is a large scale alienation of lands which belong to the tribes and grabbers invariably in all cases are the non-tribes. This phenomenon has further been ruined by the emergence of new forces of production. Commenting on this, the National Commission on Backward-Areas Development (1980) says, "In a number of areas new industrial and mining complexes, many major irrigation projects were located in the tribal areas resulting in the submergence of extensive lands belonging to the tribals".
Also in the operations of denudation of forest on a massive scale tribal labour had been used to a great extent to clear off the forest area which was a method of the land lords to alienate the tribals from the forests. This further widened the gap between the tribal landless and landed gentry of the non-tribal communities.
Commenting on the problem of land alienation
in tribal areas, the Committee on Plan Projects, Planning Commission, presented
a report on the Tribal Development Programmes in 1969. The committee noticed
that tribal lands in many areas passed into the hands of non-tribals, the
legal prohibitions against such transfers notwithstanding. Sample studies
in Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and some other States have shown that transfers
have taken place on large scale without the permission of the collector or
other competent authorities as required by law. The loopholes were exploited
by the money lenders and others and they continue to circumvent the legal
provisions by entering into 'benami' or other clandestine transactions with
the native tribals. The impotency of legislation to arrest this growing menace
to the economic advancement of the tribal in such a situation is thus
Forms of Land Alienation :-
The first and foremost is the manipulation of land records. The unsatisfactory state of land records contributed a lot to the problem of land alienation. The tribals were never legally recognized as owners of the lands which they cultivated.
The second form of land alienation is reported to have taken place due to 'benami' transfers. The report of the study team of the Union Home Ministry (May 1975) pointed out that large scale transfers of ownership of the Adivasis' lands are being allowed to go out of hands through illegal and benami transactions, collusive civil proceedings etc., in which land remains to be in the names of the original owners who are reduced to the level of share croppers.
Another form of land alienation is related to the leasing or mortgaging of the land. To raise loans for various needs the tribals have to give their land as mortgage to the local moneylenders or to the rich farmers.
Encroachment is another form of dispossessing the tribals of their lands and this is done by the new entrants in all the places where there were no proper land records. Bribing the local Patwari for manipulating the date of settlement of land disputes, ante-dating etc., are resorted to claim the tribal lands.
Concubinage or marital alliance is another form to circumvent the law and grab tribal lands at no cost at all.
Fictitious adoption of the non-tribals by the tribal families is also another method to snatch the lands of the tribals.
Also the slackness in the implementation of the restrictive provisions encourages the non-tribals to occupy the tribal lands. Lands alienation which takes place in various ways has assumed alarming proportion threatening the right to life of the tribal population. Though the problem lies elsewhere, it is being unfortunately always interpreted as the handiwork of certain individuals like the moneylender, traders, land lords, etc, without understanding the class connection of these individuals. The unsystematic land records of the pre-colonial and colonial periods was followed by the present State. There was collection of 'taxes - (a strange phenomenon for the natives and it was the beginning process of alienation) in the tribal areas.
In the name of protecting the interest of the tribals stringent laws were enacted by the government but the non-tribals found the loopholes to their advantage. This double edged nature of State policy in one of the facets of the existing contradictions in the Indian Tribal Society. The process of land alienation is not an accidental one, but it has arisen because of the concerted efforts of the antagonistic class interest that are operating in the tribal areas. This is not just migration of the non-tribals into tribal areas rather there is a history behind this migration and the State has supported the migrant non-tribals to the settle down in the tribal lands.
However, being the natural owners of forests
and its adjoining lands the tribals are being deprived of their rights to
own them. They have been relegated from their earlier 'self-reliant' status
to a 'dependent' one. Coupled with the exploitation by the non-tribals, the
State legislations also proved detrimental to their interests. Therefore
to understand the root causes of the land alienation process of the tribal
communities its relationship with the changes in the socio-economic structures
have to be understood properly.
Case Study of Mayurbhanj District in Orissa :-
Orissa occupies a special position in the tribal map of India. In the State the Scheduled Tribes Constitute 22.21%. There are 62 different types of tribes in the State. Mayurbhanj is one of the most tribally dominated districts, lying at the Northern border of Orissa. This district was formed in 1949 out of the ex-State of Mayurbhanj. The percentage of Scheduled Tribes in the district in nearly 58.56%. The district is extremely important from anthropological point of view. It is inhabited by almost all the important tribes found in the eastern region of India through it is a fact that only a few of them have a concentrated settlement here e.g. the Santals, Hos, Bhunyas, Bhumijas, Bathuris and Gonds etc. The basic tribal population of the district is therefore formed by these six principal tribes.
As it has happened in other tribal parts of this country, the tribals of Mayurbhanj are also not spared off. Land alienation is rampart here. Due to poor economic conditions and illiteracy the tribes have not been able to understand the vicious circle thrown by their non-tribal exploiters. The Tribal Research Bureau conducted surveys and studies to analyze the relationship between the tribals and non-tribals who settled down in tribal areas e.g. an untouchable caste, Dom and Pano, the first non-tribals to settle down on the hills, live in intimate relationship with the Kandhas and Saoras of South Orissa. Similarly milkmen oilman and others live with the Juangs and Paudi Bhunyas of North Orissa. Many researchers put this relationship of the tribals with the non-tribals as parasitism but sometimes a symbiotic relationship is also found between them. Indebtedness among the tribals is a chronic malady. Schemes by the State Government have been bogged down in bureaucratic red-tapism. According to the Tribal Research Bureau the original purpose of these schemes is lost sight of. The two major steps by the Govt. of Orissa to prevent land alienation of the tribals are,
(i) Orissa Scheduled Areas Transfer of Immovable Property (by STs) Regulation, 1956, provides for the control and check of the transfers made by the scheduled tribes to the non-scheduled tribes in the Scheduled Areas.
(ii) Also outside the Scheduled Areas, alienation of land of the scheduled tribes has been restricted under Orissa Land Reformed Act, 1960.
Though Mayurbhanj possesses enormous forest wealth, the tribal people have no freedom to enjoy its benefits. Even for making agricultural implements they have to seek permission of the authorities. Permission to cut fire wood is available on payment of a stipulated amount. Sardari system of collection of land revenue gave enough scope for the feudal practices to survive. In the Colonial revenue administration Sardars, Tehsildars and Lakrajdars were the intermediaries. Notwithstanding various welfare measures introduced by the Colonial Government, there seemed to be a deep-seated unrest among the peasants of Mayurbhanj which provided congenial atmosphere for the growth of Prajamandal Movement during 1930s and 40s.
The tribal composition of Mayurbhanj is another important aspect of its history. The tension between the tribals and non-tribals often resulted in violent outburst leading to direct intervention by the Govt. The Kol insurrection and the Bamanghaty disturbances were instances which speak of tribal's refusal to accept a alien system.
However, in order to understand the present tribal problem of land alienation in Mayurbhanj a general background of the land structure of the district is to be analyzed starting from the pre-colonial phase. Also an analysis is to be made to understand the changing pattern of the land structure in Orissa's plains and its effect over the neighboring forest regions that lead to the fast depeasantisation of the tribal communities. As this depeasantisation has emerged as a criteria of the class antagonisms, its effects are to be examined in the district. Above all, the failures of State Govt.'s policy and the result of such failures are to be found out.
However, there is an imperative to project the land alienation of the tribals as human rights violation and to bring to attention of the government as well as non-government agencies. Nowadays the awareness of human rights brings about a certain awakening and often generates courage of tribals to stand up for their own rights. As far as the concept of tribal rights are concerned the challenges are to make the tribals aware of judicial systems, prepare them for political participation, create opportunity for equality, prepare them for self-governance to guarantee rights to traditional natural resources, provide them land rights etc.
Also the Tribal - Sab-Plan, the Bhuria Committee
Recommendations, the Constritution's 73rd and 74th Amendments etc., are the
recent endeavours by the State to remove socio-economic backwardness of the
tribal population and to integrate them into the national mainstream of
development and progress. .lh8.8
Survey of Literature :-
Land Alienation in Tribal Areas
B. Janardhan Rao,
Kakatiya School of Public Administration, Warangal
(A.P), India, November, 1987.
This book written by B. Janardhan Rao in based on empirical studies of tribal areas in Andhra Pradesh, particularly of Warangal district. Very aptly he discusses the concept of alienation in the beginning. Starting from Hegel to Marx he points out the structural functionalist approach to it. Then he gradually proceeds to examine the existing land laws and administrative arrangements of Andhra Pradesh Govt., as far as the tribal areas are concerned. The process of depeasantisation has also been highlighted. He identified the agents who reign in the regime of exploitation in tribal areas.
Though he has pointed out the causes of land alienation yet he fails to give possible solutions to prevent it. Moreover, he has not dealt with the bigger aspect of human rights violation of the tribal population as a result of land alienation.
Encroached and Enslaved
Indian Social Institute, New Delhi, 1991
This book deals with the land alienation of the tribals and its impact on their socio-economic structures. Starting from agrarian changes, the author has properly delt with the extent of land alienation and the processes that lead it to happen. As far as sampling is concerned he has taken four districts of Orissa namely Ganjam, Dhenkanal, Koraput and Phulbani. For this empirical study he took assistance from the local NGOs operating in these areas. It is significant that he has given suggestions towards a people's solution to the problem.
However, this study is more of an anthropological
in nature and does not deal with tribal people's rights as such. It hardly
associates the land alienation problem with other socio-economic issues.
The question of rights and privileges of the tribes are also not fairly dealt
Objective of the Study :-
As the basis of the study is land alienation
in Tribal areas, the focus will be on its causes and the processes that lead
to it. There shall be an analysis of indigenous and tribal peoples rights
at the international level, especially at the United Nations Organization.
There shall be an endeavour to relate the tribal peoples' basic rights to
the human rights discourse. At the national level, policy announcements,
statements, documents highlighting government policies with respect to forests
and prevention of land alienation is to be analysed. However, particular
focus will be on the policies of Govt. of Orissa towards the prevention of
encroachment in tribal lands. Starting from the conceptual level of 'alienation'
to the land rights of the tribals are to be given importance. A general
background of the land structure of Mayurbhanj district, starting from the
pre-colonial phase is to be examined to find out the discrepancies against
the tribal population. The changing pattern of land structure in plains and
its impact on the tribal lands is to be highlighted. Also the process of
land alienation which leads to depeasantisation among the tribals is to be
examined with its causes and effects. However, throughout the study there
shall be an attempt to project the process of land alienation among tribals
as violation of land rights as part of tribal people's rights.
1. The concept of 'alienation' is fundamentally a particular relation of property.
2. Land alienation is not a mere 'structuralist-legalist' phenomenon rather it is related to the existing socio-economic order.
3. Land alienation gradually leads to depeasantisation of the tribals and hence violates their basic rights to life.
4. The dynamics of tribal land problem is related with the ownership pattern in adjoining plain lands.
5. The relationship of non-tribals with that of tribals is not of symbiosis but of parasitism.
6. Increasing industrialization in the tribal belt have led to their impoverishment, displacement, alienation and violation of their rights.
7. Unscrupulous forest policy has led to pauperisation and violent unrest among the tribal population.
8. Decentralized developmental process involving
voluntary agencies at the grass root level have made the tribals increasingly
aware of their rights and privileges.
Tentative Chapterisation :-
1. Emergence of human rights as a global movement and indigenous and tribal rights as a part of it.
2. Alienation as a concept.
3. Demographic profile of the tribes in Orissa.
4. Land Alienation among the tribals in Mayaurbanj district.
5. Govt. of Orissa's policies on Forest and Tribal Lands.
6. Effects of land alienation and depeasantisation among tribals in Mayurbhanj.
7. Industrialization and its effects on tribal people's rights.
The present study of land alienation and tribal
people's rights in Mayurbhanj, Orissa is both explorative and analytical.
It is sought to construct, through the analysis of primary and secondary
data, the history of land alienation in the district and the reasons thereby.
The documents of government policies would be analysed to find out the loopholes.
Proper sampling shall be done in the district to verify the extent of land
alienation. Indepth sample interviews, questionnaire and field study in
Mayurbhanj itself would provide primary data on which this whole research
is based. Published works by eminent authors shall also be consulted during
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