Gondwanaland: Our Land – Our People

Adivasis Rights

                                      Tribal Futures At Stake

Central India as we all know is home to Adivasis or aboriginal tribes who are rightly ascribed as India’s first people. The land here is home to India’s richest concentration of natural resources. In recent years national and international market forces have been trying to gain control over land, water, forest and mineral wealth of the region. This exploitation has affected the well being of indigenous and marginalised community’s dwelling here.

It is very important to preserve the land as well as the people who reside here as they are part of the larger anthropological legacy that we have inherited. The Pangaea continent called Gondwana was so named by Austrian scientist Eduard Suess, to really venerate the Gondwana region of central northern India. The term comes from the Sanskrit Gond-Vana meaning ‘Forest of the Gonds’.

The now well-accepted theory of the continental drift tells us that during the Jurassic age, Gondwana continent began to break up by accompanying massive eruptions of basalt lava from East Gondwana, Antarctica, Madagascar, India and Australia and had Africa separating off in another direction resulting in open marine conditions. In time even East Gondwana began to separate when India began to move northward.

The Indian Plate collided and buckled with Asia to create the Himalayas. Even today, they say, the Himalayas are rising by an inch every year! The theory of the continental drift and tectonic plates tells us of movements of the Earth’s continents as also the ocean beds. The continuity of glaciers, deduced through glacial striations and tillites deposits suggested the existence of the supercontinent of Gondwana that was central to the concept of continental drift.

The present locations of the continents had previously been in dramatically different places and had also been contiguous with each other. The Gonds are the most important of the non-Aryan or primitive tribes of the Central India region and are important human species. They have been vividly described in the book ‘The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India–Volume I’ authored by R.V. Russell. The book includes their description in great detail with regard to social customs, information on villages, houses, dress, food and manner of life.

Modern day India seems to have abused the living situation of its aboriginals and merely given lip service to their right over their land. They have involuntarily been forced to acquiesce to their holdings over their land for both rightful and wrongful reasons. Whether it is in the name of conserving forest tracts or allowing greedy corporations to mine minerals (hand in glove with governments), the Adivasis rights to their land has been compromised for the longest time. Only until very recently after the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act (PESA) passed in 1996 (a very important piece of legislation for Adivasis) have we established special provision for tribal peoples under such scheduling.

This Act extends to the Panchayats of tribal areas of nine states – Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Rajasthan. The Act intends to enable tribal society to assume control, preserve and conserve their traditional rights over natural resources. However PESA has been grossly violated and not upheld by many states, especially the minerals and natural resource rich areas. Market forces continue to unleash their onslaught on land grabbing for lucrative earnings.

The Adivasis are experiencing great disillusionment not only by state governments but with the Government of India too. We are not able to contain corporate greed nor to understand that natural resources are the tribals customary rights, their right to life and livelihood to which they have full constitutional right. Corrupt corporations join hands with corrupt states to continue to destroy India’s vibrant natural heritage and mineral wealth.

Tribals Rights

                       Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act