Many question if her win will alleviate plight of tribals in country
Droupadi Murmu’s village in Odisha is jubilant about her win in the Presidential election. But the choice of the first tribal candidate is largely considered a symbolic move by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Activists suspect her victory is unlikely to mitigate the plight of tribal people in the country.
Uparbeda is a small tribal village about 10 kilometres from Rairangpur town in Mayurbhanj district.
A large crowd had assembled in the courtyard of Murmu’s house in the village early July 21, 2022 when the results of the poll were declared. The villagers had their eyes glued to TV screens, anxiously watching the news for the results.
Read more: Great Expectations: What will tribal India’s ask be from President Droupadi Murmu
The villagers ecstatically celebrated after she was announced the 15th President of India. They had earlier held prayers for her so she could secure a win.
Laddoos and sweets were distributed amid resounding beats of dhol. Decked in their best traditional clothing, the villagers danced to the dhol in celebration.
Rairangpur town, where Murmu has been residing for over four decades, also erupted in joy on hearing she had taken a significant lead over her opposing candidate, Yashwant Sinha.
Her first brush with politics happened in the town three decades ago when she became a councillor in the Rairangpur Nagar Panchayat.
Many areas of Odisha were delighted, having kept tabs on her candidature since the announcement by BJP.
“I can’t express how happy I am,” said Tarini Tudu, Murmu’s brother.
“We are eagerly waiting to give her a royal reception whenever she visits Rairangpur,” said a resident of the town, Ashok Tudu.
However, many suspect the role of the first Adivasi President might be just symbolic.
During the presidency of Ram Nath Kovind, a Dalit, the situation of Dalit people in the country worsened, said Janardan Pati, a trade union leader of Odisha. “Atrocities against Dalits skyrocketed in the last five years,” he said.
Police recently arrested 28 tribal leaders to break the backbone of a peaceful protest in the tribal-dominated Koraput village against Hindalco Industries Limited, said Akshya Kumar. He is the national coordinator of Nava Nirman Krushak Sanghastan, a farmers’ group in Odisha.
Hindalco is one of India’s biggest aluminium manufacturing companies. Many agitators had opposed a proposal for bauxite mining in Mali hillock at Kankadaamba village in Koraput by Hindalco.
“The area for lease is spread over 268.110 hectares of Aligaon, Kankaramba and Sorishpadar village under Pottangi tehsil,” said Kumar. “The arrests happened during a public hearing by the Pollution Control Board of Odisha September 22, 2021, at Kankaramba village over the environmental clearances to the company.”
Several villagers of Dhinkia had also been arrested recently. “There were gross human rights violations by police while arresting the innocent residents,” Kumar claimed.
He also claimed that over 300 villagers had been implicated in false cases. “Most of the villages are covered with mangrove and casuarina forests, betel vineyards, paddy fields and fruit-bearing trees,” he said.
Under the Forest Rights Act, 2006, villagers’ rights over the forest land need to be recognised. Their consent is necessary before any such land is given to corporations for projects, Kumar said.
“However, the Odisha government is determined to hand over land to JSW Utkal Steel Ltd for a steel plant,” Kumar claimed.
As many as 138,825 cases related to crimes against Dalits were filed across the country between 2018 and 2020, Union minister Ramdas Athawale hhad told the Parliament March 22, 2022.
Nearly 139,045 cases of crime against Scheduled Caste people were registered between 2018 and 2020 in the country, Pati stated. In 2020, 50,291 such crimes were reported, data from the National Crime Records Bureau said.
Uttar Pradesh, Kovind’s home state, registered the maximum, 36,467 such cases in three years, followed by Bihar (20,973 cases), Rajasthan (18,418) and Madhya Pradesh (16,952), as per data from the home ministry.
Athawale had said 42,793 cases of atrocities were reported in 2019. The number rose to 45,961 in 2019 and 50,291 in 2020. Uttar Pradesh reported the highest number of such cases in 2020 (12,714).
A maximum of 36,467 cases in three years were also registered in Uttar Pradesh, followed by Bihar (20,973 cases), Rajasthan (18,418), and Madhya Pradesh (16,952).
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