The sixth general meeting of the Indian Council of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, which began in Delhi on November 15, sounded a strong warning in its inaugural session on the persisting trend of displacement of indigenous people in India. "The argument that this (displacement) is necessary for development has been disproved long ago," said the council's general secretary, Amitya Kumar Kishu.
Among the foreign delegates present at the meeting was the 1992 Nobel peace laureate, Rigoberta Menchu.In a revealing statement, Walter Fernandes of the Indian Social Institute pointed out that in the 40 years of development projects since 1951, over 8 million tribals have been displaced from their habitats. "The government has so far ignored accountability for this vast culpability," he said.
The participants demanded that the Union government immediately implement the recommendations of the 169th session of the International Labour Organisation, which had warned national governments against ignoring the consequences of evicting indigenous people from their natural habitats. Urging the Union government to hold a dialogue with the council, they stressed the need for preserving and nurturing the separate cultural identities of Indian tribals.
The inaugural session of the meet was attended by more than 1,000 tribals from all over the country.
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