Are we assessing the movement correctly? – asks Sunita Narain
Ranchi, April 30, 2018: “India has seen numerous movements and campaigns to assure people’s rights over their resources, and every such movement has had something to teach us. The Patthargadi movement might also be trying to tell us something – and we have gathered here to listen and understand,” said Sunita Narain, director general of Centre for Science and Environment, the New Delhi-based think tank, here today.
Narain was talking at a media briefing and public meeting titled ‘The Second Struggle’, organized by CSE in Ranchi.
Journalists from Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra, along with activists, academicians, government representatives and members of the common public came together at the meeting to discuss what was happening in India’s tribal heartland.
Tribal villages in some areas of Jharkhand have initiated a movement to take charge over their resources, and govern their lands and waters by common consent. They have based this movement on the tenets prescribed in the Indian Constitution on the powers of the Gram Sabha in tribal areas of India. Many villages have put up stone slabs at their entrance (hence the name ‘Patthargadi’), with these tenets inscribed and painted on them, and have restricted entry of outsiders into the village without the permission of the Gram Sabha.
The latest issue of Down To Earth in Hindi, the monthly magazine that CSE helps publish, was officially released at the event. The magazine has the Patthargadi movement as its cover story in its April 2018 issue.
Among the other speakers at the meeting were Manish Ranjan, secretary, tourism, government of Jharkhand and former DC of Khunti district (one of the regions where this movement has taken hold); Santosh Satapathy, former principal secretary to the governor; Sajay Basu Malik of Jharkhand Jungle Bachao Andolan; Dayamani Barla of Adivasi Moolvasi Astitva Raksha Manch; Yogeshwar Dutt, former editor of Dainik Bhaskar, Jharkhand; Sunil Kumar, chief editor of Daily Chhattisgarh in Raipur; Manoj Prasad, former editor of Prabhat Khabar in Ranchi; and Richard Mahapatra, managing editor of Down To Earth.
Speakers at the meet pointed out that the tradition of patthargadi is not new: tribal communities have practiced it for years. According to them, it is simply an assertion of the villager’s right to resources and their management, and the movement has emerged out of the realization that not enough is being done to improve the lot of tribal societies in the country.
“The message that the nation is getting about this movement – that it is anti-national – may not be correct. After all, the villages and communities involved in it are invoking the Schedule V provisions of the Constitution of India to assert their rights. Perhaps what is needed is a closer look at the reasons behind the movement and understand what can be done to address the grievances. Our story in Down To Earth has tried to do that,” said Richard Mahapatra.