Non-tribals outnumber Adivasis in Agency areas
Three quarters of a century after the legendary Raj Gond leader Kumram Bheem and 15 other Adivasis gave the supreme sacrifice for rights on their lands and 36 years after a good number of them were gunned down in the infamous Indervelli police firing, the issue continues to burn. In fact it has become more serious now as the non-tribals in agency areas have grown in strength, numerically, economically and politically.
The demand for relaxation of Land Transfer Regulation Amendment Act 1 of 1970 for facilitating land transactions raised recently by the non-tribal, Scheduled Caste and Banjara tribal people living in Agency mandals has raised the hackles of the Adivasis. “The issue will be raised when we pay homage to the victims of Indervelli police firing on April 20,” revealed president of Indervelli Amaraveerula Ashaya Sadhana Committee, Purka Bapur Rao.
“How can they raise the demand to amend the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution to deprive us of our rights,” questioned the Raj Gond leader. “It was none other than Baba Saheb Ambedkar who had guaranteed protection of our rights as enshrined in the Fifth Schedule,” he observed.
The story of struggle for land goes back to the late 1940s when Kumram Bheem led a rebellion against the then government of the Nizam of Hyderabad, seeking rights on forest lands tilled by Adivasis. He was martyred on September 1, 1940 which paved the way for another legend, Austrian Anthropologist Christopher von Furer-Haimendorf conducting studies of Raj Gonds, who were 70,000 in number then.
Subsequently appointed as Advisor to the Nizam’s government on tribal backward classes affairs, Professor Haimendorf persuaded the powers that be to denotify 1.6 lakh acres of forest land in the Agency areas which benefited about 12,000 aboriginal farmers. They were given titles of these lands called Haimendorf pattas.
The accession of Hyderabad to Indian Union which came soon enough, saw the ethnic people once again being exploited by non-tribal immigrants. It resulted in the then government enacting the Land Transfer Regulation Act 1959 which barred any transfer of land between tribal and non-tribal and among non-tribals too through an amendment Act 1 of 1970.
This Act nevertheless failed to check the aboriginal people losing their lands to non-tribals or their gross exploitation.
The circumstances were ripe for the extremist outfit CPI (Marxits-Leninist) People’s War Group to unite Adivasis to demand restoration of their lands.
This effort ended in the police firing which left 13 Raj Gonds dead, as per government records, though independent estimates put the toll at 60. “The present conditions, though not as serious as those that prevailed in the past, need to be examined minutely so that no unsavoury incident recurs,” appealed a Raj Gond leader on condition of anonymity.