The Madhya Pradesh government has launched a demolition drive in village Tangiyapaat of Burhanpur village, where villagers led by the Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS), have been protesting for last six months against illegal felling of trees in over 15,000 acres of forest land by the forest mafia. The Adivasid have also been demanding Forest Rights over land and minor forest produce.
25 houses were demolished in Bhilai Kheda village in Khandwa and 14 houses were demolished in Tangiyapath in Burhanpur. The Adivasi houses have been completely destroyed with household items sprayed all over the site. The demolition was allegedly done without serving any notice or rejecting the claims through due process of law. Local officials including senior Police officers have visited the sites of deforestation but have refused to act. The Adivasis are strongly opposing these attempts to illegally evict the forest dwellers by the government.
On 17 May 2023, thousands of Adivasis, under the leadership of Jagrut Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, took out a rally and surrounded the Barwani Collectorate against the cutting down of more than 15,000 acres of forest and smuggling of timber in the last few months by the mafia in collusion with the administration. They protested the imposition of false cases on the Adivasi activists protesting against deforestation in Burhanpur. In April, JADS had led a siege to the collector’s office for three days and sought accountability from the officers, but now the administration is trying to suppress them by making false allegations against the members of the organization.
Antram Awase, a tribal activist was the first person to inform the administration about the illegal felling of trees, and has been protesting against the ongoing deforestation and timber smuggling. He was arrested on a false case on April 30. After this, on 2 May, false cases were filed against Madhuri Behan, an activist of the organization. 50 other activists were also threatened with false cases and baseless allegations were made against the organization.
Thousands of protesting Adivasis who surrounded the Collectorate office, demanded dismissal of the false cases against Madhuri Bai, Antram Bhai, Nitin Bhai and other fellow activists. Women activists of Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan said that Madhuri Bai was the one who started the protest against deforestation. They said, “Our Bai went to every village and asked everyone to plant trees and today this government is implicating her on the false allegation of deforestation.” The angry women protesters said, “Today we have come to tell this thief-government that all the false cases should be withdrawn by the government, otherwise all the Adivasis will go for mass arrest and fill all your jails”.
The protesters warned the government that if the false cases against the Adivasis and Sangathan workers are not revoked, and the JADS leaders and tribals who are in custody are not released, they will take the protest to the whole of Madhya Pradesh. A memorandum to the Chief Minister in this regard was handed over to the Additional SP.
Condemning the attack the Central Executive Committee of AIKMS has demanded a judicial inquiry into the incident and the deforestation. It has also demanded immediate revocation of all cases lodged against local Adivasis and the JADS leaders and release of all Adivasis who are in custody. AIKMS has called upon all democratic forces to rally together to protest this attack.
Source : Press release by AIKMS, Facebook page of Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan.