Visakhapatnam: Demanding implementation of Constitutional provisions and legislations in its true spirit for protection of tribal rights, thousands of Adivasis gathered at Paderu in Visakhapatnam on 12 February for a public meeting.

Adivasis from 11 mandals of the Agency area as well as from East and West Godavari, Srikakulam, and Vizianagaram districts came together at the Junior College grounds in Paderu for the Adivasi Atmagaurava Sabha, a public gathering to put forth demands and assert their rights.

The Joint Action Committee for Protection of Rights of Adivasis demanded that the land held by non-Adivasis as properties and business establishments in contravention of the Land Transfer Act be reverted to them.

The protest came after seats in the upcoming local body elections were reserved for non-Adivasi communities in the tribal area. The JAC had, earlier in January, protested against the same and obtained a stay from the High Court. As the movement gains momentum, the JAC plans to organise awareness campaigns and hold more such protests.

The JAC also raised concerns about the increasing number of tourist establishments owned by non-locals in the Araku valley. They allege that their presence is destroying the pristine environment and culture of the valley, creating an unsafe environment for women, and is intruding on their privacy. Some of the demands they put forth were detection and cancellation of illegally held ST certificates in the region, removal of non-Adivasis holding jobs reserved for Adivasis.

Speaking at the meeting, Ramarao Dora, convenor of the JAC, said, “Grabbing of land and resources in the fifth schedule region by non-Adivasis has increased over the past decade. Despite protective legislation like 1 of 70 and PESA, little has been done to protect our rights.”

He said, “Tourism is becoming a nuisance. Not only that, Adivasis only get daily wage jobs or other low-paying jobs in these establishments, whereas non-Adivasis make profits out of it by holding it under Benami.”
Former Union secretary E.A.S Sarma spoke about the primacy of the Gram Sabha in the fifth schedule areas. V.S Krishna of the Human Rights Forum and other JAC functionaries from Munchingaput, Pedabayulu, Araku, and Ananthagiri were among those who attended the public meeting.

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