Updated: May 29, 2019 1:33:24 am
When tribal residents of hamlets in Aarey Colony called for a protest against infrastructure and construction projects inside the thickly forested 3,000 acres, it became an occasion to discuss other areas where indigenous communities will face relocation and loss of livelihood or land on account of big ticket transport projects.
“There is one law for everybody and another for adivasis,” said Kaluram Dhodade, a senior leader of the Adivasi Ekta Parishad, who has been active in mobilising Palghar district’s tribals against the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project.
“There appears to be no justice for the adivasi population of the country,” he added, addressing the protesters on Tuesday.
Organised by Mumbai’s Adivasi Hakk Sangharsh Samiti in response to reports that tribal hamlets in Aarey could be relocated, the protest saw about 200 tribals gathering, mostly women, many in traditional clothes complete with strings of wildflowers in their hair.
“Metro work has begun in our area,” said Sunita Mali of Khadakpada. Prajapurpada and Khadakpada are not far from the designated ‘picnic garden’ inside Aarey, near where construction work has begun for a car depot for the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited.
Mali works as a domestic help in a plush apartment complex on the Western Express Highway, a 30-minute walk one way. “I took a day off today to attend this. We didn’t know that adivasi people elsewhere are also facing a similar situation.”
Like Mali, Kisan Bhoir of Prajapurpada, holding one end of a giant banner proclaiming that the people of his hamlet will not leave their homes, did not know much about the protests against land acquisition for the bullet train project. “Land that we are cultivating in Prajapurpada could be lost too, since the Metro car shed is coming up nearby,” he said, adding that he is pleased to see tribals everywhere supporting one another.
Prakash Bhoir of Keltipada, one of the organisers, said they sent a delegation to the offices of Aarey Dairy Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and the Bombay Veterinary College dean. “There are some from our own community who are claiming that the tribals are willing to relocate to buildings. This march is to reiterate that we have been residents of Aarey since generations and are not willing to leave our homes,” Bhoir added.
Also present were residents of Navshachapada near the Bombay Veterinary College, where tribals have been petitioning the authorities for electrification of their homes — a long pending demand on account of the college, the lease-holder of the land, not giving a no-objection certificate to the power distributor.
“A generation has passed since Independence and Navshachapada doesn’t have electricity yet. And meanwhile, the destruction of a green lung in the name of development has to be stopped,” said Santosh Ahadi, a resident of a hamlet and an activist.
When contacted, Aarey Dairy CEO N Rathod said, “The decision on relocation of tribals will be taken by the state government. Aarey Dairy has no role in the relocation, as the land comes under the state government. All action will be done as per the government’s policy.”
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