Lakhs of people marched in various parts of the country on Tuesday during a Bharat Bandh to demand that the Centre promulgate two ordinances: one so that tribals and forest dwellers are not displaced from the land they occupy, and another to overturn the UGC’s 13-point roster for department-wise recruitment system for faculty posts.
The two ordinances would nullify the corresponding Supreme Court orders that could lead to the eviction of more than a million tribals from their land and greatly reduce the chances of SC/ ST/ OBC candidates getting appointed as university faculty.
Ashok Bharti from the All India Ambedkar Mahasabha said, “Most leaders except for (BSP chief) Mayawati have supported the issues we raised; there has been no statement from her or her party. If the government fails to bring in either of the two ordinances before the model code of conduct is announced, we will declare our further course of action.”
Several political leaders including Congress’s Rahul Gandhi, SP’s Akhilesh Yadav, RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav and Manoj Jha, LJP’s Ram Vilas Paswan, RLSP’s Upendra Kushwaha and Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh head Prakash Ambedkar tweeted or gave statements backing Tuesday’s protests.
The day saw rail roko in Haryana, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, and demonstrations in several parts of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Kerala, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi and West Bengal.
K Ananda Rao from the All India Dalit Rights Forum said that from Niyamgiri to Sardar Sarovar Dam, it is the tribal communities that are displaced from their traditional land in the name of development. “The forest rights Act was enacted in this context to secure the livelihood of tribal communities. The BJP-led government, which has successfully passed the EWS quota Bill despite knowing it won’t withstand legal scrutiny, should bring in an ordinance to secure the rights of tribals too,” he said.
Stating that the judiciary needs better representation of all communities, Bharti said, “The collegium system cannot make Indian judiciary representative. Recent judicial intervention has mostly been against the interest of SCs and STs. Unless there is fair representation of SC, ST and OBC in the judiciary, the sanctity of laws made by Parliament cannot be maintained.”