DHEKIAJULI, Sept 21 - Criticising the State and the Central governments over their alleged failure to solve the problems of tribal indigenous people of Assam, All Bodo Students� Union (ABSU) president Pramod Boro has said that until and unless the problems of the tribal indigenous people are addressed in the right earnest, the Bodos would not take rest.
In an exclusive interview, the president of the students� body spoke about problems like implementation of the Forest Dwellers� Act 2006 (Forest Rights Act 2006), provincialisation of Bodo-medium schools, and creation of a separate homeland for Bodos.
He said that the Bodos have been demanding the government to provide land pattas for Bodos and Adivasis living in forest, including Batachipur area in Sonitpur district, for the last many decades by implementing the Forest Rights Act.
The Bodos have also been demanding provincialisation of schools and implementation of the Panchayati Raj system, health and sanitation, electrification, improvement of surface communication etc.
Referring to the ST and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, Boro reiterated that it was a key piece of forest legislation passed for dealing with land rights of the tribal people.
Alleging that some anti-Bodo forces, including an RTI activist of Hograjuli area, have been working against the rights of Bodos living in Batachipur, terming them as encroachers and the area as a wildlife sanctuary. �But information collected from the forest department shows that the area does not come under the same. It�s an anti-human and anti-tribal stand, and we have lodged an FIR against him in different police stations.�
India�s forests are home to crores of people, including many Scheduled Tribes. The forests provide sustenance in the form of minor forest produce, water, grazing grounds and as habitats for shifting cultivation. Moreover, vast areas of land that may or may not be forests are classified as �forest� under India�s forest laws, and people cultivating these lands are technically cultivating �forest land�. Since time immemorial, tribal communities have been dependent on forests for their livelihood and existence. This relationship is mutually beneficial and not one-sided. However, their rights were rarely recognised by the authorities and in the absence of real ownership of the land, the already marginalised local dwellers have suffered.
The ABSU leader also urged people to study in depth the Forest Dwellers Act.
�Due to alleged negligence towards our issues, things often go wrong for the tribal people leading us to follow the path of agitation. We are planning to organise a mass gathering in Tezpur shortly against the government�s failure to solve the long-pending problem. The authorities should be aware that if any untoward incident occurs due to the negative stand of anti-Bodo forces, the Bodos living in those areas wouldn�t be responsible,� he said.
The ABSU supremo mentioned that the Act seeks to recognise and vest the forest rights on Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers, who have been residing in such forests for generations.
�The Act was notified for operation with effect from December 31, 2007. The ST and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Rules, 2008 for implementing the provisions of the Act were notified on January 1, 2008. As per the provisions of the Act, the onus of implementation lies with the State/UT governments.
�The Ministry that ensures that the intended benefits of this legislation flows to the eligible forest dwellers, also issued comprehensive guidelines to the State/UT governments on July 12, 2012 for better implementation of the Act. Further, to strengthen the Forest Right Rules, 2008, the Ministry also notified the ST and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Amendment Rules, 2012 on September 6, 2012. But we are anguished that it has not been implemented in favour of the tribal people of Assam for which lakhs of tribal indigenous people have been deprived of their rights,� he said.
�We are observing the attitude of the government and some agencies. If things go wrong, then we will not sit idle, and launch a vigorous democratic movement,� he added.