The Struggle for Human Rights
Chandan is a kol tribal youth who has mobilized the poorest people of Kokremar village to fight against land garb and bonded labour. Chandan is a member of ABSSS (Akhil Bharatiya Samaj Sewa Sansthan) which has spearheaded this struggle in this region during the last 15 years.
As a result of this struggle several Kol tribals of this village got land and could escape from the system of bonded labour. The biggest exploiter landlord had to lie low for sometimes, but not for long. He was waiting for a chance to strike back.
Recently he got Chandan and sometimes other villagers falsely implicated in a murder case. They were arrested and beaten up very badly, probably with a view to extract a false confession from them. This has struck terror among other villagers who feel very insecure. Gopal Bhai, director of ABSSS says, "Liberation of bonded" labourers has been a top priority programme of the government. But those like Chandan who played the most courageous role in this area are being victimized now.
The kind of land-grab that has been taking place in this region may appear incredible to many people. There are several instances when influential and big landowners colluded with lower level government functionaries to get the land records changed in such a way that living persons (tribals) were shown as dead. Than they went one step further and got themselves registered as the legal manner. Such incident have been reported recently from Nihi and Chamrauha villages. When such victim protest, they face repression.
In Terva village a landlord who is a terror in nearby villages, has his on the fertile land of Kol tribal named Kuniya. When Kuniya resisted his lad grab efforts, he was murdered. The next step was to get rid of his wife Balasiya. She was falsely implicated in the murder of his own husband, and jailed. With the widow out of the way the landlord now grabbed his family's land and employed two small children of Kuniya and Balasiya for grazing his animals. When Balasiya managed to get bail and come to claim her land, the landlord threatened her to go away.
Earlier this same landlord was involved in beating up badly his worker Shivnaresh who is tried to resist conditions of bondage. Shivnaresh was later implicated in the false case and sent to jail. This year he died in jail. His land was grabbed by a relative of this landlord while his wife, mother and 2 year old child have to starve.
Nathu Kol of Dandi village resisted condition of bondage and insisted on having some rest and food after working very hard. For this he was beaten up very badly and whipped with a rope. Five days after this beaten Nathu died, The landlord tried to bury this case but it got reported due to the contiguous effort of his wife Shivkoli.
The atrocities suffered by women in the form of several exploitation and rape are even worse. On November 4, 1997, the National Women's Commission had organised a public hearing on the distress suffered by the women of Patha in Delhi. The ABSSS had submitted shocking case studies of the humiliation and distress suffered by several women. At this public hearing several officials promised punish the culprits and secure justice for victims.
It is true after the hearing a few women like Shakuntala got some assistance, but in other cases they suffered even more cruelty. They were again and again harassed by the culprits to put their thumb impression on Blank Paper and withdraw their complaint. A voluntary organisation Mahila Jagriti Mandal (MGM- which function in cooperation with ABSSS) submitted a detailed follow-up report which listed several instances of this kind. Saraswati of MGM says, "Those who light against justice and summon the courage to report the worst violation of human rights should at least be provided protection so that they are not punished for their courage. Otherwise who will come forward to complain against the powerful when they violate the human right of the poorest".
The cases mentioned here are only the proverbial tip to iceberg as in these and other village of Patha region there are simply too many stories of extreme distress caused by the injustice and repression. A study by the Uttar Pradesh Development Systems Corporation has once identified over 5000 bonded labourers in two blocks of this region. Gopal Bhai says, "The struggle against land grab bonded labour exploitation of women needs the support of the Human Rights Commission and the National Women Commission."
Within its own limitations, the ABSSS has left no stone unturned to draw attention to the numerous human right violation is taking place in Patha region. During the last two decades the reality of those villagers has come to light largely because of the tremendous courage shown by ABSSS activists and supported in exposing what can be called the numerous unjust and oppressive practices widely prevalent in these villages. As a reaction to this effort, many ABSSS activists have been badly beaten up and arrested while the life of its director Gopal Bhai has been threatened several times.
On hearing of such violations particularly those relating to the rural poor, the ABSSS tries its best to confirm the facts at the field level. Then it brings these facts to attention to the concerned official and frequently also the media. It also keeps sending these reports time to time to the National Human Right Commission the National Women Commission and other such organisation. ABSSS also takes numerous cases of injustice to the courts and provides legal aid to the victims. At present it is fighting about 100 such cases to help the poor.
Many times concerned officials take some action or the other on the complaints of violations brought to their notice by ABSSS. When there is no response or undue delay then ABSSS and its sister organisations also organise protest demonstration. As many as 10000 people mostly the poor people from remote villages have benefited from such protests.
As a result of consistence courageous work of ABSSS, several bonded labourers have been released and the large number of tribals have got back the land grabbed from them. Atrocities on women and weaker section have been reduced and some victim of injustice have received compensation from the government
Still many acts of extreme injustice remain. Forces of oppression are striking back to prevent the awakening of weaker sections. ABSSS needs wider support in its struggle for protection of human right in the very difficult condition of Patha region.
Bharat Dogra, February 11-17, 2000