Bhatapani and Dumerpani villages lie on the border of Kalahandi and Nabarangpur districts and fall under under Gotomunda Gram Panchayat, in Koksara Tahasil of Kalahandi district (Odisha). Since 1999, 42 families are living in this forest area in both Bhatapani and Dumerpani villages, in the Sahajkhol reserved forest of Behera forest range of Kalahandi district. Farming is their main livelihood, so every year theysow crops in the forest area and collect forest materials for the maintenance of their families.
The majority of the masses belong to Scheduled Tribes and a few to the Scheduled Castes — people who had migrated from Ramsa, Ekama and Chargaon of Falia Gram Panchayat and Topaguda of Dhamnaguda Gram Panchayat of Jharigaon Tahasil, for better livelihoods. In 1999, for the first time they migrated from Jharigaon Tahasil of Nabarangpur District to these parts. Back then the forest department did not take action against them but in 2011, eight persons were arrested and jailed in Dharamgarh Jail for occupying forest land and cutting down trees for tilling. They were kept in jail for fifteen days due to the Forest Act. After release, all of them returned to their native places and never wanted to come back. But after some months, Manas Sahu and Hemanta Majhi, who are from Gotomunda village of Kalahandi district, went to meet them and requested them to return to the forest areas assuring them that nobody will harass or torture them.
Laxan Bhatra’s son Kartik Bhatra and daughter-in-law were adopted as family members, like brother and sister-in-law, of Hemanta Majhi and he assured in front of Gotomunda and Bhatapani villagers and said, ‘I am adopting Kartik and his wife as brother and sister-in-law and I will provide them two-acre plot of land and officially register that land in his name’.The agreement was finalized and all accepted that proposal and they happily went to stay with his family for a long time. Both husband wife did each and every work as owners, and maintained and undertook the family responsibilities and agricultural work. When they started to live there, Hemanta Majhi forced them to give up their accepted Mahima or Alekh religion. There was no any objection from their side and last year when Hemanta Majhi’s mother quarreled and made noises again and again with both husband and wife because of the two-acre land agreement, Kartik Bhatra (and his wife) left Hemanta Majhi’s house and returned to their native Bhatapani.
They all believe in ‘Mahima Dharma’ so Manas Sahu and Hemanta Majhi assured them that they are planning to establish a Jogi math temple of Alekh Mahima so they have to clear five acres of land, cutting down treees for road etc. They agreed because they are innocent and illiterate. Without wages, they did that work for one meal a day, slaving as bonded labourers for long hours and did not complain to any authorities. They loaded the wood in tractors and unloaded at Hemanta Majhi’s house where he exported them to other places as part of a mafia for profits — and what did the innocent Bhatras get? Only pain and hunger. They were assured that the government has not sanctioned money and when it does they will be paid. The Majhis did not establish any temple but made a local kachha road for their commercial purposes to export forest wood to outside mafia. The part of the forest which was deforested by the Tribals was used by the the Majhis for a nursery plantation. One day, Hemanta Majhi and Manas Sahu brought one plain paper and forcefully took the Bhatras’ thumb impressions and captured many acres land on behalf of the innocent Tribals. If some officers will know or their illegal activities come to mainstream then they will proof that Tribals are doing these activities and they will safe which documents was on behalf of Tribals.
Local goons collected donation for Dushara which is unexpected among tribal people. Since 1999 to present day, they are cheating innocents. Ten thousand rupees were collected from each family by local goons. It was a fixed amount and was collected from forty-two families in two villages. Every year, it is estimated that nearly one crore rupees were collected from the tribals in villages in the area. Generally, in other areas, donations were collected from people according to their status and not through force.
This year they paid only a few thousand because due to lockdown all ritual festivals are banned and they have no income sources. So Mr. Hemanta Majhi, Manas Sahu, Baliar Singh and Pradip Majhi grew angry with them. On the afternoon of 30th June Wednesday, along with with forest staff of Gotomuna, they arrived with over a hundred local goons who were drunk, and told the villagers saying the officers had come to meet them. The officers were Ampani Police station’s Sub Inspector and Forest officer Gotomunda and rest are Forest Surakshya Samiti Members. Suddenly, they started brutally beating all the people, includingwomen, burnt their bamboo huts, destroyed property and looted their valuables like like gold and money. They threw away their grains and ration, and all fertilizers and evacuated their places. They killed some sheep, goats and took all chickens.
They have lost everything in this situation who will pay and how they will get their lost things. They have lost their foods how do they will survive, they have purchased lakhs rupees fertilizers for agriculture again how will get or purchase because they are all wealthless and they have lost their houses where they will shelter and they throw poison inside the well where they use drinking water and for cook in this situation how they are thinking, how their criminal minded did everything, who will pay their everything whether local goons, administrative or government??? Even one child about nine years they throw the ass toward him he was injured on his leg and run away towards jungle side with bleeding stage and he did not come back, whole night he was stayed alone inside the forest without foods. All the members of his villages, parents and relatives search but did not find out to him and after twenty-four hours he came backed to his home. If that time child will die or kill by wild animals then who will responsible and do the society get to that child??? These noises and quarreled was continuously held three hours just imagine what was the situation? The local people of Dahimal did not support because these innocents are coming from Nabarangpur district so they jealous on them and they know the full information about this incident because they are also migrated from Gotomunda areas of Kalahandi district. After Bhatapani incidents local goons went to Dumerpani and did same incidents with them.
Now Bhatapani all family’s members are making a temporary tent house which is two hundred meters from their resident and Dumerpani all families members have sheltered in the Kuamba school of ChandahandiTahasil, Nabarangapur district. They lodged a complaint in Ampani Police station even also the authorities have not investigated the incident or never want to take seriously because all local goons are the supporters of home minister captain Dibya Shankar Mishra, Government of Odisha.
Hemanta Majhi, Manas Sahu and Baliyar Sing assured them that now you are living in our forest region and you should try for our Gram Panchayat’s resident it is easy to do everything because we are with you so don’t worry therefore Bhatapani and DumerpaniVillagers were applied for ration card, adhar card and voter card from GotomundaGram Panchayat by the signature of GotomundaSarapanch and some masses got their adhar card but not a single ration card or Mamata card and some of their adhar card have under some Hemanta Majhi’s friends when they asked to give that time his friend refused to give because I don’t give you because hamant have told me to not give your card so they back to their home and yet they have not got their adhar card which is kept under some close friend of Hemanta Majhi. For a single time or chance, they have not accessed Gotomunda Gram Panchayat’s facilities or never cast their vote in this area. They have their native places adhar card, Voter Identity card, ration card and mamata card and during voting time they go to caste their vote, when Gram Panchayat distribute ration that time they go to bring and other facilities.
Some are blaming that some sahukars and money lenders are giving financial support and they are farming or doing for sahukars and money lenders who are providing much more financial supportsto farming for them and their family maintenance and for their direction they are capturing land or occupying land for their farming but it is totally wrong ideas that who are thinking this. Due to their socio-economic conditions, they are asking money, crops and seeds, fertilizers from sahukars and money lenders with big interest.
Who will provide their working wages amount and paid donation amount which is approximately one corer to above? Whenever leaders and media are coming that time, they are asking them that how did you get much more money but never assured them that we are with you and will fight for justice or very soon we are trying for rehabilitee you or trying to sort-out your problems? but asking so many questions for their TRP and political parties or other leaders should not be politicize for their benefit but as soon as possible try to solve this issue then they may be live peacefully. They have victimized from two weeks even also there is no relief foods, relief house, no drinking water and health and medical care facility and how they are surviving they can know their situation what are happening. During in this rainy time they are making a tent house which is unsafe especially rainy time and during rainy time it is very pathetic situation because they are dwelling open forest where snakes, wild animals, mosquitos and other poison insets may be come which is very harmful for their life or may be effected by some diseases. It is a very pathetic situation for them and in this situation both the administrative of Kalahandi or Nabarangpur district full responsibility to every day overlook their situation and provide ration with all their required things. The administrative have assured on pen paper that very soon we will rectify your issues but never assured that till day not rectify we will provide relief foods. Now in this condition they are food less, they have no any single drop food, in this situation what will they do, how they will survive for their new life. This issue is already viral in across the state even also government is so silent, opposition leader Pradipta Kumar Naik is also so silent, Home Minister Captain Dibya Shankar Mishra and other leader are so silent because they well know that here we will not get any scope or benefit. Shame less to these types of politics and social welfare policy. If this incident will happen in the coastal area or Eastern Odisha part then all leaders, the government and administrative will be punctual and try for best with jointly. These areas are mostly backward region so leaders, government and administrative never want to develop to backward regions so today these parts are always being underdeveloped and they should not do for vote bank or tokenization.
All are equal before the law and there is no restriction and discrimination on the name of caste, gender, race, region and their identity even also there is highly discrimination, exclusion, isolation, humiliation and oppression. All are equal before the law and one may live any part of the region even also there is highly restriction and discrimination it may be regional, caste or gender but as human being we should change or develop or mind setup. Those who are living inside the remote area they will never under estimate to one human but those who are educated and living mainstream area they are doing inhuman activities it is very shameful. The main purposes of this forest Act 2006 secure that one individual or Scheduled Tribes community those who are dwelling in the forest that they have the right to hold and live in the forest land for common occupation for habitation or self-cultivation for their livelihood. They have right to ownership that forest, access to collect forest products, use and dispose of minor forest produce and other community rights to uses or entitlements such as fish and other products of water bodies, grazing and traditional seasonal resource access of nomadic or pastoralist communities, rights for conversion of Pattas or leases or grants issued by any local authority or any State Government on forest lands to titles, rights to protect, regenerate or conserve or manage any community forest resource which they have been traditionally protecting and conserving for sustainable use.
They are living in the forest which is the responsibility of government and tribals are the owners of the forest and protect to forest but who provide or how the local goons get power or are they the owner of forest so they are decided to who will live in the forest and who will out from there. Who are they so they are taken decision or doing these types of inhuman activities??? Here there is a fundamental question to all political parties, government, administration and media that why this serious issue is being hijacked and all are coming for mainstream but never try to immediate action against all accused and rectify this issue but don’t politicized to this issue for your vote bank or TRP. Now innocents are demanding that the police department should be immediately take serious action against all accused. All tribals are living in this forest area since the long times so government should be miritual understanding with both district’s Collector, Superintended of Police, DFO, Ranger and Forest Guards that to demarked their areas whether those parts belong to which parts with allocating their occupied land and provide original land records documents to beneficiary. The government should be providePradhan Mantri Awas Yojana to all family, drinking water, electricity, school, Medicalcentre andanganwadicentre. Masses are don’t want to be the resident of Kalahandi but interested for Nabarangpur district’s resident and always fearing to goons where they may be again attacked on them so they are asking for one police station in that area and mostly these areas are remote area. It is not the right time to politics but it is the right time to fight against injustice and provide justice to victims. Now some social activist, Scholar and other volunteer organization are trying for their efforts towards social justice.
Pradhani Bag is a Research Scholar & Social Activist.