KISHAN LONG MARCH
Through the late 1990s and early years of the last decade, Maharashtra’s tribal communities were at the forefront of agitations seeking a rights-based approach to their role in forest management. Yet, while Maharashtra is by far the top performer among all states on implementing the law, by acknowledging and according to individual forest rights with land titles for those tilling forest land for generations and community forest rights for management of forest resources and produce – there continue to be wide disparities.
Thousands of farmers under CPI (M)-affiliated All India Kisan Sabha, from Maharashtra’s tribal districts, walked to Mumbai, the demand for land ownership is tied to their hopes for a better life — that they can dig wells, take loans and live without the fear of eviction. “We went for our stomachs,” they tell.
Seen through the prism of urban environmentalism, these communities demanding forest land for cultivation are imagined as encroachers, people who clear thickly forested areas and cause widespread denudation. But in the worldview of Maharashtra’s Katkaris, Mahadev Kolis, Gonds, and Bhils, this deforested land is their mother. Their methods of cultivation are largely devoid of chemical fertilisers; they draw out no groundwater. In these largely impoverished villages and hamlets, there is little or no mechanisation in farming.
- The Indian Express