Indigenous peoples rights : Required global solidarity more than ever before.

Today, we are celebrating International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples. Which was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly December 1994. People from different nations are encouraged to participate in observing this day to spread the UN’s message on indigenous peoples. Activities may include educational forums and classroom activities to gain an appreciation and a better understanding of indigenous peoples.

The right of indigenous peoples protected by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007,  through this “Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning.

There has been progress in implementing the declaration over the last decade, there are continues to a gap between the formal recognition of Indigenous peoples and implementation policies on the ground. As a result, indigenous peoples continue to face exclusion, marginalization everywhere in the world.

Globally, there are approximately 370 million Indigenous Peoples worldwide, in over 90 countries. Although they make up 5 percent of the global population, they account for about 15 percent of the extreme poor.  Indigenous Peoples’ life expectancy is up to 20 years lower than the life expectancy of non-indigenous people worldwide. While Indigenous Peoples own, occupy, or use a quarter of the world’s surface area, they safeguard 80 percent of the world’s remaining biodiversity.

 Indigenous peoples continue to suffer discrimination, marginalization, extreme poverty and conflict. Now from some times, people from the community also have been facing the extreme weather condition, and that has adversely impacted the entire life cycle.  Some are being dispossessed of their traditional lands as their livelihoods are being undermined. Meanwhile, their belief systems, cultures, languages and ways of life continue to be threatened, sometimes even by extinction. Looking at the Americas, Russia, the Arctic and many parts of the Pacific.  However, this definition makes less sense in most parts of Asia and Africa, where the colonial powers did not displace whole populations of peoples and replace them with settlers of European descent. Indigenous people from this Asia or Africa has different exploitation.

In South Africa, even after the end of Apartheid in 1994, Indigenous people of the South African still not got their due because of the rigid previous system and rampant corruption in the country. October 2018, I visited South Africa and got the chance to see the situation of the farm workers. Their appalling working conditions upset me. There are still unequal land distributions among the people, with most of the lands belonging to the white community. I interacted with one of the farm workers, and his situation was similar to a bondage labourer. The owner of the farm had given a one-room house to him near the field, for all his family. He worked in the pear farms, and even though he had many skills; he was confined to the life of a labourer with no option for mobility or exploring life outside.

 Indigenous people in India are also called Adivasi (Scheduled Tribes). They are the earliest inhabitants of Indian sub-continent. During the British Raj, they were forced to move from their habitations, forest being captured by the colonial powers. Where indigenous people lost land and forest. The colonial rulers getting raw materials for their Industrial productions. In this process, Indigenous people lost their autonomy over the forest and natural resources. 

Historically Adivasi people were discriminated based on their identity and they have to still suffer due to un-equal society. One can found numerous evidence during 19thcentury, how brutally British Raj, treated Indigenous people, they made slave to deport many indigenous people to the others part of the world for doing their work as Indentured labor. Indigenous people were also taken into within India from their home land Chota Nagpur Plateau for working in the tea plantation in Assam and Bengal. These tea planters still have to suffer in the Independent India. The minimum wages of the tea planters are still not at par in Assam and West Bengal ; these tea workers are being governed by the separate laws to decide the wages. Most of the tea planters are Indigenous people but even in many case they are not recognize as an Adivasi (Tribal) for accessing various programs/ policies, which is made for them, to provide social and educational support to the community.

Whenever I visit rural areas, it is appalling to see the condition of indigenous people living in and around the forests. They are the ones who suffer due to bad planning of the government, NGOs and corporations. People have faced a lot of problems due to restrictions posed by the forest and revenue departments against their access to lands. Cultivating the lands that they inherited from their forefathers was a crime in the eye of law. The forest, revenue and police departments have filed several cases and imposed fines, which have created fear among the Adivasi. Thousands of people have been displaced from their ancestral lands.

The Indian government perhaps realized that the situation will go out of hand if the indiscriminate and greedy consumption of natural resources by the state agencies or corporation continues. This awareness of the government was manifested in the Forest Rights Act-2006, which recognized the symbiotic relationship of Adivasi with forests. In the first page of the Act it has been clearly mentioned that, the government was unable to understand the relation between the tribal and the forest and it was a historical injustice. Secondly, it has been mentioned that, the forest we are seeing now are existing only because of the protection given by the tribal communities

The Forest Rights Act 2006 accepted that it was a “Historical Injustice” mated out to the adivasis and other traditional forest dwellers by the government. The Act allowed 10 acres of forest land to the Adivasi and other forest dwellers, under specific criteria.

Recently during my interaction with one of Indigenous people in Odisha shared with me, they are fed-up with recent policy of the government for “Paramparagat Krishi” traditional agriculture. He was sharing with me “our agricultural practice was always organic, in the past they pushed us to use do fertilizers/pesticides/hybrid seeds for cultivation”.  Indigenous people hold vital ancestral knowledge and expertise on how to adapt, mitigate, and reduce climate and disaster risks. In the 21st Century Indigenous people needs recognition of their expertise on the various matters, and they need their rights, which has been denying by long time. They certainly need development but that should be with dignity

In the modern world the situation of Indigenous people is still atrocious due to bad planning by respecting governments, in the past they have exploited by the colonial rulers. But today, in spite of constitutional democracy everywhere in world, the indigenous people still has to being targeted for resources. There is enough evidence, how indigenous people have lost their life due to COVID19, more than anyone else in the most of parts of the world. The climate catastrophe is also harming Indigenous people directly and severely. There is urgent need for global community to come together for recognizing most pressing needs of the Indigenous people, they required global solidarity more than ever before.  

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