Home Ministry making unfounded connection between banned organisations and peoples’ groups

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Anti-MNC campaign by Odisha’s Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti

Gopal Krishna of the Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL) has issued the following “Draft Statement of Concern on Defamation of adivasi struggle groups by Home Ministry”, seeking signatures/endorsements, or suggestions, of those who agree with its contents. Kindly respond directly to krishnagreen@gmail.com or 1715krishna@gmail.com :

Taking cognisance of the facutally incorrect mention of Odisha’s Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti (NSS) and Jharkhand’s Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan (VVJVA) as being linked with with ‘Maoist’ organizations in Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India in its 372 page long 2016-17 Annual Report;

We reject the following observation in the 2016-17 Annual Report, Ministry of Home Affairs wherein it reads: “In 2016, the issue of displacement of local communities remained the main plank of mobilization by the mass organisations. In Niyamgiri Hills area (Districts Rayagada and Kalahandi, Odisha), the outfit continued to guide the activities of the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti. Similarly in Jharkhand the Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan a front of the CPI (Maoist), tried to take up pro-tribal issues and opposed amendments to the Chhotanagpur and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Acts, modifications in Domicile Policy etc. Maoist affiliates also undertook protest programmes and resorted to anti-Government propaganda over alleged atrocities by Security Forces”;

We are disturbed to note that the Ministry is making an unfounded connection between banned organisations and a peoples’ rights struggle;

We are constrained to note that this is a consequence of enactment of amendments in the Companies Act, 2013 through Finance Act, 2017 as a Money Bill after finance minister revealed in his budget speech that “Donors have also expressed reluctance in donating by cheque or other transparent methods as it would disclose their identity and adverse consequences”, to relieve the corporate donors and to ensure their anonymity. As a consequence of the amendment faceless entities can now make anonymous donations of infinite amount;

We recollect that the two main national political parties, received Rs 84 crore and Rs 82 crore from a foreign company as revealed by account statement submitted to the Election Commission of India. Delhi High Court verdict dated March 28, 2014 has held both these parties guilty of violating the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) and Representation of the People Act. On November 22, 2016, this verdict was appealed in Hon’ble Supreme Court, but a Bench comprising Justices J S Khehar, Arun Mishra and A M Khanwilkar ordered, “The petitions are dismissed as withdrawn” on November 29, 2016. Notably, the MHA’s Annual Report deals with the same period;

We underline that instead of taking action against both these parties for accepting foreign donations, MHA which is legally bound as the administering authority of FCRA, to take action, it is defaming peoples’ struggle groups at the behest of donors of the ruling political parties. Hon’ble Delhi High Court had asked even the Election Commission of India to act against both parties for accepting illegal donations within six months. Notably, there were as many as 25 instances when both these parties received funding from various foreign companies;

We are perturbed to note that through an exercise in linguistic corruption, government is attempting to re-define foreign companies as ‘Indian companies’;

As a consequence of Finance Act 2017, such donor companies can now provide anonymous donations to ensure that their interests in adivasi and mining areas is protected without being detected;

We are concerned to note that MHA is spreading misinformation and giving undue credit to Maoists in order to serve the interests of the anonymous corporate donors of political parties;

We have learnt from different peoples movements across the country that so far Maoists have failed to save tribal land from these donors who are blinded by their naked lust for profit at any human and environmental cost unmindful of inter-generational and intra generational equity;

We denounce this deliberate attempt to defame people’s genuine struggle for their access and control over natural resources;

We salute the struggle of Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti (NSS) and Jharkhand’s Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan (VVJVA) for inter-generational and intra-generational equity;

We contend that these basless observations must be deleted from the MHA’s Annual Report in the light of Hon’ble Supreme Court’s observations;

We endorse unanimous rejection by the Dongria Kondh adivasi Gram Sabha of the mining proposal following Hon’ble Supreme Court’s order;

We recall that hundreds of Dongria Kondh had rejected the call of Maoist organisations to oppose or boycott the Gam Sabha meetings organised following Hon’ble Supreme Court’s order of April 2013;

We feel that such defamations are aimed at denying full rights of Adivasis under the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act and the Forest Rights Act, and Chhotanagpur and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Acts, modifications in Domicile Policy empowers them to protect their habitat, and its natural ecosystems. We recall that these laws were made after long struggle and many sacrifices;

We condemn efforts by the Governments to use security forces to harass and torture these Adivasis who are struggling to protect their inalienable rights recognized by the Constitution;

We deprecate the tendency of the Governments to repress and brand dissent and protest as having Maoist connection. This undemocratic tendency has been criticized by Hon’ble Supreme Court as well;

We express our support for the struggle of the Adivasis to safeguard their inalienable natural rights and rights guaranteed by the Constitution and Parliament of India;

In view of the above, we demand that MHA should withdraw and remove the defamatory statements made about the Odisha’s Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti and Jharkhand’s Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan and to desist from unquestioned obedience of anonymous corporate donors to ruling parties.

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