Delhi: National Conference of Community Groups Press Statement

December 21, 2011

Unified struggles against United aggression: National Federation Formed to Step up Struggle To Protect Rights of Natural Resource Based Traditional Communities

New Delhi, December 16 2011: “The fish in the sea would not have been there, if not for the rain, and the rivers, produced by the hills and the forests. The fishworkers of this country cannot sustain ourselves without identifying with and struggling together with the forest people, the handloom weavers, the women vendors, the bamboo workers, etc of this country” T. Peter, National Secretary of National Fishworkers’ Forum said.

Peter was speaking at the national conference of traditional livelihood and natural resources based communities organized today in Delhi’s Mavlankar Hall, aiming at bringing together the diverse groups dependent on natural resources to build a National Federation of Natural Resource Based Traditional Communities and Organizations, at the national level.

The issue of forest rights for forest dwellers is not that of the last five years. Communities have been demanding it for the last many decades. Having achieved that five years back, what we are facing now is a total failure in its implementation”, K. Krishnan, activist of Adivasi Solidarity Council, Tamil Nadu said. “The governments of the left and the right, have failed in catering to the core issues of the traditional working people of the country. We cannot remain silent anymore” he further said.

A growing sense of anger and frustration marked the commemoration of the five years since the enactment of Forest Rights Act 2006. Speakers at the national conference reiterated that the movement to effectively implement the Forest Rights Act is an inalienable part of the struggles for democratic governance.

They said, today the struggle for the implementation of Forest rights is not just important for the forest dependent people or communities, it is equally important for the other natural resource based working people like fish workers, mineral dependents, agriculturalists, bamboo workers, handloom weavers and artisans who are partly or indirectly dependent on forest and other natural resources and also the larger society.

The challenge before us is to make the government accountable to the people. What it does now is hobnobbing with the corporations, who are bend upon plundering the natural resources, and help them amassing profits. This has to change. The political class should show courage to speak for the people and stand by them,” senior activist Ashok Chowdhury said. “The sea, forest and mountain dwellers’ coming together is not just for the sake of it. It is to move towards making a new world order,” he said.

Large number of adivasis, dalits and traditional workers, representing 18 states attended the national conference. Key speakers at the conference included: Jarjum Ete of Arunachal Pradesh Women’s Commission, Subhash Ghayali of Jharkhand Mines Area Coordination Committee, Guman Singh of Him Niti Abhiyan, Gautam Bandyopadhaya of Nadi Ghati Morcha, Ashim Roy of New Trade Union Initiative, Anuradha Talwar of Paschim Banga Khet Mazdoor Samity, Vasantha of National Adivasi Alliance and Munnilal of National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers.

The need of the hour for all people struggling to protect their natural resources is to come together as a federation to coordinate and amplify the struggle in a better way,” Shanta Bhattarjee of Van Sramjeevi Manch, Uttar Pradesh said. “Women needs to be at the leadership of this federation, as women are the ones who bear the cost of losing rights over natural resources disproportionately,” she said.

The call for the Parliament rally yesterday (Dec 15) witnessed support for the cause from different quarters, including political parties, mass movements and organizations from different parts of the country. At a time when the government is fighting one corruption charges after another, skeletons of its ministers falling from the cupboard, it should not forget the basic rights of the people and the promises made to them, speakers at the rally warned the government.

The national conference was a rare confluence of several movements, the forest struggles, the fishworkers forum, the anti-mining struggles of Jharkhand, the affirmative land struggles from Kerala, UP and AP, the Dalit movements from South and North India, etc. This was pegged as a part of preparing a platform to discuss, share and brainstorm politics, movements, strategies and alliances.

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