Sunday, 14 October 2012

Land, Mining and Adivasis in Goa - Part 3


LIBERATION OF 1961: WHAT IT MEANT TO TRIBES 

Sebastian Rodrigues, May 2008

In a chapter on Portuguese Colonialism there is some discussion on the State of tribal people in Goa under Portuguese rule. After Nehru’s decision to march militarily in Goa meant the Portuguese State in collusion with the Goa’s mining Industry was now gone. That also meant now with secret understanding with Nehru not to disrupt smooth going about as far as mining trade is concerned, mining industry would play a key role in the process of State formation in post liberation Goa as it has most to loose if they lost hold over the State in Goa. So we have the long series of mining operators and mokaso ruling as Chief Ministers for majority of post liberation Goa. Out of total 46 years of post colonial Goa around first 20 years were ruled by mining company – father and daughter combination – Dayanand Bandodkar and his daughter Shashikala Kakodkar. The next ten years were rule by Pratap Singh Rane, coming from colonial system of Mokaso in Sattari and Bicholim talukas. And he continued to come in as consensus Chief Minister amidst political instability over the past 20 years; he has been chief minister for another ten years. So he has been Goa’s Chief Minister for totally 20 years though in fragments. The legal infrastructure created during Portuguese Colonial regime continues to guide post liberation Goa.

There were some changes in tribal situation as the first Chief Minister of Goa did make progressive dents in two sectors: education and land reforms. Marathi medium schools were set up in nook and corners of Goa. Children were given option of getting educationally qualified. Some did go to school and took advantage of the situation. Others continue to provide cheap labour supply, sometimes even free labour supply to Bhatcars and Mokaso owners. Desais and Bhats (Priestly caste) intensified the pressure on tribal population and gradually tricked them in transfer of their rich fertile lands in their names. In a post liberation Goa piece of paper served as legal evidence, Desais and Bhats got tribes to sign on blank papers under various pretexts and then created documents that would give themselves ownership rights after a decade or so in legal ways. Due to inability to understand the way legal system of the post liberation Goa worked, tribes fell as gullible prey to land sharks with long term vision and perspective of capture. Not only were the private lands tricked out of tribal control but also their temple lands that were their community lands. Temples that had escaped attention during Portuguese colonial regimes, with huge lands attached, were targeted and managements were taken over by the Brahmins in post-liberation Goa.  Mangueshi Temple in Ponda taluka and Malkhazan temple in Canacona taluka are two of the best known examples in this regard. With regard to Malkhazan they even changed its name to Mallikarjun temple[1] to provide it with sanskritized connotations. In other cases tribal deities such as Paik Dev is subjected to vandalism in Sanguem Taluka. So liberation of Goa is largely meant land alienation to tribals communities. Their struggle for liberation is yet to succeed.



Bhatcars v/s Mundcars

Only very tiny set of people amongst tribes in Goa are able to take advantage of Mundcar laws providing security to the individual dwellings in land owned by Bhatcars. People residing in the properties of bhatcars were given the name Mundcars. Mundcars  were supposed to enter into litigation against bhatcars to get themselves piece of land where their house was located are entitled to get 300 square meters of land in their name. So what happens here is first, the tribal land is taken over by the bhatcars in collaboration with the Portuguese colonial State, and now after the liberation the small portion of that land was sought to be given back to those who are residing not necessarily only the tribes. Mostly the lands were given to the migrant settlers from other parts of Goa brought in by bhatcars as labourers after the original inhabitants fled from the scene to settle in some remote places. While those who continued to stay on their original places stayed there under the condition that they would be supplying labour to the Bhatcars to cultivate huge coconut and beetle nuts Orchards. And it was common practice that Bhatcar would adopt various methods various to discourage Mundkars from sending their children to schools. They argued that children of Mundcars needed no education as they have to continue to carry on the manual labour supply to the Bhatcars. After few years in school their education was discontinued in primary school. So till date they have not entered into the litigation with Bhatcar and they continue live in their homes more as legal mercy of the Bhatcars. Mass of tribal community in Goa is not only alienated from their lands but also alienated from State structures. Without education and awareness of their rights situation is only headed towards worsening as new players in the form of real estate mafia has entered the field.

Status of tribes has worsened in Mokaso lands. Their entries in the lands which their ancestors once painstakingly made cultivable are sometimes denied access by Ranes. Sometimes they are not even allowed to reside and work there as labourers for a longer time due to fear of litigation on Mokaso lands. Further Mokaso system has continued land alienation in post liberation Goa and in fact has promoted hegemonic position of Ranes in Sattari and Bicholim talukas, they were created during colonial times for generating hegemony of the Ranes. On December 28 2005 there was a revolt in Saleli village and one of the male members of the Rane family was stoned to death in broad day light by the villagers protesting against various forms of feudal dominations.


Mining and tribal land alienation

 Talukas of Sanguem and Bicholim are rich in iron ore deposits and has a history of open cast mining for the past half a century. Like Sanguem, these two talukas are full of mining leases granted during Portuguese colonial times and renewed under Indian laws. Deep craters has led to all the problems that one encounters anywhere in the world in mining areas. Massive destruction of Agriculture due to mining silt deposited in the agricultural fields, acute water shortages, large scale lung diseases such as tuberculosis due to dust pollution, high rate of accidents due to rough plying of mining trucks, drying up of natural springs, damage to the houses due to blasting, displacement of people off their cultivation spaces as well as residential spaces due to rapid expansion of mining in newer areas, hatred and disharmony as mining companies engineers split amongst the villagers, State agencies such as police providing security to mining companies, destruction of forest cover, complacency of state agencies to act tough against mining companies, depletion of marine wealth after release of silted water in the fresh water of river, depletion of crop production due to lowering of ground water, huge problem of mining overburden, abuse of ground water, destruction of natural sponges that hold on rain water in earth’s aquifers, and total degradation of quality of life in every aspect.

This has been the case throughout Goa for the past half a century. In the Portuguese era the evidence of protest against all these is yet to be traced. The earliest protests regarding mining can be traced not directly to the tribes but to a Bhatcar on whose land tribes were employed  in the year 1964 in Colamb village in Sanguem taluka. As the bhatcar was filing complaints with the State authorities private agreement was reached between the mining lessee and the bhatcar. I am reproducing the text of the document, Private Agreement in English as the original document was in Portuguese mainly because of two reasons. First, that land originally belonged to the Gawda tribes, and secondly, to understand nature of earliest mining problem confronted and the terms of understanding reached in order to allow mining company to carry on its trade uninterrupted.

 On 10th September, 1964, in this New Town of Curchorem, there appeared as FIRST PARTY Hiralal Khodidas, married, merchant, residing at Cacora, and as SECOND PARTY Vassudeva Rama Boto Colombkar, married, landlord residing at Colomba, Taluka of Sanguem, and they agreed as follows:-

  1. That the first party is the grantee of iron oxide and manganese mine denominated “GOGORO” or “GULCONDA DONGOR”, situated at Colamba;

  1. That adjacent the  said concession lie the properties denominated “TOLEM” and “MALVADEM”, attached among themselves, of plantation of coconut trees, areca-nut trees and other fruit yielding trees, belonging to said second party Colombcar.

  1. That due attraction of Ore and its transport from the referred concession has caused damages in the said properties such as accumulation of sterlites, perishing of coconut seedlings due to the crossing of trucks etc.

  1. That by the present agreement the damages caused so far have been computed to one thousand rupees, which sum the second party received from the first party, in this act, and he gives him the necessary discharge thereof;

  1. That the said first party promises to pay to the said Boto, annually, the sum of Rs.50/- till the end of May of each year as compensation towards the damages that may be caused in future to the second party due to the exploration of he said concession; and in the event it is needed to fell any fruit yielding trees, they already fix up Rs.100/- for each palm-tree, Rs. 5/- for each cashew-nut tree of less than 3 years of age, and Rs. 10/- for each cashew-nut tree more than 5 years of age;

  1. That the second party commits himself from today to relinquish from complaints or any inspection requested to the Directorate of Agriculture and to  the Civil Judge of the Sub-District of Quepem; - The first party obliges himself to pay the costs of the preventive measures which have been taken by the referred Civil Court;
  2. That the said first party obliges himself to pave with paving-stones the way that crosses the aqueduct and to elevate the way at other places to prevent the loss of water.
  3. That the first party obliges to refrain himself from burning any product in the property, in which event he shall pay damages towards the perishing of trees;
  4. That the second party shall freely utilize the roads made by the first party.

In witness thereof the present agreement has been drawn up, which after having been read and found accordingly is going to be signed by the parties and by the witnesses present. The original copy bears the court fee stamp of one rupee and ten paise, being one rupee towards the agreement and the rest towards the discharge.

(Sd/-)

Vassudeva Rama B. Colombcar
Hiralal Khodidas
Inacino Diniz
Mahasukal Jamaldas

It is clear from this private agreement that mining was negatively affecting society. However Bhatcars treated this problem not of the society but their personal one owing to loss of crop and fruit bearing trees and sought compensation in cash. It refrained from complaint to State Authorities in return of cash and access to roads build by mining company. It did not involve mass of People, particularly the tribals to whom originally this land belonged in order to find permanent solution. How can this be done when landlord himself belongs to a class that has historically usurped tribal lands? So the problem continued to persist. Pollution continued to haunt the village, only difference after the private agreement  was that there was now peace between the mine operator and the landlord; both sharing the earnings of mining though in highly unequal proportions. Landlord could afford to move up to this extend precise because he also belonged to a class of exploiters and was educated and aware of the functioning of the State. Mass of people was not educated in 1964 nor was there any movement amongst tribes on land issue. In fact there was no movement of this sort for the first 40 years of post colonial Goa. It is only in the last decade that seeds of movement began to germinate gradually. The entire focus of the tribal movement was towards getting status of scheduled tribe (ST). Gawdas, Kunbis, Velips got it in 2001 while Dhangars were tricked out of this and their struggle is still ongoing. So land question amongst tribes largely remained neglected in the Political landscape of Goa.

The plight of tribes in Goa’s hinterland is precarious. On the one hand they have lost their lands due to trickery of Brahamins and Saraswat Brahmins in terms of land titles and subsequently legal control over land, Portuguese colonial state had granted over thousand mining leases to various applicants supportive to the Portuguese colonial rule in Goa. After liberation Indian government instead of canceling all these leases began to bring them under the purview of Indian laws there by ensuing legitimate continuation of the mining leases in Goa. Legally Goa government enacted law called Goa Daman & Diu mining concessions (Abolition and Declaration as Mining Leases) Act, 1987. This law was tailored for mining companies as it declared that leases granted by the Portuguese Colonial State is abolished and is deemed to be a mining lease granted under the Mines & Minerals (Development & Regulation) Act, 1957. This is by virtue of the provision contained under Rule 24 A (9) of Mineral Concession Rules 1960[2].

Most of the land under mining leases is forest area. It is also area where tribes have been living for thousands of years in Goa. On the one side mining leases are active, on the other hand theses places have been declared as wildlife sanctuaries. Goa has number of wildlife sanctuaries such as Bhagwan Mahavir Wild Life Sanctuary, Bondla wildlife Sanctuary, Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary, Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary, Khotigao Wildlife Sanctuary, and Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary. Tribes leaving inside the sanctuary jurisdictions are subjected to various kinds of restrictions by the Forest department. One tribal person was even shot dead by the forest guards while collecting fire wood in the forest inside Khotigao Wildlife Sanctuary in Canacona Taluka in South Goa few years ago. In spite of tyranny of forest department tribes are continuing to habit the forest lands in most of the cases. It is only in the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary that forest department has displaced few villages by paying compensation and not any land or cultivation spaces.  While forest department is severe tribes inhabiting forest preventing them from catch forest crabs and harvesting mushrooms, it is largely relaxed when mining is carried on inside sanctuary jurisdictions. Large scale mining is going on in 2006 and 2007 in Netravali wild life sanctuary with active collusion of Forest department. Dempos, Timblos, etc are well known companies that routinely violate State laws and get scot-free every time and there by expanding mining in most dense forests and releasing silt in the nearby rivers in the forest. Sivsorem Dempo mine in Sanguem is just one example in this regard. Over here village lands have been dried up and State government is working towards supplying water from nearby Salaulim dam there by creating situation of water dependency. Of course kind of water that they will get along with cities of Margao and Vasco is understandably with high doses of Chlorine and Potassium permanganate and Timblo’s mining company is operating mine inside Salaulim Water reservoir and it has been inspected by number of state agencies including governor of Goa M. C. Jamir. Yet this mine continues to operate with scant respect to law of land and to health of People including health of tribes.

Sivsorem case is only the tip of the iceberg as far as Goa’s mining scenario is concerned. No accurate number or actual area under mining in Goa is forth coming from State authorities. While Portuguese had given out 808 mining leases for iron ore and magnesium, its area in Hectares is yet to be calculated of if calculated accurately I am yet to know. However according to K.M. Hegde[3], assistant Public Information Officer in department of Mines and Geology “total are covered by 439 mining concessions is 30,646.26 Ha. And the total area of 15 leases granted under MMDR Act 1957 is 2403.50 Ha.” What happened to the remaining leases? Have not been included in the department’s statistics as they are coming under Wildlife Sanctuary Jurisdictions? Only 15 leases are granted all over Goa under MMDR Act 1957? That means the rest of them are operating illegally? If yes then why they are not been raided and closed down? It is clear from this reply that the rest of the mines are operation purely by force and not by law.

Pissurlem mining protests

Mines in Pissurlem village in Sattari Taluka are half a century old. The village has tribal population along with other late settlers specially Parabs that controls Pissurlem Communidade. The village also has Dalit population. Over the past 50 years almost every family has either lost their land dwellings or agricultural lands. During the era of non-mechanized mining villagers including women supplied labour to the mining companies. However over the years after the village was displaced twice protests have gradually mounted against mining trade. First the protests came from the Parabs for protests against silting of agricultural spaces. Pissurlem was recorded to having highest rice cultivating village in Sattari Taluka till the end of 1980s when the mechanized mining set in and silting of agricultural lands coupled with acute water shortages came about. Mechanised mining intensified the problem of mining waste or overburden as it is known. Pissurlem communidade acted against the illegal dumps in the communidade lands by mining companies such as Sesa Goa. Gradually others including tribal and Dalit population joined in the protest movement. In one letter[4] to the government agencies they jointly carried on the audit of destruction of village by mining industry.

It says “The mining operations which is presently going on in the vicinity of our village Panchayat areas have already seriously undermined thee integrity of our watersheds, disrupted ground water aquifers and tables, destroyed paddy fields, disturbed wildlife and degraded habitat of us. Most of the ore rejects has descended and every time with rainy season, descending with the rains into our rivulets, creating their own brand of havoc.

The mining entrepreneurs always give tall promises but many occasions, we personally have experienced that these promises are hardly met by them. We have been so fatally assaulted that presently never be able to rehabilitate again. The larger volumes of Ore excavated have created in their wake a number of mind boggling environmental problems for which at present there is no cure. The mining Ore rejects have chocked up extensive areas of tanks, fields, nallahs and riverbeds and in some areas rice fields are now one meter higher than where they were earlier, being completely filled with mud from mining dumps and pits. Due to mining activities functioning in undemocratic manner, our life has become veritable hell…nothing indigenous grows here, and slopes are routinely prone to landslips posing danger to the people of the area. At many places vast areas have been converted into heaps of mining waste. We are ultimately getting dust and diseases. Hardly, we get fresh air and clean water. Use of Explosives too, are causing huge cracks in several houses, this is a regular phenomena.

Whatever arguments, views expressed by the applicants namely R.S. Shetye and Damodar Mangalji and Co. are hiding reality and misleading in the copies of the executive summery in form XIII filed by them. We do not trust both the entrepreneurs due to the bitter experiences. They have already destroyed our agriculture and allied activities and put us into a tight corner threatening our sources of livelihood and also making our future blink.

Hence, we earnestly urge you not to grant permission for the proposed expansion of mining industry unless and until all our above referred grievances are settled in the right earnest.”

This is one more example of increasing resentment over the mining trade in Goa. This was however not the last as number of protest erupted all over hinterland Goa as Government of India sought to grant permissions to increase mining rather liberally as second phase of liberalization was underway. Sattari’s Sanvordem and Gavanem villages successfully fought mining companies and held them from beginning their trade. Sarvan village too saw intense movement against mining company in 2007. In Sanguem Taluka protest are gradually taking mass scale after successful protest by Colamb villagers as early as 1981[5].  Colamb village has very complex dynamics. It is one of the unique villages of tribes in Goa that has negotiated both Brahmins as well as Portuguese without great loss of land to any of them. It is also a village Portuguese paid special attention and came up with special notifications dealing with land and village deities. Here is special case study after nine days visit to Colamb and neighboring villages in Sanguem and Quepem in June 2007[6] with Devidas Gaonkar from Bordem, Khotigao, Canacona, Goa.


Colamb mining Struggle: a Case Study

Colamb is amongst the oldest tribal settlements in Goa’s Sanguem Taluka. The earliest village has its ruins in the thick forest of Sanguem. They belong to Gawda tribes and bared ‘Velip’ as their surnames. From here this village increased in population and new houses were constructed in nearby land. It was during the pre-Portuguese colonial days. After arrival of Portuguese Sanguem got into their colonial hold nearly two hundred years late. By that time Desais sighted the rich fertile agricultural and horticultural spaces and they began to settle in by application of force. Gawdas had their way of governance prior to Portuguese in oral manner. There is ample evidence that Gawdas from various parts of Goa had well established system of governance known as Bodvont system. The village head was known as Budvont. Set of Budvonts formed a king of well oiled body to decide on the affairs of the community across different villages. They had organized well arranged sitting system made up of stone chairs. Bordem Village of Canacona Taluka has this arrangement in tact till date. Dessais in collusion with Portuguese colonial regime got themselves rooted in the governance of land affairs. First they got themselves as members of Colamb communidade. This is one of the few Communidades that Gawdas are have retain their hold over village lands in the system created during colonial times. Perhaps there may be one more communidade like this one in whole of Goa out of total 220 communidades. In all the rest of 99% of Communidades, tribal rights are badly dislocated.

Besides rooting themselves in Communidades, Dessais also got themselves notified[7] as co-founders with Gaoncars and Velips of the local temple. This temple is also at the administrative centre of big chunk of tribal land. Portuguese colonial state published special notice detailing functions of each of the community in each of the temple functions. Dessais then settled and for the cultivation of their farms they needed labour that too tribal labour as no one else can work in these lands other than tribal as they posses the necessary skills as well as honesty and unmatchable dedication to work. So new labour was brought in to Colamb village by Dessais. This labourers came from tribal communities form other villages in Goa and then they were settled in the Colamb village. Dessais here in this village took one more step. They tried to culturally integrate with the migrant workers who were tribals. They organized their Mand with participation from tribes as well as Dessai. And at Mand they started various tribal festivals one prominent of them being Shigmo. Perhaps this is only tribal village where Dessais and tribals have joint Shigmo and common Mand. Shigmo is entirely tribal festival of Gawdas in Goa and Mand is exclusively their institution. It is precisely to tie tribals completely, Culturally and symbolically in order to ensure continues supply of labour, for themselves and for future generations, for their huge lands confiscated from tribals themselves with the aid of Portuguese Colonial State that Dessais needed to do all this. Dessai have succeeded in this endeavor chiefly because they have ceaselessly employed tribes on their lands and cleverly saw to that their children do go to schools and get formal education. The sole mottos of Dessais here has been to get steady, stable and reliable supply of tribal labour across generations. With this Dessais accumulated huge surplus capital that is ready for investments in different ventures including mining if opportunity arises in contemporary times. On the other hand the labour that works in these farms Kulagars and Bhatams live hand to mouth existence and many of them don’t even think of opening bank account. This is not because lack of avenues to accumulate alone; it is also because tribal philosophy do not posses concept of savings in cash for tomorrow or for investments. Traditionally tribe would share with entire community whatever remains as surplus. Wealth is continuously re-distributed amongst the entire community. This generates balance in levels of prosperity and does not allow creation of economic inequality in their community. These are not the ethics of the Dessais, they exploit tribal labour to the core, earns maximum possible through sale for produce of the farm and then re-invests the surplus in buying more lands, starting new business, providing best of education to their children and to the children of Dessais community etc.

Colamb village has also been very richly gifted with huge deposits of iron Ore and Manganese. In the scheme of Portuguese colonial regime this entire village is divided into various leases and if all of them got activated then Colamb village will be a story of the past. Attempts were made to start mining in Colamb village during Portuguese regime on test basis. Damage was not major as it was the era of hand mining and mechanization has not set in. It is around this time as soon as mineral deposits were discovered in Colamb that entire tribal population living in the forest lands got wiped off with Small Pox. Everybody in the village died, only one survived. That survived one left the village in the forest and came to live below in the plain lands. It is indeed mysterious that Small Pox had to attack the village as soon it was discovered that the village has mineral deposits. I am reminded of Red Indians and Indigenous People of Americas as to how they were infested with Small Pox and tuberculosis chiefly in the mining localities. And that led to drastic dwindling of their population. It was European Colonial strategy of biological warfare to finish indigenous populations and get unhindered access to the wealth of the ‘new world’ that lies in the minerals under its soil. I wonder if similar strategy was adopted on experimental basis by Portuguese Colonizers with aid of their aides in Goa to clear ways for minerals.

The sole survivor of Colamb five generations ago, was also the Budvont of village, adopted boy also from tribal family from neighboring village of Cazur in Sanguem Taluka. However he proved to be worthless inheritor of the entire village land as he grew up to be chronic gambler. It was his son who showed interest in cultivation and the entire village lands were gifted to him so as to pass on to future generations’ custody. This land too was targeted by mining companies and even mining started. It was in the early 1980s that the villagers now increasing their population again got into battle with miners and forcefully stopped mining. For this action one of the villagers, Rama Velip was sent to one day imprison and then released. He is not aware of the further details of his case as his lawyer began to side with mining company and the dispute files remained with the lawyer. So it comes across amongst tribals in Goa that this is amongst first fighters in defense of their lands from the clutched of mining giants.

Rama Velip, his brothers and family members then normalized mining pits by dumping mining waste inside and carried on different types of cultivations. After the liberalization era set in newer challenges emerged. The village now in 1990 had population that was has its four different sources. The original tribes, Dessais who got themselves stabilized in the village with aid of Portuguese colonial State, migrant tribes brought it to work of farmlands of Dessais, and other migrants brought in to work during 1950s chief on manual mines. After manual mines were stopped their future generations settled in Colamb itself taking up various jobs in the village and around village. In the second phase of liberalization when mining leases were activated to rush export of minerals to China since 2003, mining companies found this category of people as their allies at ground level. The most controversial mine that has been stopped by villagers by force is operated the one leased out to Hiralal Khodidas and is operated by Fomentos mining company. This category of people-descendants of former mining employees in middle of 1950s without any land in Colamb village have taken over Colamb Panchayat leadership as well as contract to operate mine. The seed of direct confrontation lies precisely here; they do not posses any agricultural land in Colamb and therefore had no attachment to the village. They used their positions of power to quickly accumulate wealth and drive themselves out of pangs of hunger and poverty. But the mining route that they have chosen is already making other people – tribal people of the village hungry and turning them towards poverty. It is this confrontation that is playing up in the Colamb village currently in 2007. This contradiction has united the rest of the villagers; original tribes because they are directly stand to loose in case mining becomes reality, Dessais because their farms are going to be affected due to water depletion, Migrant tribes because Dessais pursue the to involve as they are directly dependent of farmlands of Dessais. So on the one side is standing all the interested parties with direct attachment emotional and livelihood in case of tribes of both kinds, economic in case of Dessais. On the other hand are the mining companies, Police, emerging mining mafia and descendants of mining workers who hopes to benefit monetarily from mining operations. Police have already demonstrated that they will act in the side of mining company. In fact it was police force that illegally cleared thick forest in Colamb in 2003 to clear way for mining projects.

Things do not stop with Colamb mining. Number of nearby villages is also selected for mining slaughter. And there are protests going on there as well. In Muscavrem tribals protested against mine operated by Timblos in 2003. After two years the protest fizzled out and the mine started in full swing. The leaders of the movement were co-opted by giving various perks like cash and trucks to operate on mines. In Sulcorna village protest are ongoing though I am not aware of the details this group. In Tudov there has been a protest in 2003 and mining stopped. Other mines around here stopped after Goa Foundation brought about Supreme Court order to stop mining within sanctuary areas. However in 2007 preparations are on again to start mining in forest areas, new roads are created by mining companies by clearing of forest lands and massive deforestation affected. Salgini villagers near Karnataka border in Sanguem Taluka too have been up in arms. Vichundrem villagers had filed letter of protest to large number authorities to protest against activating old mining lease[8] in their village in January 2005. However in spite of this contractor was employed to clear thick village forest land. This time the contractor was a tribal from Colamb village given responsibility to break villagers’ unity. First he build temple for the villagers. Like many other villages temple building was constructed in an effort to soften villagers’ opposition. Villagers who are mix some tribals others not, accepted the temple but refused to let the mining carry on in the village. As a symbol of protest they have blocked the road made for mining with a huge boulder in between that needed 20 people to get it on road.

Protests against mining has intensified in Goa since 2007. There has been various instances of direct invasions on mines in Sanguem and Quepem talukas. Police and administration have inevitably tended to side with the mining companies and people have been subjected to various repressive measures[9].

Industrialization at the cost of tribal lands

Besides mining most of the industrial estates that came up all over Goa were on traditionally tribal lands. In some cases, Kulagar lands, in other cases grazing lands still other they were agricultural lands. Besides denying the access to traditional cattle grazers, it completely changes function of land from open fallow land for grazing, lands under various kinds of cultivations to the lands with industry and compound walls sometimes even with barbed wires. Though these lands had long back gone out of legal control of tribes during Portuguese times itself, they still had on the ground agrarian function to perform even it meant that the surplus was harnessed by the Bhatcars. Installing of industry created completely alien system to tribes in Goa. It took almost a decade after the set up that they were adjusting and applying to unskilled low paying jobs in the industries, in some cases even successfully. Industrial estates were able to be installed in Goa without any whisper of protest precisely as they we sought to be installed on tribal lands. And tribals were not empowered to protest. Instead they meekly surrendered their lands to Industrial estates and also to mega projects such as chemical plant of Swiss multinational Ciba-Geigy at Corlim, Tiswadi[10]. Tribes particularly the Gawda population were in big numbers that participated in protest against America multinational of Du Pont called nylon 6,6 sought to be set up in Keri’s Bhutkhamb plateau in Ponda Taluka. After the agitation every one went back into their homes and land equilibrium in favour of few did not alter at all. However it remains as one of the major agitations in the post liberation Goa.

Tribal girl Ujwala Gawde was shot on her legs and she was injured. One boy Nilesh Naik was shot dead during the same incident of Police firing in January 1995. This agitation was successful as Nylon 6,6 pulled out of Goa and headed towards Tamil Nadu to set up its plant. This agitation was successful due to various factors; one of them was that tribes and other settlers including Dessais forged alliance and battled for almost a decade.    However there was no discussion of tribes during this time and the campaign was purely carried on as environmental issue thereby cleverly concealing various landed interests.

 This particular village rose in revolt again in 2007 when Special Economic Zone (SEZ) was foisted on the same land. In fact this village was a major source of strengths to wider successful movement in Goa that led to scrapping of all 18 proposed SEZs in Goa.

Similarly was the case with Meta Strips agitation in late 1990s. The main issue of the agitation against this industrial plant at Verna, Salcete was pollution aspect. The main force for rallies and marches came from Kunbis who are residing in the nearby villages. The plant site was their grazing lands but this issue was touched upon. Secondly the most affected villages in case of disasters both at Ciba-Geigy plant in Corlim as well as the Meta Strips are going to be nearby tribal villages. These aspects remains neglected even as both the plants are functioning in their respective places. These are the instances of a situations where in tribes in Goa have become industrial hostages.



[1] Vinayak Khadekar has dealt with this trend of taking over of tribal community lands and temples in his book in Marathi called ‘Goa Kulmi: Paryavarniy Sanskritiche Janak, Rakshak’ that he self published in 2004.
[2] As per reply furnished under Right to Information Act to Motesh Antao of Colomba, Rivona, Sanguem dated 23rd April 2007 by A. T. D’souza, Senior Geologist, State Public Information Oficer, Department of Mines and Geology, Government of Goa.
[3] In a letter reply dated 6th June 2007 under Right to Information Act 2005 to Rama L. Velip of Colomba, Rivona, Sanguem, Goa.
[4] Dated 14th November 2003 and addressed to the member secretary, Goa State Pollution Control Board objecting proposed extraction of Iron Ore at T.C. No. 70/51 and 2/Fe/71 of village Panchayat Pissurlem. This is signed by 23 villagers from Pisssurlem: Hanumant Chandrakant Parab, Pundalik Tulshidas Parab, Shiva Ramchandra Chari, Somenath Sitaram Pawar, Anand Navaso Gawde, Shivanand Tulshidas Parab, Ramesh Tulshidas Parab, Shankar Narayan Parab, Balchandra Gawde, Pratap Gawde, Tulshidas Vishnu Gawde, Anant Khapulo Gawde, Radio Sasro Gawde, Narendra Gamba Gawde, Rajendra Arjun Gawde, Nanshiv Uttam Gawde, Dhasu Jaganath Gawde, Babuso S. Gawde, Shashikant Dholo Gawde, Hari R. Gawde, Premnath R. Gawde, and Pandurang V. Porob.
[5] Got to know this from Ram Velip from Colamb in June 2007.
[6] 5-13 June 2007.
[7] Boletim Official do Governo do Estado da India, Sabbado 1 de abril, Anno 1882, No. 36.
[8] T.C. 38/52 of Hiro Bombo Gauns
[9] Detail documentation of various protests around mining issues in Goa are available at blog: www.mandgoa.blogspot.com.
[10] Movement against this Chemical Plant began in 2008, after series of mergers it has come to be known as Syngenta.

No comments:

Post a Comment