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Why these Chhattisgarh tribals will not vote

April 15, 2009
Krishnakumar P travels to Kunkuri, Chhattisgarh, to discover an electorate in ferment.

On December 9, the people of Jashpur, a northern district of Chhattisgarh got a rude jolt. Only the previous day, the assembly election results were announced and the Raman Singh government had bucked anti-incumbency to ride back power on the back of the chief minister's charisma and the promise to distribute rice at Re 1 per kg.

Even before the chief minister could sign his first file, tribal people spread over 150 square kilometres got notices from industrial houses demanding to buy their land, with a helpful nudge from the local administration.

"The notices were sent to people in the villages of three blocks. 38 sq km in Bageecha, 105 sq km Kunkuri and 25 sq km in Jashpur. But the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution prohibits a non-tribal from buying land that belongs to the tribal people," said Animanand Ekka, of the Grameen Vikas Kendra in Kunkuri, 400 kilometres from Raipur, the state capital.

As has happened in Singur, Nandigram, Jammu and many other places across the country, in recent times, the people rose up in unison against the feral forces of the industry. They are now trying to use the Lok Sabha election to draw attention to their problems.

They had, till then, been content and self-sufficient within the confines of their environs while the politicians were content with not disturbing the already set and consolidated vote bank.

Image: Animanand Ekka at the Grameen Vikas Kendra in Kunkuri.

Photographs: Krishnakumar P

Also see: 4 farmers kill themselves every day, in Re 1 rice land | India Votes 2009