Bishop champions detained tribal rights leader

May 10, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

New Delhi, May 11, 2016: A Catholic bishop in India has criticized authorities for not allowing a tribal leader from travelling abroad saying that this is another instance of the government forcing indigenous people into servitude.

“It is sad that we are continued to be silenced,” Bishop Vincent Barwa of tribal-dominated Simdega Diocese in Jharkhand told ucanews.

For centuries tribal people have been exploited and kept in servitude, said the bishop who is national convenor the Indian Catholic bishops’ Committee for Tribal Affairs.

“We are politically weak as we have no strong leader who can raise our voice,” said the bishop who belongs to the Oraon tribe.

Tribal rights activist Gladson Dungdung told that he was stopped from flying to London from New Delhi. He was to attend a workshop on Environmental History and Politics of South Asia to be held in the University of Sussex on May 10.

“The officials told me that my passport had been impounded in 2013 and therefore I cannot travel. It is true my passport was impounded in 2013 and returned to me after in 2014,” the Ranchi-based human rights activist said.

With the same passport returned to him he had travelled aboard later in 2014 and 2015 and attended international conferences in Denmark and London, he said noting that “the “government did not stop me” then.

Dungdung, who belongs to the Kharia tribe, said he was in government’s watch list after he published his 2015 book Mission Saranda: A War for Natural Resources in India. The book questioned the government’s stated intention of development in tribal areas, which he said will harm tribal heritage and endangered the fragile ecosystem of tribal heartlands in India.

The government is afraid that tribal activists attending international meetings will expose the plight of tribal people in the country, Father Vincent Ekka, a tribal researcher at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University told ucanews.

The government is attempting to “demoralize” those working for tribal development, said Ranjit Tigga, who heads the department of tribal studies at the Jesuit-run Indian Social Institute.

In caste-based Indian society, high caste people do not want tribal people to develop socially or economically and want to exploit natural resources for their benefits at the cost of destroying tribal people’s natural habitat, Tigga said.

Dungdung campaigns for tribal people’s rights for land, water, shelter and their dignity.

Indigenous people comprise 9 percent of India’s 1.2 billion people and are generally educationally, economically and socially poor, living in the interior parts of the country. An estimated 40 percent of India’s 27 million Christians are of tribal origins.

– ucan

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