‘Congress Yatra on, why no go-ahead for Sukma tribal march’: CPI leader hits out at Baghel govt

‘Congress Yatra on, why no go-ahead for Sukma tribal march’: CPI leader hits out at Baghel govt


While the Congress’s Bharat Jodo Yatra led by Rahul Gandhi has been moving ahead through the southern states now, a march of the Adiwasi Mahasabha in Sukma in the party-ruled Chhattisgarh has been denied permission by the district administration, prompting senior CPI leader and ex-MLA Manish Kunjam to call out the grand old party for its “double standards”.

“The Congress party takes out a Bharat Jodo Yatra and its leaders say that permissions are not needed to organise a mass event. Here we need to fill an entire form to get permission, which is then denied,” said Kunjam, the regional convener of the Adiwasi Mahasabha, an umbrella organisation of tribal bodies in Chhattisgarh.

Kunjam had sent a letter to the Sukma district administration and police, seeking permission for the Adiwasi Mahasabha’s march and police protection for the yatra, but it was denied last week. “The response from them was unexpected. Now that there’s a camp in every few kilometres in Bastar, where is the security threat coming from? What has changed then even after opening so many new (security forces) camps?” Kunjam asked.

rally 2 - ‘Congress Yatra on, why no go-ahead for Sukma tribal march’: CPI leader hits out at Baghel govt A section of political leaders and observers believe that tribal protests might have been isolated events but they have started gaining traction. (Express photo)

However, despite the denial of permission from the authorities, the Adiwasi Mahasabha kicked off its march from Silger Tuesday in the presence of Kunjam and another senior CPI leader Annie Raja. The march will head to the Sukma district headquarters through Jagargunda and Dornapal – a 108-km route that it proposes to cover in a week. The yatra has been taken out to highlight various tribal issues and concerns and to remind the Bhupesh Baghel-led state government of their alleged unfulfilled promises for the progress and development of tribals in the state.

Kunjam had already made it clear earlier that “We are starting our march from Silger. They can arrest us if they want, we will not stop,” adding “I want to know why they don’t want us to go. What is it that the local administration, the MLA and other responsible people want to hide?”

Silger has been the site of massive protests since May 2021, when three tribals were shot dead by security forces while they were protesting against the setting up of a security camp in Mokur.

Sources said that at least two more security forces’ camps have been planned along the stretch from Silger to Jagargunda. The region, located on the border of Sukma and Bijapur districts in the Maoist-affected Bastar region has not been under police control, officials say.

In Silger, the Moolwasi Bachao Manch, a local tribal organisation run by local youths, had spearheaded the protests over the deaths of three tribals. The police accuse the Manch of being linked to the Maoists, and have been investigating its members.

As the Congress and the principal Opposition BJP continue to vie for the influential OBC support base, the tribal discontent has been simmering in different parts of the state. The tribal bodies have intensified their protests in various parts of Sarguja and Bastar regions since last year in protest against the lack of education and health infrastructure in their belts, security forces’ alleged excesses and their camps, the conversion of gram panchayats into nagar panchayats, and Hasdeo coal mining, among other things, with the Congress government facing as much heat form them as the previous BJP government did earlier.

A section of political leaders and observers believe that tribal protests might have been isolated events but they have started gaining traction. “It is a folly on the part of the Congress government to ignore it. These discontents will cost the party heavily in the 2023 Assembly elections,” a senior Congress leader from Bastar said.

Tribals account for 32 per cent of Chhattisgarh’s 2.94 crore population. Of the 90 Assembly seats in the state, 29 are reserved for tribals.