Days after a united opposition held a much publicised protest march from Parliament to Rashtrapati Bhawan, Adivasis, one the communities likely to be most affected by the new law, resorted to a completely unconventional mode of protest to let the government know what they felt about the proposed piece of legislation.
With the BJP-led government unrelenting despite massive protests from the opposition, tribal leaders from Latehaar, Jharkhand initiated a ‘public shit protest’ against the Land Acquisition Bill, by using copies of the proposed law as toilet paper in public.
According to Abhay Xaxa, Convener of the National Campaign for Adivasi Rights (NCAR), the organisation has demanded the immediate withdrawal of the bill, failing which adivasis would continue with the protest across the country.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Xaxa said, “This was an act of desperation. At the meeting on the 14th, community leaders pointed out that taking out rallies or debating in conference rooms have not worked. If we turn violent, they will call us left wing extremists. This then, was the non-violent and democratic protest we could come up with.”
Xaxa also maintained that his organisation’s protest was not against the constiutition, adding that the Adivasi community has sacrificed much in the economic growth of the country. “…considering that 70 percent of all adivasis in this country have been displaced at various times, I would say no other community has sacrificed more to build this nation,” he told the daily.
What bothers the tribal community the most, is the government’s move to dilute the law specifically in terms of no longer seeking the consent of villagers before acquiring land and the need for a Social Impact Assessment before any land is acquired.
The government managed to pass the new land bill in Lok Sabha and are hoping to convince a section of the opposition in Rajya Sabha, where it lacks a majority. If the bill is not passed by 5 April, the ordinance promulgated by the government, will lapse.
NCAR claims Adivasi organisations from six other sites in Jharkhand and are planning such protests if the government does not withdraw the proposed changes. As Xaxa says, “when nothing works, serious shit happens.”
Will the protest raise a stink? Only time will tell.