Johar and Greetings from All India Santal Welfare and Cultural Society (AISWACS)!
AISWACS as you probably know is the national organisation of the Santals - one of the largest homogenous tribal community in India. AISWACS has been involved in upholding the voices of Indigenous communities for the last several years through appropriate Lobby-Advocacy in national and international fora.
In the above context, AISWACS facilitated a three-day Consultation of Indigenous/Adivasi Community Leaders, Social Activists and NGO representatives from Eastern India (from West Bengal, Jharkhand, Orissa, Assam, and Bihar). This Adivasi Consultation was on the Right to Self-Governance and Rights to Land, Water, Forest and Territory. The Consultation was attended by over 1600 delegates from across the country and comprised of intensive participatory deliberations facilitated and documented by experienced Adivasi personnels of AISWACS.
The above Consultation coming in the middle of the 2nd U.N. International Decade of the Indigenous Peoples, adequately depicts the problems, concerns, commitments and demands of the indigenous communities in the context of prevailing pro-Adivasi Constitutional Provisions and International Covenants (like ILO-169, U.N. Declaration on Indigenous Peoples Rights etc.)
Further, the Declaration also throws up a legitimate challenge to the Civil Society Organisation (CSOs) more particularly the INGOs, Govt. Development Departments., Inter-Govt organisations like IFAD, FAO, UNICEF, UNESCO etc. that have commitments to safeguard and empower the Adivasi communities.
The Declaration should also act as a wake up call for all of us on the PROCESS being adopted till date for the empowerment of the Indigenous Communities in India as also globally. It definitely calls for a serious relook and revisit; and rediscover an innovative development paradigm that is more value congruent and vision oriented.
On behalf of AISWACS and other allied organisations, I would therefore request you to kindly take a serious note of the Declaration and incorporate the observations into the policy frameworks so that Indigenous peoples' hopes and aspirations could be fulfilled.
Dr. D. Mardi Hony. General Secretary, All India Santal Welfare and Cultural Society (AISWACS), 25, Prem Nagar Market, 1st Floor, New Delhi-110003