Devidas Gaonkar, a Community Correspondent for IndiaUnheard, reports on the Velip Peoples ongoing struggle to secure their land rights within what is now called the Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary.
Two tribal leaders in Goa are killed after protests to safeguard their rights.
The tribal communities in Quepem, Goa, took a big blow to their spirit and protest when two of their young leaders, Mangesh Gaonkar and Dilip Velip, were killed three months ago following massive demonstrations in Balli village. Earlier that day, thousands of tribals had taken to the streets, blocked highways and railway tracks to demand a 12% reservation quota for government jobs and the immediate implementation of the Tribal Forest Rights Act that was enacted in 2006. Driven by frustration and apathy from the authorities, the Velip tribals’ agitation turned violent, and the two young men were burnt in a building set on fire by angry locals.
“Tribals are always neglected,” says Devidas, a member of the Velip community himself and therefore immersed in their continuous struggles for equality and justice. “We are treated the worst out of all Indians. If we go to government offices, they don’t even listen to us once they know we are tribals. We are taken for granted – if a company or a mine is being built, they never consult us.”
Three months later, the case of these murders has still not been resolved. As is said in the video, the two men have now become martyrs in their community and Devidas wanted to make this video to show the world the other side, the side that the newspapers and TV stations would never cover. Here are voices from inside the Velip community about the way their struggle is suppressed and beaten down by the authorities.
“All my life I have been labelled as ‘a tribal’. People comment on our way of life, the things we cook, our homes. They say, ‘you don’t even know how to speak properly.’ We do not see tolerance or acceptance. Now we want our rights so that we can be allowed to stand on an equal foot.”
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