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Jairam to CMs: include forest tribals in BPL list within 3 months

Special Correspondent

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Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh. File photo
The Hindu Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh. File photo

Almost a year after Saranda was wrested out of Maoist control by security forces, large numbers of tribal families living in the dense forests of the Jharkhand district have found themselves left out in the cold when it comes to government assistance.

“We discovered that just about 3,000 of the 7,000-odd forest dwelling tribal families in Saranda are on the BPL [below poverty line] list,” says Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh. Those not on the list are not eligible for the Central government’s welfare schemes. “The problem is that when the BPL census was taken in 2002, the forests of Saranda were simply not accessible.”

However, the problem is not restricted to a single district. Across the country, “a few lakh” tribal families could be affected, says the Minister.

Mr. Ramesh has written to all Chief Ministers to “correct the huge injustice that has been done to the forest-dwelling tribal families who should really be automatically included in any BPL list.” In the letter dated June 18, he asked the Chief Ministers to direct their Collectors to use the 2002 BPL census questionnaire and criteria to determine the socio-economic status of such families. “All efforts should be made to make these tribal families eligible for the Indira Awaas Yojana and the National Social Assistance Programme at the very earliest,” says the letter. “We should complete all administrative formalities in the next 90 days in a campaign mode.”

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Adivasi officers in Adivasi dominant areas

“Tribal teams should be trained to undertake administration and development without too many outsiders being inducted.” (Jawaharlal Nehru)

Stan Swamy

Recently the central govt notified all state govts that in all areas where Muslims are a majority of the population, Muslim police officers should be appointed. This was in keeping with Justice Sacher’s Commission recommendation in its report ‘The Muslim Demography of India’ 2006. Further, the state govts have been asked to report to the centre about their compliance in this regard. Given the growing communal tendencies on the part of majority community towards minority communities in the country, it is a commendable step indeed.

When it comes to Adivasi and Dalit communities in India, the same logic holds good. Adivasis constitute 8% (approx. 10 crore in number). The economic exploitation, social discrimination and cultural marginalisation of the Adivasis is nearly complete. One-third of their land has already been taken. Over 100 MoUs have been signed between the govt and industrialists without taking the land-owners into confidence and in violation of constitutional, legal and judicial provisions. And when they refuse to give their land, they are beaten up, arrested and even killed.

Jawaharlal Nehru, our respected first Prime Minister, who had a particular concern for the Adivasi people and was convinced that some special protection should be provided to them as part of govt’s policy, formulated what has come to be known as Nehruvian Panchsheel (1952) for the Adivasi People. They are:

1. Tribals should be allowed to develop according to their own genius.

2. Tribals’ rights in land and forest should be respected

3. Tribal teams should be trained to undertake administration and development without too many outsiders being inducted.

4. Tribal development should be undertaken without disturbing tribal social and cultural institutions

5. The index of tribal development should be the quality of their life and not the money spent

But unfortunately these policy measures spelt out by the first PM of the country has been thrown to the winds during all these six decades of independence. No one even speaks of it these days.

Reasons why non-Adivasi officers (civil & police) should not be placed in Adivasi-dominant areas:

1) Most non-Adivasi officers do not have any sympathetic attitude toward the Adivasi people. The basic reason being they are among the 40 lakhs who have come from outside Jharkhand and have come here to make a living . All that matters is making money and more and more of it. Hence corruption has increased enormously in Jharkhand. If we take just one example like the ‘Chara Gotala’ (Animal Husbandry Scam) during the 1970s and 1980s, nearly 99% of the convicted are non-Adivasi outsiders. Several of them even look down upon the Adivasi people and fail to perform their professional duties toward them.

2) Most non-Adivasi officers cannot understand or appreciate Adivasi culture. Traditional Adivasi culture is characterized by (1) collective ownership of the means of production, (2) community as the point of identity of its members, (3) sense of equality among all the members of the community, (4) spirit of co-operation with each other, (5) consensus decision making on all matters pertaining to the community, (6) protect and nurture nature even while using it, The non-Adivasi officers from outside have come to Jharkhand with very different and opposing set of values. Their life is guided by (1) private ownership, (2) personal individual identity, (3) unequal class / caste affiliation, (4) competition in all spheres of life, (5) majority / minority is their basis of decision making, (6) exploit nature and all its resources for personal benefit with scant regard to preserve & protect it. This value system beautifully conforms to our present capitalist society and thus has become the dominant ideology. The Adivasi culture, on the other hand, is looked upon as a thing of the past and no more relevant in our capitalist economic, social order.

3) Most non-Adivasi officers never bother to learn the tribal language before assuming their responsibility. This has particular pertinence to those officers who have to deal directly with rural tribal people and especially rural tribal women who know only their tribal language. It is the most alienating situation where the officer speaks to a rural tribal woman in Hindi which the woman does not understand, and when the tribal woman answers the officer in her tribal language which the officer does not understand. How can the officer fulfil his responsibility towards a people with whom he cannot even communicate orally or in writing. And yet this has been the reality and continues to be so. The ultimate sufferers are the Adivasi people. A very uunjust situation indeed.

All these debilitating factors could have been avoided if only the Nehruvian Panchsheel for the Adivasi people had been adhered to. Even now it is not too late. It calls for a strong will power on the part of the govt in terms of justice towards the Adivasi people of India.

17 Jun. 2012

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Red dot becomes ‘oldest cave art’

A look inside the Altamira Cave in northern Spain

Red dots, hand stencils and animal figures represent the oldest examples yet found of cave art in Europe.

The symbols on the walls at 11 Spanish locations, including the World Heritage sites of Altamira, El Castillo and Tito Bustillo have long been recognised for their antiquity.

But researchers have now used refined dating techniques to get a more accurate determination of their ages.

One motif – a faint red dot – is said to be more than 40,000 years old.

“In Cantabria, [in] El Castillo, we find hand stencils that are formed by blowing paint against the hands pressed against the wall of a cave,” explained Dr Alistair Pike from Bristol University, UK, and the lead author on a scholarly paper published in the journal Science.

“We find one of these to date older than 37,300 years on ‘The Panel of Hands’, and very nearby there is a red disc made by a very similar technique that dates to older than 40,800 years.

“This now currently is Europe’s oldest dated art by at least 4,000 years,” he told reporters. It is arguably also the oldest reliably dated cave art anywhere in the world.

The team arrived at the ages by examining the calcium carbonate (calcite) crusts that had formed on top of the paintings.

Bristol researchers removing samples for dating from Tito Bustillo Cave, Spain
Bristol researchers removing samples for dating from Tito Bustillo Cave

This material builds up in the exact same way that stalagmites and stalactites form in a cave.

In the process, the calcite incorporates small numbers of naturally occurring radioactive uranium atoms. These atoms decay into thorium at a very precise rate through the ages, and the ratio of the two different elements in any sample can therefore be used as a kind of clock to time the moment when the calcite crust first formed.

Uranium-thorium dating has been around for decades, but the technique has now been so refined that only a tiny sample is required to get a good result.

This enabled the team to take very thin films of deposits from just above the paint pigments; and because the films were on top, the dates they gave were minimum ages – that is, the paintings had to be at least as old as the calcite deposits, and very probably quite a bit older.

The oldest dates coincide with the first known immigration into Europe of modern humans (Homo sapiens). Before about 41,000 years ago, it is their evolutionary cousins, the Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis), who dominate the continent.

Dr Pike’s and colleagues’ work therefore raises some intriguing questions about who might have authored the markings.

If anatomically modern humans were responsible then it means they engaged in the activity almost immediately on their arrival in Europe.

If Neanderthals were the artisans, it adds another layer to our understanding of their capabilities and sophistication.

Hand stencils
The Panel of Hands: Produced by blowing paint over a hand pressed against the wall

The great antiquity of the paintings leads co-author Joao Zilhao, a research professor at ICREA, University of Barcelona, to think the Neanderthals produced the motifs. Finding even older paintings than the red dot at El Castillo might confirm that “gut feeling”, he said.

“There is a strong chance that these results imply Neanderthal authorship,” Prof Zilhao explained.

“But I will not say we have proven it because we haven’t, and it cannot be proven at this time.

“What we have to do now is go back, sample more and find out whether we can indeed get dates older than 42, 43, 44,000.

“There is already a sampling programme going on. We have samples from more sites in Spain, from sites in Portugal and from other caves in Western Europe and so eventually we will be able to sort it out.”

Tracing the origins of abstract throught and behaviours, and the rate at which they developed, are critical to understanding the human story.

The use of symbolism – the ability to let one thing represent another in the mind – is one of those traits that set our animal species apart from all others.

It is what underpins artistic endeavour and also the use of language.

Red discs The El Castillo Cave has numerous red discs on its walls. One was dated to 40,800 years ago

Jonathan.Amos-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk and follow me on Twitter

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Forest body to help market medicinal herbs for tribals

TNN | Jun 3, 2012, 12.29AM IST

medicinal plants in Jharkhand in a scientific way to help market them properly. This will help tribals who use these plants to cure illness and also for business purpose.

ICFRE director V K Bahuguna said a research for the same would begin soon. Bahuguna was addressing a press conference here on Saturday. An autonomous body of the Union forest and environment ministry, the council is an apex body in the national forestry research system. It has been undertaking the holistic development of forestry research through need based planning, promoting, conducting and coordinating research, education and extension covering all aspects of forestry.

More than five to 10 species of medicinal plants will be studied under the programme. It is a national research programme that will target several states, Bahuguna said. “We aim to help tribals get more livelihood opportunities by supporting their endeavour with scientific research and promotion. The demand for medicinal plants is also growing,” he added.

Bahuguna was in city to lay the foundation stone of Institute of Forest Productivity (IFP)’s training, education and extension building and interpretation centre for lead garden at Lalgutwa here. Bahuguna, who arrived here on May 31, was on four-day visit to various forestry research institutions and forest areas in Jharkhand.

The ICFRE chief, who took stock of the situation of plantation by tribals during his visit, said, “Technology should be used to empower tribal farmers. If tribals are provided with superior planting technology, it can change their lives.”

The ICFRE has recently launched innovative scheme ‘Direct to Customer’ for immediate transfer of technology on completion of a research project for effective transfer of technology developed by scientists.

Tribals living in forests play a crucial role in its development. There is a need to properly study the dynamics of change and make plans accordingly, he said adding that forest development will mitigate the impact of climate change.

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Brief report of the killing of adivasis by CRPF forces in Bijapur district: 28 June 2012

An all-India fact-finding team of rights activists belonging to the Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisations (CDRO) visited the area in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh where 17 adivasis died as a result of firing by CRPF forces on the night of June 28, 2012. The team visited the villages of Sarkeguda, Kottaguda and Rajpenta on July 6 and 7 and elicited information about the events. The following is a brief report of the team. A more detailed report will follow in due course.

All three villages are small settlements located close to each other and in the jurisdiction of the Basaguda police station which is located about a km away. There is a CRPF camp at about three km from the three villages. While Sarkeguda with 25 households and Rajpenta (12 households) are in Korsagudem panchayat, Kottaguda with 30 households is in Cheepurupatti panchayat. Most residents of the three villages belong to the Dorla Koya tribe.

About 60 adivasis of these three villages assembled from around 8 pm on June 28 in an open area between Sarkeguda and Kottaguda. Such meetings where decisions have to be taken collectively are usually held during the night since adivasis are busy with work most of the day. As the sowing season was upcoming, the meeting was held to discuss several issues related to farming including fixing the date for the traditional seed sowing festival known as bija pondum- (this was to have taken place a few weeks earlier but was delayed because the pujari who conducts the ritual had died), distribution of land for tilling, lending help to those families who were without cattle, deciding the amount of rent for using the new tractor they had brought and how to raise fish. Arrears of Rs 10,000 due to the adivasis since two years for tendu leaf collection were paid only recently and they also wanted to discuss what use to put it to. It was a fairly cloudy night and visibility was poor. All those in the gathering were adivasi residents of the three villages and unarmed.

While the meeting was going on, a large contingent of CRPF personnel and CoBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action, a specialised anti-naxalite guerilla unit of the CRPF) commandos numbering well over a hundred, cordoned off the area. According to the villagers, at about 10 pm there was gunfire without any warning. The first burst was from towards the west and it hit three adivasis who died instantly. This was quickly followed by firing from three other directions. Terrified villagers began screaming and running. Most ran towards their respective villages. Some tried to hide in a hay-storing enclosure. Those who were fleeing for their lives were also fired upon. The firing continued for about 30 minutes after which, as if to survey the dead, the CRPF forces fired two flare guns that lit up the area. The forces stayed on in the area.

It was clear to the fact-finding team that a peaceful gathering of adivasis, none of whom carried any firearms, was surrounded by the CRPF and without any warning fired upon indiscriminately. As a result of this firing, 16 adivasis died — 15 that night and Irpa Suresh (15) in Bijapur hospital the next day. Six of the dead were minors, including a 12 year old girl Kaka Saraswati, daughter of K Rama. She was hit while fleeing towards her house in Kottaguda. Of the other five minors, two — Kaka Rahul (16) and Madkam Ramvilas (16) — were studying in class 10 at a school in Basaguda. Both stayed at a hostel in Basaguda and had come home during the summer vacations.

It was plain slaughter that night near Sarkeguda.

According to the villagers, those who did not die from the bullet wounds were killed by the police with axes they picked up from the village itself. Several eyewitnesses from outside the village, including mediapersons who saw the bodies before they were cremated, referred to some of them as having been brutalised with deep hacking cuts on the chests and foreheads.

The 17th victim of this senseless butchery was Irpa Ramesh, husband of I Lachmi and father of three children. After the firing began, he ran and made it to the safety of his house and stepped out at dawn at about 5 am to survey the area. He was fired upon immediately and though he was hit, managed to get back inside his house. The CRPF men followed him in and clobbered him to death with a brick in front of his family members. According to Ramesh’s father Irpa Raju, the CRPF men also stole Rs 5,000 from their house. The same night the police also stole Rs 30,000 from Irpa Narayana’s house in Rajpenta as well as Rs 2,000 from the house of Madkam Nagesh.

Those killed are:

From Kottaguda:

1. Kaka Saraswati (12), daughter of K Rama

2. Kaka Sammayya (32), farmer, husband of K Nagi.

3. Kaka Rahul (16), student of Class 10 at Basaguda, son of K Narayana.

4. Madkam Ramvilas (16), student of Class 10 at Basaguda and classmate of Kaka Rahul, son of M Butchaiah.

5. Madkam Dileep (17), studied upto Class 8 at Pamed, assists his father M Muttaiah in farming.

6. Irpa Ramesh (30), farmer, husband of I Lachmi, father of three children.

7. Irpa Dinesh (25), farmer, husband of I Janaki, father of four children, is younger brother of Irpa Ramesh.

8. Madkam Nagesh (35), farmer, also a professional dholak player who performed during festivals, husband of M Sammi, father of two children. His wife is pregnant with their third child.

9. Madkam Suresh (30), farmer, husband of M Sammi and father of two children, is younger brother of Madkam Nagesh.

10. Irpa Narayana (45), farmer, husband of I Narsi, father of four children.

From Rajpenta:

11. Irpa Dharmayya (40), farmer, husband of I Bheeme, father of five children.

12. Irpa Suresh (15), studied upto class 5, son of I Chandrayya. Died at Bijapur hospital on June 29.

From Sarkeguda:

13. Sarke Ramanna (25), farmer, husband of S Somulu, father of three children.

14. Apka Meetu (16), son of A Sukhram, helps his father in farming.

15. Korsa Bichem (22), son of K Gutta, worked earlier for a borewell firm at Hyderabad, came home a month ago to help his family in farming.

16. Kunjam Malla (25), farmer, son of K Lakmadu.

17. Madvi Aithu (40), farmer, husband of M Kamli and father of four children.

Six adivasis were injured in the firing. Four of them, Kaka Ramesh  (11) and Kaka Parvathi (10), Irpa Chinnakka (40) and Abka Chotu  (16) were admitted to hospitals in Bijapur and Jagdalpur and have since returned home after treatment. Madkam Somayya (30) and Kaka Senti (19) were taken to a hospital in Raipur and are still undergoing treatment but are out of danger. Among the injured Kaka Ramesh (13) and his younger sister Kaka Parvathi (11) escaped narrowly. After the firing began, they ran in the direction of their house in Kottaguda and sustained bullet injuries on their left arms. Irpa Munna (26) and Sarka Pullaiah (20) who were also injured were not taken to the hospital by the CRPF. They are being treated with traditional medicine by their fellow adivasis in Sarkeguda and Kottaguda respectively. A few cattle also died in the firing.

The CRPF men camped in the ground that night and took away 15 of the dead to Basaguda the same night and Irpa Ramesh in the morning. Apart from the injured, they also took along with them about 25 villagers who were let off in the evening. The adivasis went to Basaguda the same day and demanded that the bodies be handed over. The police did so towards evening and the villagers performed their funeral the next day. While some were cremated others were buried. The body of Irpa Dinesh was not returned to the village since, according to the police, he was a Maoist. His body was buried near the police station at Basaguda.

Flouting standard norms, the CRPF men not only carried away the bodies but also scooped away the bloodstained ground beneath the bodies. The Bijapur superintendent of police has gone on record saying that “proper post mortem was conducted by a team of doctors at the Basaguda thana and a report is being prepared”. A post mortem has to be conducted at a hospital properly equipped for the routine and not a police thana. Significantly, the villagers are unanimous that no post mortem was carried out, a fact corroborated by several reporters who saw none of the tell-tale marks that show on the body after a post mortem procedure.

The fact-finding team was also told by the villagers that on the morning of the 29th, CRPF men dragged two women to the fields nearby and tore their clothes. Three other women were also abused, beaten up and threatened with rape.

While these are the plain facts, the police establishment — from the Bijapur SP to high-ranking officials in the CRPF establishment — have sought to portray this carnage on adivasi civilians as one of a prolonged exchange of fire with dreaded Maoists resulting in the deaths. Injuries sustained by six CRPF and CoBRA commandoes was repeatedly pointed out. These lies were duly parroted by the political class headed by Union Home Minister P Chidambaram. Broadly, the initial assertion was that an “Operation Silger” was planned several weeks ago and three teams of the CRPF and CoBRA personnel had planned to converge in an area where they had “intelligence inputs” of a big Maoist gathering. Even before the CPRF men could reach there, they came upon a congregation at Sarkeguda and before they could verify matters, they were fired upon because of which the CRPF men resorted to firing in “self defence” resulting in the death of many Maoists. According to IG (Operations), CRPF Pankaj Kumar Singh “a full-fledged Maoist training camp was being run there and the arrangements were such that if attacked they could wrap up everything and leave in 10 minutes. We have recovered IED’s, lot of literature, polythene tents, solar cells and muzzle loading guns.”

This is brazen falsehood to explain away a horrible crime. The plea of self-defence is a favourite invocation by the police and paramilitary forces to explain away extra-judicial killings. The fact-finding team is of the firm opinion that there was no exchange of fire and the firing was completely one-sided, emanating only from the side of the special forces. It was unannounced and unprovoked.

The injuries to six CRPF and CoBRA personnel on that night was repeatedly cited by CRPF officers to buttress their argument of an exchange of fire. The fact-finding team noticed dozens of bullet marks on trees around the area where the adivasis had assembled as well as bullet marks on some houses indicating that the adivasi gathering was fired upon from all directions. It is entirely plausible that the six personnel sustained the injuries because of the firing by their colleagues from the other sides. The villagers themselves are of the firm opinion that the six CRPF and CoBRA men were caught in their own crossfire. All adivasi residents that the fact-finding team spoke to stated emphatically that there were no Maoists present in their gathering and all of those attending the meeting that night were unarmed.

Following reports in the national media that there were a number of civilians, including minors, who were killed, the official version was toned down but the basic argument of armed Maoist presence at the meeting and a bonafide encounter continues to be insisted upon. The CRPF now says that seven of the deceased — Madkam Suresh, Madkam Nagesh, Madvi Ayatu, Kaka Sammayya, Korsa Bijje, Madkam Dilip and Irpa Narayana are Maoists and that there are various cases of violence of a serious nature lodged against them in various police stations across Chattiosgarh State. In a macabre take on the death of adivasi civilians, Chattisgarh Chief Minister S Raman Singh said that the Maoists had used the adivasis as human shields and therefore were responsible for the death of civilians!

The more intelligent among the security establishment have now launched a discourse about “unfortunate collateral damage” and how that may be minimized in such engagements in future. Pertinently, there was no way that the CRPF and CoBRA men could have made out the presence of armed people in the gathering on a cloudy night and from the distance they were located at — about 100 metres away. They surrounded the gathering and began firing with murderous abandon. Even if the claim of the CRPF that they were fired upon and were only retaliating is true, there is absolutely no justification whatsoever in unleashing fire on a village gathering.

Over many years, terrible violence has visited the area. In particular after a combination of the police and criminal Salwa Judum vigilante gangs were let loose on the adivasis in south Bastar since 2005. In a six-month long reign of terror, residents of all three villages have faced attacks by Salwa Judum gangs, had their houses looted and burnt as a consequence of which they migrated, many of them to Khammam district in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh. Two adivasis, Madkam Billa and a minor Korse Bheema of Sarkeguda were also killed by the police at the time. In fact, the adivasis had returned about three years ago and were in the process of rebuilding their lives when the June 28 massacre happened.

In many villages of Korseguda and Cheepurupatti panchayats, instances of police harassment abound. While in the earlier phase of State brutality on adivasis, the common word one heard was that the “judum have done this”, now people say “the forces are causing a lot of problem” alluding to the CRPF and other paramilitary and special police that have been pumped into the area in large numbers over the past two years. The forces, they say, come and position themselves near the villages in the night and fire in the air. “They do this to see if any one comes out and runs so as to kill them.” People of Korseguda, Cheepurupatti and other nearby panchayats go to Basaguda to purchase supplies and also sell some of their produce. “But only the women go since the men will invariably be taken in by the police at Basaguda, questioned, abused, beaten and sometimes detained for weeks on end. The men started staying away after some of them were booked in false cases.”

As the fact-finding team was approaching the three villages, we saw several groups of heavily armed CRPF men in the forest. They viewed us suspiciously but did not intervene in any manner. They were present when the team was on its way back several hours later. Their presence, after having been responsible for the blood-shed a week ago, works against normal and fearless functioning of life in the area. Referring to the announcement by the Chattisgarh government of a judicial enquiry by a sitting High Court judge into the incident, the adivasis said it would only have any meaning if the enquiry was held in the village itself.

Amidst this inhumanity, there was in evidence a heartening defiance among the adivasis. Unlike during the horrendous mayhem of the early salwa judum, the adivasis are not considering leaving their villages anymore. Instead, there is a strong sense of the injustice done to them and an urge for redressal. The fact-finding team was witness to relief sent by the government being rejected outright. The SDM of Bhoopalapatnam RA Kuruvanshi had arrived in several vehicles with supplies of rice, dal, clothes and some utensils. Angry villagers virtually shouted him and other officials out of Kotteguda. “You kill our children and now you want to help?” “We are maoists are we not? Have you come here to give Maoists these supplies?”

The fact-finding team is of the opinion that the mowing down of 17 adivasis on June 28 is a fall-out of the current counter-insurgency strategy of the government in its fight against the Maoists. In Chattisgarh, time and again this has meant that adivasis perceived of being the support base of the Maoists are being deliberately targeted and subjected to terrible violence. This is an unacceptable violation of the right to life and liberty. Functionaries of the Central and State governments keep stating from time to time that Maoism is not merely a law and order problem but as one having strong socio-economic roots. However, in practice Maoism is being treated as nothing but an outbreak of mere criminality and deployment of killer security forces is seen as the only solution. This policy of brutal suppression must end. It is not our case that the police must turn a blind eye to violence by the Maoists. The police must carry out the task of prevention and investigation of crime but they must do so fully respecting people’s rights and must function strictly within the ambit of the law. The government should implement a policy which seriously addresses issues of social and economic deprivation. It must stop treating the law of the land and the Constitution with contempt. Governments must adopt a political approach to the Maoists in place of the policy of violent suppression that has been the State’s principal response all these many years.

Demands:

1. All CRPF and CoBRA personnel who participated in the operation near Sarkeguda village on the night June 28 must be must be charged under Section 302 of IPC relating to murder and other relevant provisions of the penal code as well as under the SC, ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 and prosecuted.

2. The investigation into these cases must be handed over to the CBI or a criminal investigation team under the aegis of the National Human Rights Commission.

3. The Central and State governments must stop the ongoing policy of trying to brutally suppress the Maoists and must address that movement politically.

4. Governments must respect the Fifth Schedule mandate in letter and spirit and the adivasis’ right to land, forest and other natural resources in their region. Protective legislation for the adivasis must be sincerely implemented.

Members of the Fact-finding team:

1. Pritpal Singh of Association for Democratic Rights (AFDR), Punjab.

2. Prashant Halder, secretariat member of Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR), West Bengal.

3. Ashish Gupta, of Peoples Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) and convenor, Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisations (CDRO) from Delhi.

4. R Shiva Shankar, Nellore district secretary of the Organisation for Protection of Democratic Rights (OPDR) and B Ram Reddy, OPDR Warangal district convener.

5. C Chandrasekhar, State general secretary of Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC), V Chittibabu and D Suresh Kumar State vice-presidents, N Srimanarayana and R Rajanandam State joint secretaries, Gunti Ravi State committee member and Balakrishna and Muralikrishna, members of Kurnool district of APCLC.

6. VS Krishna, State general secretary of Human Rights Forum (HRF), SK Khadar Babu and D Adinarayana, HRF president and general secretary, Khammam district.

AFDR, APDR, PUDR, OPDR, APCLC and HRF are member organisations of CDRO.

Dated: 10-7-2012

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Publication: The Times Of India Lucknow;

Still A Dark Life For UP’s Tribals Promised Land Titles Under FRA, These Forest Dwellers Have Instead Been Slapped With Criminal Cases

Ashish Tripathi TNN

Sonbhadra:Chief minister Mayawati’s poster along with that of Goddess Lakshmi pasted side by side on the outer wall of the Shyam Lal’s hut in Harra village of Sonbhadra explains the kind of reverence these dalit forest dwellers have for the Bahujan Samaj Party supremo.

Goddess Lakshmi brings prosperity. And the posters of Mayawati promised to bring prosperity through implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006 which provides forest dwellers individual and community rights on forest land. But Lal, a daily wager, and his family are still waiting to be blessed by Goddess Lakshmi and Mayawati. “My forefathers worked as labourers and were dependent on forest produce. I am doing the same. After the introduction of FRA, I was happy that my seven children would have a better future. But my claim for the land was rejected. Officials asked me to bring the proof that my family has been living in the forest for past 75 years. How can an illiterate like me provide residential status for the period which also includes the British rule,” said Lal. “Forget about the land, now we are facing displacement threat as forest department is planting trees on the small patch of land we have built our huts,” he added. “We sought help from leaders of various parties. Congress leader said the UPA government gave the FRA and BSP leaders said the decision to plant trees by forest department across India has been taken by the Centre. SP and BJP leaders blame Congress and BSP. I don’t know whom to believe,” said a dejected Lal. The story of Lal is similar to over 55,000 forest dwellers in Sonbhadra whose claims under the FRA have been rejected.

As per the FRA, a family belonging to scheduled tribe living in forest till December 2005 will be entitled to maximum four hectares of land. However, the law demands 75 years’ residential proof from other communities dependent on the forest for similar benefit. Sonbhadra was the first district where FRA was implemented in UP by the BSP government in December 2009.

So far, over 65,000 claims have been filed but titles have been given to around 10,500 dwellers only and that too who hail from the scheduled tribe category. If entire state is taken into account, out of total 92,419 claims filed till December last year, 13,921 have been accepted while rest 72,797 have been rejected. Of total titles distributed, 791 are community rights and 13,130 are individual rights. The total land distributed under the FRA is over 13,084 hectare. However, what forest dwellers have got in abundance here is criminal cases lodged by police and forest department during the course of agitations to get their rights.

“We have been slapped with criminal cases for encroachment, cutting trees and obstructing official work. For one offence, cases have been lodged under the forest law as well as the Indian Penal Code,” said Lal, who has 41 cases against him. Rajendra of Kurwa village, who has 10 criminals cases in his name, said the Mayawati government had announced in October 2010 that all criminal cases against forest dwellers will be withdrawn but nothing substantial has been done.

“Officials asked us to plead guilty and they will be dispose of the case by slapping a small fine. But pleading guilty would mean a criminal history. Only cases under forest laws will be disposed but those under Indian Penal Code will continue. So what’s the use of the exercise,” he added. Majority of these forest dwellers live in abject poverty. Their villages have no schools, health centre, drainage system and roads.

However, the condition of the tribals who have got land under the FRA is slightly better. Ram Bali of Baiga scheduled tribe in Basauli village of Sonbhadra got 0.5 hecatare land. “Now at least we have a roof over and a small land for agriculture but the criminal cases are still pending against us,” Said Bali. Besides Sonbhadra, around 3,500 land titles have also been distributed in other districts including Lakhimpur Kheri, Gonda, Saharanpur, Gorakhpur and Chitrakoot. “

The objective of the FRA was to undo the historical injustice done to forest dwellers. UP government took some steps but the nexus of forest personnel, police, bureaucrat and mafia involved in illegal tree cutting, mining and exploitation of forest resources created hurdles,” said Rajnish, an activist working for Tharu tribe. Tharu tribe living in and around Dudhwa national park in Lakhimpur Kheri has been a major beneficiary of the FRA. In fact, Surma is the first forest village in the country, situated in a wildlife national park, to have got the status of revenue village. Out of 340 families in the village, 289 have got land titles. Around 46 tribal villages along the park have got status of Ambedkar villages. “Money was sactioned for construction of 86 houses under the Mahamaya housing scheme and concrete roads are being laid. Besides, two primary schools and a high school have also been sanctioned for the tribal area around the national park,” said Ram Chandra Rana, a Tharu tribal leader. However, in Gonda, out of five Taungya villages, land titles have been distributed in only one. Taungya is a community comprising dalits and backward bonded labourers who regenerated forests in UP during the British period.

ON HIGH PEDESTAL: Chief minister Mayawati’s poster pasted along with goddess Lakshmi

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Statement By James Anaya,

Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples

66th session of the General Assembly

Third Committee

17 October 2011

New York

Mr. Chairperson,

Distinguished delegates,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my honor to once again present a report to the Third Committee of the General Assembly. I would like to begin by expressing my gratitude to the many indigenous peoples, Governments, United Nations bodies, non-governmental organizations and others for the cooperation and support they have provided me in my work as Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.

Since I started my work as Special Rapporteur in May 2008, I have undertaken a range of activities to monitor the situation of indigenous peoples worldwide and to promote steps to improve their conditions. This year, my written report to the General Assembly describes the work I have carried out during the first three years of my mandate as Special Rapporteur. Included is an overview of the thematic issues that I have examined during this time.

Work areas

Mr. Chairperson,

As I note in my written report, my activities fall into four interrelated areas: these are promotion of good practices; reporting on country situations; examination of cases of alleged human rights violations; and thematic studies.

With respect to the promotion of good practices, at the request of indigenous peoples, Governments and international institutions, I have worked to advance legal, administrative and programmatic reforms at the domestic and international levels in the area of indigenous rights. I have engaged in this work on an ongoing basis, and have travelled to several countries to assist indigenous peoples and Governments in this regard. For example, I travelled to Ecuador to offer input on a law being developed to coordinate the state and indigenous justice systems. Also, I recently visited Suriname and provided orientation on the measures needed to secure the land and resource rights of indigenous and tribal peoples in the country, in light of binding decisions by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Regarding my work reporting on the situation of indigenous peoples in specific countries, since the start of my mandate in May 2008, I have visited and issued reports on Brazil, Nepal, Botswana, Australia, the Russian Federation, the Sápmi region (that is, the traditional territory of the Sami indigenous people) of Norway, Sweden and Finland, the Republic of Congo, and New Caledonia. I have also conducted follow-up visits to Chile, Colombia and New Zealand to evaluate the implementation of recommendations made by my predecessor. Future confirmed visits include Argentina in November 2011 and the United States in 2012.

Additionally, on a daily basis I receive allegations of violations of the rights of indigenous peoples in specific cases and often, in response, communicate my concerns about the allegations to the Governments concerned. In some cases, I have visited the countries involved and issued reports with observations and recommendations. I have issued in depth reports, for example, on the situation of indigenous peoples affected by mining projects in Guatemala, on hydroelectric projects in Costa Rica and Panama; and on the circumstances surrounding the violent conflict in Bagua, Peru between police and indigenous people who were protesting natural resource extraction laws and policies in that country.

Finally, with respect to thematic issues, I have focused on issues that are of common concern to indigenous peoples across the globe and that arise in all aspects of my work. In this connection, my reports to the Human Rights Council have examined the significance of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the duty of States to consult with indigenous peoples and the responsibility of corporations to respect human rights when engaging in activities that affect indigenous peoples.

My report on the duty to consult explains this duty’s normative grounding in United Nations and regional human rights instruments. I also address the circumstances in which it is necessary to obtain the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples prior to moving forward with an initiative, and measures that States can take to build confidence and trust in consultation procedures.

My report on corporate responsibility discusses the due diligence that corporations must exercise when engaging or planning activities that affect indigenous peoples. This includes: identifying whether and how indigenous peoples may be affected; respecting indigenous peoples rights to land, territories and natural resources; carrying out impact studies; and establishing mitigations measures and benefit-sharing.

Building on this previous thematic work, this year I devoted part of my annual report to the Human Rights Council to providing preliminary observations on the issue of extractive industries operating in or near indigenous peoples’ territories.

Mr. Chairperson,

Extractive industries

I have observed throughout my work that the issue of extractive industries is a major and immediate concern of indigenous peoples all over the world. In numerous country-specific and special reports, and in my review of particular cases, I have examined various situations in which extractive industry activities generate effects that infringe upon indigenous peoples’ rights.

I have observed the negative, even catastrophic, impact of extractive industries on the social, cultural and economic rights of indigenous peoples. I have seen examples of negligent projects implemented in indigenous territories without proper guarantees and without the involvement of the peoples concerned. I have also examined in my work several cases in which disputes related to extractive industries have escalated and erupted into violence. I have seen that, in many areas, there is an increasing polarization and radicalization of positions about extractive activities.

In my view, a lack of common understanding about key issues related to extractive industries and about applicable standards, among all actors concerned, is a major barrier to the effective protection and realization of indigenous peoples’ rights in this context. Additionally, I have observed significant legal and policy gaps and lack of coherence in standards related to extractive industries in countries across all regions.

My work over the first term of my mandate has demonstrated to me that there is need for change in the current state of affairs if indigenous rights standards are to have a meaningful effect on State and corporate policies and action as they relate to indigenous peoples. An initial step towards such change would be the establishment of a common understanding among indigenous peoples, governmental actors, businesses enterprises, and others. Without such understanding, the application of indigenous rights standards will continue to be contested or ignored, and indigenous peoples will continue to be vulnerable to serious abuses of their individual and collective human rights.

Future work

Thus, I have determined that the issue of extractive industries will be a major focus of my work through the remainder of my mandate.

Towards this end, over the next approximately two and a half years, I will endeavor to hold a series of expert meetings and consultations with indigenous peoples, States, and business enterprises, in regions throughout the world. In addition to this, I intend to launch an online consultation forum organized around specific questions or issues related to extractive industries. Through this forum, indigenous peoples and others will have the opportunity to submit information on their experiences with extractive industries, as well as to respond to specific questions.

I will listen carefully and draw extensively on views and experiences that all stakeholders share with me through this process. In addition, I will gather and analyze empirical information on specific examples of natural resource extraction activities affecting indigenous peoples during my ongoing work examining cases of alleged human rights violations and in carrying out country visits.

It is important to note that, while I will focus on the cross cutting thematic issue of extractive industries during the remainder of my mandate, I will also continue to consider as appropriate the broad range of issues that affect indigenous peoples and monitor States’ compliance with their international human rights obligations, through my four work areas described above.

Mr. Chairman,

I would like to conclude by expressing my gratitude for this opportunity to address the Third Committee of the General Assembly. Although I am encouraged by positive developments in many places, I remain concerned about the reality of ongoing struggles and violations of indigenous peoples’ rights throughout the world.

Through my work, I hope to help achieve the future envisioned by the General Assembly when it adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007, a future in which indigenous peoples’ distinct identities and cultures are fully valued, and a future in which they have the opportunity to control their own destinies, under conditions of equality, within the broader societies in which they live.

I thank you Mr. Chairperson, and all those present, for your kind attention. I look forward to our interactive dialogue.

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Sixty-sixth General Assembly

Third Committee

19th & 20th Meetings (AM & PM)

Special Rapporteur Highlights ‘Negative, Even Catastrophic’ Impact of Extractive

Industries on Rights of Indigenous Peoples, in Third Committee Statement

James Anaya Says Issue Will Be Major Focus of Work during New Mandate;

Hopes to Facilitate ‘Common Understanding’ about Key Issues, Applicable Standards

Underscoring the “negative, even catastrophic impact” of extractive industries on the social, cultural and political rights of indigenous peoples, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today that the issue would be a major focus during his second mandated term which runs until May 2014.

“The issue of extractive industries is a major and immediate concern of indigenous peoples all over the world,” James Anaya said, as the Committee began its annual discussion on indigenous issues and the Second International Decade of the World’s indigenous People.  Mr. Anaya was first appointed Special Rapporteur in 2008 and was appointed to a second three-year term this past May.

He said negligent projects had been implemented in indigenous territories without proper guarantees and without the involvement of the people concerned.  Consequently, disputes related to extractive industries had sometimes escalated into violence, and there was an increasing polarization and radicalization of positions about those industries.

Against that backdrop, the absence of a common understanding about key issues and applicable standards among all actors concerned formed a major barrier to the effective protection and realization of indigenous peoples’ rights, he said.  Significant legal and policy gaps, as well as a lack of coherence in standards related to those industries in all countries and regions, contributed to the situation.

For indigenous rights to have a meaningful effect on States and corporate policies and actions related to indigenous peoples, a common understanding among indigenous peoples, Government actors, business enterprise and others was required, and he planned to hold a series of expert meetings and consultations.  He would also launch an online consultation forum organized around specific questions and issues, and would gather and analyze empirical information on specific examples of natural resource extraction activities affecting indigenous peoples.

At the same time, he assured States that he would continue to consider the broad range of issues that affected indigenous peoples and to monitor States’ compliance with their international human rights obligations by promoting good practices, reporting on country situations, examining cases of alleged human rights violations and presenting thematic studies.

During a question-and-answer session following his initial presentation, Mr. Anaya cautioned that indigenous peoples should not be confronted with decisions or proposals that were already highly developed during consultations with Governments or corporations on activities and projects affecting them.  Rather, they should be involved at the very earliest design stage of such any initiative or project, particularly to overcome a legacy of mistrust and ill treatment.

He also suggested that participation mechanisms for indigenous peoples within the United Nations system were inadequate, because they were often built around existing mechanisms for non-State members.  Borrowing the credentials of non-governmental organizations, or forming non-governmental organizations just to participate in relevant United Nations meetings created obstacles for many indigenous peoples, who had their own authority structures.  Their leaders were not simply the heads of non-governmental organizations, but governmental authorities, and sufficient mechanisms must be developed to allow them to participate as such.

Earlier, Daniela Bas, Director, Division for Social Policy and Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, had underlined the need to make the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples — which now had universal support — a reality.  “Let us not forget that the majority of the world’s indigenous peoples continue to live in deplorable conditions, with shorter lifespans and higher rates of infant and maternal mortality,” she said.

She said the Secretary-General’s midterm assessment of the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples 2005-2015 demonstrated that alarming gaps still existed in implementing the international human rights instruments, guidelines and policies, and it was time to “move beyond rhetoric” to secure the rights of indigenous peoples around the world and improve their lives.

A number of delegations during today’s debate voiced support for the Special Rapporteur’s stronger focus on extractive industries, with Suriname’s representative acknowledging the issue’s complexities.  “We are aware that a delicate balance has to be found between, on the one hand, the opportunities these industries provide for sustainable development of the country as a whole, and guaranteeing that the rights of the indigenous peoples are respected, on the other hand,” he said.

Guatemala’s representative said it was clear that there was inadequate participation by indigenous peoples in both designing and benefiting from a host of projects, including those by extractive industries.  The United States delegate invited Member States to review actions under her Government’s National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a federal process that included all groups.

Throughout the day, delegations highlighted the potential of the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples to open a new phase in the promotion and protection of their rights.  Many stressed the need for indigenous participation before and during the meeting.  In that vein, the Mexican delegation stressed that the Conference’s success would depend in large part on the ample and inclusive participation of all involved actors.

Also today, the Committee concluded its discussion on the promotion and protection of children’s rights.  Participating in that debate were the Observer of Palestine, and the Observer of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, as well as representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, International Organization for Migration, Inter-Parliamentary Union, and the International Labour Organization.

Also participating in today’s debate on indigenous rights were delegates from Belize (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), European Union, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Guyana, Australia, Russian Federation, Japan, Cuba, Sweden, Turkey, Peru, Bolivia, New Zealand, Congo, Malaysia, Brazil, Nepal and Ecuador.

Speakers from the International Organization for Migration, Inter-Parliamentary Union, Food and Agricultural Organization, International Labour Organization United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and World Intellectual Property Organization also commented.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 18 October, to begin its discussion on the implementation of human rights instruments and comprehensive implementation of follow-up to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to conclude its discussion on the promotion and protection of children’s rights and begin its consideration of the rights of indigenous peoples.  (For more information, see Press Release GA/SHC/4010.)

It had before it a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report of the Special Rapporteur on rights of indigenous peoples (document A/66/288).  The report of the Special Rapporteur provides an overview of his activities during the first three-year term of his mandate.  He was originally appointed in May 2008, and his mandate was renewed for a second three-year term effective 1 May 2011.  It describes his efforts to coordinate with global and regional mechanisms concerned with indigenous issues and outlines the work undertaken within four interrelated spheres of activity:  promoting good practices, country reports, cases of alleged human rights violations and thematic studies.

The report includes summaries of the thematic studies that the Special Rapporteur has included in his annual reports to the Human Rights Council.  These include studies on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; the duty of States to consult with, and obtain the consent of, indigenous peoples before adopting measures that affect them; the responsibility of corporations to respect the rights of indigenous peoples; and, building on these themes, issues related to extractive industries operating in, or near, indigenous peoples’ traditional territories.

Statements on Children’s Rights

YOUSEF N. ZEIDAN, Permanent Observer of Palestine, said there had been little progress, if any, towards achieving children’s rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, where Palestinian children continued to suffer from the occupation’s impact.  In addition to killing those children, the occupying forces had also illegally imprisoned and detained hundreds of children, seized and photographed them in a “mapping exercise”, and targeted and attacked homes, schools, hospitals and places of worship.  In the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, home demolitions and evictions continued to render Palestinian children homeless.  Roads leading to schools continued to be destroyed, while schools were also being given demolition orders.  Children were repeatedly traumatized, never knowing when or if their home or school would be next.

Palestinian children living in the occupied Gaza Strip suffered from the same hardships, but they also had to endure the harsh and cruel ramifications of Israel’s illegal blockade, he said.  Schools that were callously destroyed in 2008-2009 remained in rubble, while the international community’s reconstruction efforts were intentionally delayed by Israel.  The international community must hold the Israeli occupying forces that committed crimes against Palestinian children accountable and bring them to justice.  Moreover, reports, including by the United Nations, had documented the recent rise in lethal and violent attacks by settlers against Palestinians, including children, despite the responsibility of the occupying Power for the presence of settlers and their acts of lawlessness.  He appealed for immediate and decisive action to bring Israel, the occupying Power, into compliance with international law, including its obligation under the Fourth Geneva Convention and relevant United Nations resolutions.

JAMES E. BUCKLEY, Observer of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, said 8 million children died before they were five years old and, though that number was at an all time low, roughly four in five of those deaths came from preventable diseases and malnutrition.  “Low-cost prevention and treatment measures could save most of those children,” he said.  The Order had made efforts in that regard, with successful programmes to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV and 32 centres in various countries for support of malnourished children and their families.  The Order also provided birth and medical services in Palestine, while its international summer camps offered disabled youth an “unforgettable experience”.  Profiting from child labour, sexual exploitation and trafficking were unsustainable and unconscionable practices — children must be allowed to fully engage in society to reach their fullest potential, he said.

ROBERT YOUNG of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that armed conflict and other situations of violence were leading causes of disability in children.  In Afghanistan alone, it was estimated that a million children had been disabled as a result of the conflict, he said, adding that landmines, cluster bombs, unexploded ordnance and improvised explosive devices continued to affect people long after a war had ended.  Further, the indirect effects of armed conflict had a serious impact on children, seriously limiting their access to health care.  The closures of urban and rural clinics due to violence led to increased risks of medical complications.  Various simple diseases that had been left untreated were now causing permanent disabilities and unvaccinated children were sustaining permanent disabilities that could have been easily prevented.  The number of children born with a disability was also higher in situations of conflict, because women had less access to proper health and decent living conditions during pregnancy and delivery.  Attacks on health-care personnel and facilities, as well as armed vehicles, severely limited access to health care for civilians who were injured.

To minimize cases where children became disabled in times of conflict, it was crucial to increase respect for existing rules, he said.  ICRC provided assistance directly or through existing structures.  It provided support for the delivery of emergency care for war-wounded persons, providing such support in many mine- and weapon-contaminated areas.  It also supported a physical rehabilitation programme and a special fund for the disabled.  Rehabilitation was crucial, and measures to restore mobility were an essential part of fully integrating people with disabilities into society.  He cited, in that respect, the case of a five-year-old amputee, who would require rehabilitation services throughout his or her life.  In conflict situations, it would be “virtually impossible” to receive those services, resulting in that child’s limited mobility and reduced chances of going to school.  Active participation in his or her society would also be greatly diminished.

MICHELE KLEIN SOLOMON of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said she was troubled by the continued sale of, and trafficking in, children.  As the nature of those crimes was becoming increasingly international through information technologies, tourism and migration, the IOM sought to reverse the trend.  Effective international cooperation between States would complement efforts by international organizations and civil society.

Turning to the situation of unaccompanied children, she said children went unaccompanied for a variety of reasons, including abandonment or their choice to leave home in search of family members abroad or educational and economic opportunities.  The rights of migrant children had to be protected, regardless of their legal status in the country of destination and irrespective of whether they had actively participated in the decision to migrate.   The Convention on the Rights of the Child provided a holistic approach for the protection of children; States now needed to provide for equally holistic implementation.

Expressing alarm by how children continued to be affected by armed conflicts and humanitarian crises, she called for the safe return of children who had fled conflicts.  Effective cross-border coordination would play a crucial role in that regard.  Because ensuring the protection of children who had either been trafficked or had migrated across borders was a complex challenge, all relevant legal and practical gaps must be closed.

ALESSANDRO MOTTER of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) said that, in compliance with the norms reinforced by the Convention and United Nations resolutions, constitutions of many countries contained provisions on health and health care.  The challenge now was to ensure that women and children were aware of those rights, legal barriers were removed and resources were allocated. “All of this speaks directly to the role of parliaments,” she said, which represented citizens, shaped policies, made laws and approved budgets.  It was gratifying to see that more parliaments were overseeing Government action to meet commitments on women’s and children’s access to health as a right.  For its part, IPU was mobilizing support for the Global Strategy on Women’s and Children’s Health.  It had launched a parliamentary dialogue on that topic that would produce a resolution next year, containing measures for parliaments to take to improve women’s and children’s health.

KEVIN CASSIDY of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Office for the United Nations, said the road map adopted at The Hague Global Child Labour Conference in 2010 called on Governments to assess the impact of policies on the worst forms of child labour and establish monitoring mechanisms.  “Child labour degrades the human capital of a nation,” he said.  Eliminating its practice could yield high social and economic returns.  ILO’s updated Global Plan of Action called for universal ratification of ILO Conventions and stressed the need for “a special emphasis on Africa”, where challenges to tackling child labour had been compounded by armed conflict and natural disaster.  More attention was also being paid to combating child trafficking in emergencies, through increasing knowledge of trafficking in the context of warfare.  Also, ILO’s report on children in hazardous work urged that more be done to ensure all children remain in education at least until the minimum age of employment.

Indigenous Rights:  Introductory Statement

DANIELA BAS, Director, Division for Social Policy and Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, noting that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples now had universal support, said it was now crucial to make the Declaration a reality, particularly given the fact that many indigenous peoples had been displaced and uprooted from their lands.  Their natural resources were under threat, many of their languages were dying out, and often their very survival was in question.  “Let us not forget that the majority of the world’s indigenous peoples continue to live in deplorable conditions, with shorter lifespans and higher rates of infant and maternal mortality,” she said.

Against that backdrop, she said the Secretary-General’s midterm assessment of the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples 2005-2015 demonstrated that alarming gaps still existed in implementing the international human rights instruments, guidelines and policies and there was a long way to go in securing the rights of indigenous peoples around the world and in substantially improving their lives.

She thanked the States and United Nations agencies that had generously contributed to the Trust Fund on Indigenous Issues, stressing that the Fund had  helped indigenous peoples redefine development from a vision of equity and in a culturally appropriate way  –or, development with identity. As in previous years, requests for support had been overwhelming and far beyond what could be provided, and she appealed to Member States to continue their generous contributions to help improve the lives of indigenous peoples.

Further noting the General Assembly’s decision to organize a high-level plenary meeting in 2014 to be known as the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, she said its objective would be to share perspectives and best practices on the realization of the rights of indigenous peoples, including the implementation of the Declaration.  That would, she stressed, advance the objectives of the United Nations towards peace and security, promote dispute resolution and achieve equality and justice for all.  She would work to secure a genuine partnership among indigenous peoples and States to make the World Conference a success.

She went on to say that the World Conference would prove an excellent opportunity to secure inclusive and equitable sustainable development goals that also included the perspective of indigenous peoples.  Next year’s United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development ( Rio+20) would also offer a chance to learn from the experiences and integrated knowledge systems of indigenous peoples.

Underlining the Declaration as a living document, she said it was time to move beyond the rhetoric.  “We have to make sure that all these tools and instruments inspire us to implement in practice the policies and programmes that recognize and protect indigenous peoples’ rights and transform their visions and aspirations into reality,” she concluded.

Presentation by the Special Rapporteur

JAMES ANAYA, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, noting that he took up his mandate in May 2008, said his activities fell into four interrelated areas:  the promotion of good practices, reporting on country situations, examination of cases of alleged human rights violations and thematic studies.

Outlining his work to advance legal, administrative and programmatic reforms at the domestic and international levels in the area of indigenous rights, he said that, among others, he had travelled to Ecuador to offer input on a law being developed to coordinate the State and indigenous justice systems.  Further, he had provided orientation on measures needed to secure the land and resource rights of indigenous and tribal peoples in Suriname owing to relevant binding decisions by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

He had also issued reports on the situation of indigenous peoples in Brazil, Nepal, Botswana, Australia, the Russian Federation, Republic of Congo and New Caledonia, as well as the Sápmi region of Norway, Sweden and Finland.  He said he had made follow-up visits to evaluate the implementation of his predecessor’s recommendations in Chile, Colombia and New Zealand, while his future confirmed visits included Argentina in 2011 and the United States in 2012.

In response to the allegations of specific violations of indigenous rights that he received on a daily basis, he said he often communicated with the Governments concerned.  In some cases, he visited the countries involved and subsequently issued observations and recommendations.  In some of those cases, he had issued in-depth reports on, for example, the situation of indigenous peoples affected by mining projects in Guatemala, on hydroelectric projects in Costa Rica and Panama and on the violent conflict in Bagua, Peru, between police and indigenous peoples protesting natural resource extraction laws and policies.

His thematic studies had focused on issues that were of common concern to indigenous peoples across the globe, he said.  One report, on the duty to consult, explained that duty’s normative grounding in United Nations and regional human rights instruments, while addressing the circumstances in which obtaining free, prior and informed consent was required before an initiative could proceed.  That report further touched on the measures that States could take to build confidence and trust in consultation processes.  Meanwhile, another report on corporate responsibility discussed the contours of the due diligence companies must exercise when engaging or planning activities affecting indigenous peoples.

He noted that part of his annual report to the Human Rights Council was devoted to preliminary observations regarding extractive industries operating in, or near, the territories of indigenous peoples.  “The issue of extractive industries is a major and immediate concern of indigenous peoples all over the world,” he said, testifying that he had observed the “negative, even catastrophic impact” of those industries on the social, cultural and polit

Red dot becomes ‘oldest cave art’

Jonathan Amos

A look inside the Altamira Cave in northern Spain

Red dots, hand stencils and animal figures represent the oldest examples yet found of cave art in Europe.

The symbols on the walls at 11 Spanish locations, including the World Heritage sites of Altamira, El Castillo and Tito Bustillo have long been recognised for their antiquity.

But researchers have now used refined dating techniques to get a more accurate determination of their ages.

One motif – a faint red dot – is said to be more than 40,000 years old.

“In Cantabria, [in] El Castillo, we find hand stencils that are formed by blowing paint against the hands pressed against the wall of a cave,” explained Dr Alistair Pike from Bristol University, UK, and the lead author on a scholarly paper published in the journal Science.

“We find one of these to date older than 37,300 years on ‘The Panel of Hands’, and very nearby there is a red disc made by a very similar technique that dates to older than 40,800 years.

“This now currently is Europe’s oldest dated art by at least 4,000 years,” he told reporters. It is arguably also the oldest reliably dated cave art anywhere in the world.

The team arrived at the ages by examining the calcium carbonate (calcite) crusts that had formed on top of the paintings.

Bristol researchers removing samples for dating from Tito Bustillo Cave, Spain

Bristol researchers removing samples for dating from Tito Bustillo Cave

This material builds up in the exact same way that stalagmites and stalactites form in a cave.

In the process, the calcite incorporates small numbers of naturally occurring radioactive uranium atoms. These atoms decay into thorium at a very precise rate through the ages, and the ratio of the two different elements in any sample can therefore be used as a kind of clock to time the moment when the calcite crust first formed.

Uranium-thorium dating has been around for decades, but the technique has now been so refined that only a tiny sample is required to get a good result.

This enabled the team to take very thin films of deposits from just above the paint pigments; and because the films were on top, the dates they gave were minimum ages – that is, the paintings had to be at least as old as the calcite deposits, and very probably quite a bit older.

The oldest dates coincide with the first known immigration into Europe of modern humans (Homo sapiens). Before about 41,000 years ago, it is their evolutionary cousins, the Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis), who dominate the continent.

Dr Pike’s and colleagues’ work therefore raises some intriguing questions about who might have authored the markings.

If anatomically modern humans were responsible then it means they engaged in the activity almost immediately on their arrival in Europe.

If Neanderthals were the artisans, it adds another layer to our understanding of their capabilities and sophistication.

Hand stencils

The Panel of Hands: Produced by blowing paint over a hand pressed against the wall

The great antiquity of the paintings leads co-author Joao Zilhao, a research professor at ICREA, University of Barcelona, to think the Neanderthals produced the motifs. Finding even older paintings than the red dot at El Castillo might confirm that “gut feeling”, he said.

“There is a strong chance that these results imply Neanderthal authorship,” Prof Zilhao explained.

“But I will not say we have proven it because we haven’t, and it cannot be proven at this time.

“What we have to do now is go back, sample more and find out whether we can indeed get dates older than 42, 43, 44,000.

“There is already a sampling programme going on. We have samples from more sites in Spain, from sites in Portugal and from other caves in Western Europe and so eventually we will be able to sort it out.”

Tracing the origins of abstract throught and behaviours, and the rate at which they developed, are critical to understanding the human story.

The use of symbolism – the ability to let one thing represent another in the mind – is one of those traits that set our animal species apart from all others.

It is what underpins artistic endeavour and also the use of language.

Red discsThe El Castillo Cave has numerous red discs on its walls. One was dated to 40,800 years ago

Jonathan.Amos-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk and follow me on Twitter

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