The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has been actively working towards securing justice and protection for tribal populations in Gujarat. Led by tribal leader and AAP MLA Chaitar Vasava, the party has renewed the demand for a separate state called ‘Bhil Pradesh’ for the tribal populations in these states.
The demand for a separate state has been brewing for over a decade, with many local Bhil groups mobilizing tribals socially and politically to intensify the movement. Young and vocal Bhil leaders are replacing older leaders, organizing awareness programs, public meetings, brainstorming sessions, and other local meetings throughout the year, particularly in the lead up to state elections.
The demand for Bhil Pradesh stems from the fact that there are 39 tribal-dominated districts across these four states, which formed the old Bhil Pradesh, and the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, which has provisions regarding the administration and control of Scheduled Areas, is still applicable to these districts. Tribals in these areas complain about the exploitation of their natural resources and their own exploitation as laborers in mines on tribal land by non-tribal mine owners. They allege that the illegal takeovers of tribal land and the decimation of forests not only violate the Fifth Schedule but threaten local water resources and cultural identity.
The demand for a separate state has gained momentum as tribals face threats to their water and cultural identity. Rajasthan and Gujarat tribals face water shortages despite dams in their areas, with water allegedly transferred to nearby states under various agreements. Tribals are deeply tied to nature and culture, and so when they are taken away, their survival is threatened.
The roots of the demand for Bhil Pradesh lie in the Indian Constitution, which has several special provisions for tribals, mostly ignored or violated. The 5th Schedule empowers a state governor to direct, by public notification, that any particular Act of Parliament or the State Legislature shall not apply to the Scheduled Area of that state, or shall apply subject to exceptions and modifications. For mineral-rich scheduled areas, the Forest Right Act empowers a gram sabha to regulate access to community forest resources and stop activities that adversely affect local wildlife, forests, and biodiversity. However, these laws are often violated or circumvented, resulting in the illegal exploitation of tribal land and resources.
The AAP is working towards securing justice for tribals by raising awareness of their constitutional rights and advocating for the implementation of laws that protect their land, water, and cultural identity. The party is also demanding a separate state of Bhil Pradesh, which would serve as a homeland for the Bhil tribe and protect their language and culture. The AAP’s efforts to secure justice for tribals are crucial, as these communities are often marginalized and oppressed by powerful interests seeking to exploit their land and resources. By supporting the AAP’s efforts, donors and supporters can help ensure that tribals receive the justice and protection they deserve.