The arrest of young climate activist Disha Ravi has drawn the attention of the world towards the systemic muzzling of dissent in India. Although Disha has been arrested on charges of international conspiracy against India, many believe that the government is targeting environmental activists specifically for their stand against destructive policies. What many are, however, not aware of is that the Adivasis of India have always been at the forefront of the fight against climate change. They have been protesting against hydel projects and mining projects that severely impact the fragile ecosystem. Here is a look at three Adivasi activists who have been arrested for standing up to the system:
Kuni Sikaka belongs to the Dongria Kondh tribe and is a prolific member of the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti, an organization that fights against bauxite mining in the Niyamgiri Hills. The organization has been demanding the closure of an aluminum refinery that is being established in the ecologically sensitive hills. According to the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti, the refinery will have an adverse impact on the lives of the adivasis who live there and who worship the mountain. The organization has been working against the "land-grabbing" for close to 15 years now. For her activism, Kuni was detained in 2017 when she was only 20 years old. According to this report, she was arrested without a warrant and was paraded by police as a “Maoist”.
Arjun Samad is a young Adivasi climate activist from Jharkhand who has been protesting against uranium mining in Jharkhand. He is the General Secretary of Josh, a non-profit organization that fights for mine worker’s rights. He is being targeted by Uranium Corporation of India Limited authorities and has been arrested multiple times for his continued activism in trying to bring justice to the workers. According to this report he was put in jail on the charge of murder in 2005.
Manisha Dhinde, a young Adivasi student from Maharashtra, has been detained twice for her climate activism. Dhinde has been opposing Maharashtra Government's move to cut down parts of the forest land in Aarey to build a metro shed at the location. Dhinde is a member of the Aarey Conservation Group—a citizen’s movement to save the forest and the natural vegetation of Aarey. She along with other members of the group were detained in 2019 when she was only 20.