Supporting Tribal Rights – Hamara Haq

Hamara Haq, literally ‘our rights’, helps local communities in Chhattisgarh, India, to work with government authorities, building capacity to advocate for their rights and develop their social, financial and political identity.

Tribal dancers, India

India's 'tribal belt'

The State of Chhattisgarh, located in Central India, forms part of what is often referred to in India as India's ‘tribal belt’.

Chhattisgarh is home to over 7.8 million people who associate themselves as part of a ‘Scheduled Tribe’, a collective term representing 645 distinct tribes. Scheduled Tribes have been a marginalised and disadvantaged people group in India.  Characterised by geographic isolation, they have a richness of traditional cultural practices and tend to shy away from contact with the broader community. Many of these groups are not aware of the rights and entitlements available to them, including some of the Indian government’s flagship social security schemes..

Our partner, Caritas India, explains:

"Tribal peoples in this state are residing over the vast mineral resources that today’s India needs for its economic growth and industrialisation. This is a great opportunity for the country, but also poses a threat of displacement to the tribal population. Since 1990, hundreds of thousands of tribal people have been displaced without proper rehabilitation.

To empower and promote the social, economic, cultural and political way of life of the Scheduled Tribes, the Indian Government enacted a landmark law named PESA – the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996. This Act enables the tribal people to govern their natural resources by themselves through active participation in village mandatory decision making forums called Gram Sabha, literally 'village meeting'."

How the program works

Hamara Haq is designed to break the culture of silence among tribal communities, helping them organise themselves so that the PESA Act is implemented effectively and efficiently. The project aims to work collaboratively with tribal leaders and local governments to ensure that tribes have a voice in their own development. Under the program, local leaders receive professional training in policy, law and citizen rights. Participants also learn valuable advocacy skills to help them more effectively represent their community’s opinions and realise the entitlements that are available to them.

This program reflects a new direction for our work in India. It builds on lessons learnt from our work in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand over the last decade.  Where previously we worked with individual villages in enhancing natural resource management, this new program works at a more regional level to support a stronger, more coordinated voice for Scheduled Tribes in the State.

Early progress

Although this is a relatively new program, it has already brought tangible benefits to many people in Chhattisgarh. ‘Legal cells’ created under the program in 2013 have been an early success of Harama Haq. In these cells, local people receive para-legal training from qualified lawyers, gaining skills on a variety of issues such as managing land conflicts and accessing government social security schemes.

As at 2015, five cells are operating, servicing more than 500 villages. The cells are proving popular and are expanding their reach, with people coming from neighbouring areas to gain legal advice. The program has motivated many tribal people to break their silence and contest local village elections. This political empowerment is the goal of the PESA Act, and shows the Hamara Haq is having a concrete impact. 

Program details

  • Issues: Human rights; Indigenous rights; community development
  • Partner Agency: Caritas India and 5 local partners
  • Funding in 2014/15 financial year: $210,000
  • Geographic location: Chhattisgarh State
  • When established: 2013
  • This program is supported by Australian Aid.