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  • Indigenous women protesting against Indian forces as part of the Pathalgadi movement.

    Indigenous women protesting against Indian forces as part of the Pathalgadi movement. | Photo: Facebook / Satyadeep Satya

Published 12 December 2018

An Indigenous journalist covering an anti-government movement in India was found dead. 

Adivasi (Indigenous) journalist Amit Topno was found dead in the state of Jharkhand in India as reported by a local media outlets. Topno, who was covering an Indigenous struggle for NewsCode, went missing Saturday. His body was found Sunday by locals in Ghaghra.

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Topno, who also worked as a driver for an Uber-like rideshare service, Ola, was murdered according to his friends and relatives.

Amit was covering a movement named Pathalgadi, which rejects Indian law in Indigenous territories and does not recognize the Indian national government. Pathalgadi is a way to demarcate Adivasi territories.

“We do not recognize the Central or State governments or the President, Prime Minister or Governor. Our gram sabha (village council) is the real constitutional body. We will not allow anyone to enter our areas without our permission. We will not be exploited anymore,” the Indigenous people say of their movement.

“We are the real inhabitants of this country — jal, jungle, jameen (water, forest, and land) is ours and no one can take them away from us. And Pathalgadi (the stone plaques and signboards) are all about this.”

The movement rejecting the government’s historic exploitation in the name of “development,” gained traction in early 2018 in the heartland of the armed Maoist insurgency in India, referred to by the government as "the Left Wing Extremist (LWE) corridor." The Pathalgadi movement ignited after the police reportedly harassed a gathering of Munda tribals.

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The stone plaques often say, “Adivasis have the right over the land they live in. Adivasis are the owners of natural resources. Voter IDs and Aadhaar (government identity) cards are anti-Adivasi documents.”

The state and central governments have been suppressing the movement and undermining Indigenous autonomy. Earlier in June, a tribal protester was killed in a stampede during a raid by the police.

“It is 70 years since we got independence but our living conditions have not changed. If today the government wants to enter our area, they should come through the gram sabha (village council). We are the original inhabitants of this country, others are dikus (foreigners). We shall not observe the August 15 (Independence Day) or January 26 (Republic Day) celebrations,” said the young leaders of the Pathalgadi movement in April in a gathering, adding that they also reject elections as it is against their village council's mandate.

Topno, who has been reporting on state-violence met the same fate of the Adivasis. The Doranda Police Station said they are considering this as a case of murder.

Topno’s alleged murder has not been covered by any mainstream news organizations.

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