"When land is taken from the rich it is bought, but when it comes to the poor and adivasis (tribals) their land is grabbed. Our fight is for the poor," said Gandhi.

"When the Congress party comes to power, we will ensure that the Tribal Bill is implemented so that your land is not snatched away from you," the Congress vice-president added.

Gandhi was addressing the tribals of Bastar district in the first rally after the May 25 Maoist ambush and killings of senior Congress leaders including Vidya Charan Shukla, Nandkumar Patel and tribal leader Mahendra Karma who founded the Salwa Judum to combat Maoists.

The rally was attended by around 10,000 people, most of whom were tribals. Dominated by tribals, the Bastar region is crucial for the Congress as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had won 11 of the 12 assembly seats from there in the 2008 elections.

The Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 is a key piece of forest legislation passed on December 18, 2006. Also called the Tribal Bill, it concerns the rights of forest dwelling communities to land and other resources denied to them for decades due to colonial forest laws.


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