Adivasis hold ‘Sansad Gherao’ protest in Delhi

Hundreds of Adivasis, forest dwellers and forest working people participated in a peaceful demonstration on November 21 at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi to demand their forest rights as per provisions of the Forest Rights Act, 2006. They appealed for their rights to natural resources they call jal, jungle, zamin to be recognized by the State. The timing of the protest is significant as the FRA case comes up for hearing before the Supreme Court on November 26.
Forest rights

These protesters had come from all over the country—Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, among others—to vent their frustration with the broken administrative system surrounding the implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 that has only served to strip them of their homes and livelihood.

The Sansad Gherao

The movement was organised by Bhumi Adhikar Andolan along with other forest rights groups such as All India Kisan Sabha, All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP), All India Kisan Mahasabha, National Alliance of People’s Movements, All India Agricultural Workers Union, Jagrut Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, All India Krishak Khet Mazdoor Union, Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch, and Delhi Solidarity Group.

These groups have been supporting tribal communities in holding demonstrations and meetings at their state, district and village levels from November 17 so as to protest the violations of their people’s rights and the dilution of the Forest Rights Act in the stay period between Supreme Court hearings on the on-going matter. These actions were planned ahead of the next hearing in the case which is slated for November 26.

Ashok Chaudhary, the general secretary of AIUFWP, said, “This mobilisation is important before the hearing. The message should go to the law makers that forest dwellers will not tolerate injustice.”

The Gherao also saw the presence of two Rajya Sabha MLAs — Elamaram Kareem and K.K. Ragesh, both from the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

forest rights

The Case

In 2008, a batch of petitions were filed that challenged the constitutional validity of the Forest Rights Act, clubbed under Wild Life First v. Union of India. In relation to this case, the Apex Court had ordered the eviction of over a million forest dwellers in 16 states when their claims over the forest land they reside in were rejected by forest department officials.

The Court stayed this order after national uproar that was caused by it, and sought information on the claims process, after scores of faults were pointed out in its execution by Adivasis, civil society organisations, and even some retired forest officials.

In September, the Supreme Court admitted 19 intervention applications that had been filed before it in relation to this case by different sets of directly concerned individuals and organisations, all of these defended the constitutional validity of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006.

One such application filed by two Adivasi leaders — Sokalo Gond and Nivada Rana — was backed by the AIUFWP and CJP. Through their application, Gond and Rana are presenting the plight of the Adivasi that has been so thoroughly ignored since the Act’s inception, and also showcasing how the Act is in line with Schedules V, VI, and IX of the Indian Constitution. This application was also significant as it brought to the forefront the role of women human rights defenders and community leaders in the protection of forest rights.

forest rights

The Strife

Adivasis have complained that, despite further evictions having been put on hold until November 26, the forest department has continued to push people out by force and attempted to destroy their farms and houses.

On July 9, in the Siwal village in Burhanpur, Madhya Pradesh, the Barela Adivasi community faced an onslaught of continuous pellet gun firing by forest officials for protesting against an eviction drive. Adding insult to literal injury, 153 Barelas were then booked in a FIR filed by the Nepanagar police in Burhanpur with questionable irregularities and several missing details.

On July 17, in Umbha village of Sonbhadra, Uttar Pradesh, close to 300 men of the dominant, Gujjar community rode atop 32 tractors to indiscriminately fired guns at the residing Gond tribals, caught unawares while were farming their land.

The group was led by the village head that was trying to take possession of the Gond-owned land by means of illegal transfers. The firing led to the killing of 11 villagers, and along with injury to 21 persons.

Final arguments in the SC case are set to begin from November 26.

forest rights



Sansad Gherao in Delhi for Forests Rights

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All Intervention Applications defending FRA, 2006 admitted by SC

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