According to a Times of India report, the Allahabad High Court, through its 2019 order, has directed for the eviction of forest dwellers of Surma Village from Dudhwa core area. The headline reads: “Evict forest dwellers of Surma village from Dudhwa core area”.
But SabrangIndia accessed the High Court order referred to in the story which clearly indicates that the Bench directed the appropriate authority to take legal action if the allegations made by the petitioner were true and the villagers were indulging in illegal activities and other welfare crimes.
The Division Bench of Justices Sudhir Agarwal and Virendra Kumar heard the petitioner who stated that the villagers have been residing in Surma “since time immemorial”, indulging in illegal activities and hence must be evicted. Admitting the submission, the Bench said, “In our view, these aspects require investigation, therefore, petitioner has to approach competent authority by giving all the relevant facts regarding his complaint and if such a complaint is made, competent authority shall look into the matter or pass a reasoned order within two months from the date of receipt of such complaint, and if it finds like some activities, which are not permissible in the law, is being carried out by the notified forest dwellers, appropriate action in accordance with law be taken”.
TOI further reported that a Lucknow based petitioner, Kaushalendra Singh had approached the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (wildlife), Field Director of Dudhwa National Park, District Magistrate of Kheri with a representation to start eviction of dwellers of village Surma from the core forest area of the National Park.
The eviction representation has been made since the forest dwellers are allegedly indulging in poaching, illegal felling of trees and other wildlife crime in the forest. According to a report in TOI, the petitioner said that under section 35 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, the forest area under North Kheri Forest Division had been notified by the Government as a critical tiger habitat in 1977.
Since the forest laws did not permit the villagers to reside in the core forest areas, the State Government had decided to relocate both villages of Mora and Surma outside the core areas. The petitioner also apprised TOI that the residents of Mora willingly shifted to the land allotted by the government but Surma village decided to approach the High Court, where they lost in 2003, and were ordered to relocate to the government designated site.
But this order was not followed by the government officials and Surma was declared a revenue village in 2006 after the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 was introduced. This led to Surma coming under the revenue department instead of the forest department so that civic facilities could reach these areas.
The petitioner told TOI, “Although FRA had subsumed provisions for constituting district and state level committees to review authenticity of rights of the forest dwellers, no such committee was set up in Kheri and the district administration continued to provide development package to Surma Village”.
In lieu of this, another writ petition was filed before the Allahabad High Court (Tiger and Terrain vs Government of India and Ors) in 2011, where the court directed the petitioner to approach the competent authority that can take appropriate action in case of illegal activities by the villagers.
The order may be read here: