Tribal rights unions release charter of demands against the attack on FRA

Written by Sabrangindia | Published on: March 7, 2019

The Akhil Bharatiya Van Jan Shramjivi Union, Panchayat Sangharsh Morcha and Bhu Adhikar Abhiyan released a statement from a press club in Dehradun, Uttarakhand, opposing the displacement of tribals in an unconstitutional manner from their ancestral forest lands and condemned the condemning the SC order so-called wildlife lovers and forest officials for conspiring to oust millions of forest-dependent communities.

Tribal rights

Dehradun: On February 13, 2019, the Supreme Court decided to displace millions of forest-dependent communities from the forest area over the petition filed by Wildlife Fest, Nature Conservation Society and Tiger Research and Conservation Trust (TRACT).
 
Millions of tribal Adivasi people had filed their claims for recognition for their housing and agricultural land under the Forest Rights Act 2006, and many claims which were rejected by the authorities.
 
The Supreme Court directed the governments of 17 states to submit its report by July 12, 2019. Even though a stay order on evictions was issued, the communities are fearful for their future and as they look at a possible displacement.
 
The Centre has asked state governments to go to villages and validate the 19.5 lakh rejected forest rights claims on the ground within a fortnight.  As per statistics of the ministry, 40.5 lakh claims have been filed across states under the Act.
 
Of these, 18.5 lakh have been given land titles. An additional 2.5 lakh are in different stages of government consideration. The remaining 19.5 lakh claims have been rejected. Speaking to ET, secretary (tribal affairs) Deepak Khandekar said, “The states have to go down to the villages and check the status of 19.5 lakh. There could be duplicate rejections.”
 
This has created even more fear in the tribal regions.



 
The Akhil Bharatiya Van Jan Shramjivi Union, Panchayat Sangharsh Morcha and Bhu Adhikar Abhiyan released a statement from a press club in Dehradun, Uttarakhand, opposing the displacement of tribals in an unconstitutional manner from their ancestral forest lands and condemned the condemning the SC order so-called wildlife lovers and forest officials for conspiring to oust millions of forest-dependent communities.
 
“This verdict is a violation of the constitutional rights of millions of displaced communities and it further strengthens the historical injustice that has continued for centuries,” they said.
 
“Under the Forest Rights Act, 2006, the forest-dependent communities have been provided 13 residential and community rights, including ownership of residential and agricultural land and forest produce. In the process of ensuring that the claims of the underprivileged community are accepted, the Gram Sabhas have to overlook the formalities. The village level committee is responsible for verifying the claim. The right to investigate is given to the village level Forest Rights Committee who will send it to the sub-group level committee for recognition after the investigation. The sub-group level committee will accept the recognition on these claims and forward it to the district level committee which will recognize the claims of the claimants,” the release in Hindi said.
 
“If the District Level Committee has any objection to the attached paperwork in relation to these claims, then it can send it back to the Gram Sabha so that another process for a second claim can be completed. Subdivision or District Committee has no right to dismiss the claim but the committee can send it to the village committee with its objection for review. The right to dismiss is with the village level committee, therefore the illustrations given by the authorities to dismiss the claims are illegal. Most objections have come from the forest department, which has been against this law since the beginning and is causing obstructions due to its inherent greed. It is to be noted that the Forest Rights Act is a Civil Rights Act 2000, in which the forest department cannot interfere as it is a law, not a forest. Because of this, the organizations and political parties standing with all the tribal communities against the decision are opposing this attack on Adivasi citizens. In this case, the attitude of the Indian Government in the Supreme Court was very irresponsible because they did not cooperate in the process and neither did they appoint any competent lawyers who were present during the hearings or could give reasonable counsel. The result was a one-sided decision which clearly shows that there is a conspiracy to eradicate FRA,” they said.
 
They listed their demands: -
 
  • The Government to stop this tragedy by passing an Ordinance keeping in mind the rights provided under the Forest Rights Act. 
  • Submit a reconsideration petition against the Supreme Court judgment and firmly advocate for the provisions of the law. 
  • Direct the state governments to immediately stop the displacement being conducted by the forest department. 
  • Clear guidelines should be issued to remove the obstacles in enacting the FRA. 
  • The provisions given under FRA, 2006 should be implemented effectively.