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Uttarakhand: Committee formed to consider Van Gujjars forest rights

The committee is expected to submit its report after analysing all issues raised by the Tribe within 6 months 

Sabrangindia 05 Nov 2020

The Uttarakhand Government has decided to form a five-member committee to look into the eviction and rehabilitation problems faced by the nomadic tribe of Van Gujjars in the state, as reported by The Hindustan Times. The High Court of Uttarakhand was informed about the formation of a committee by the State on October 20, 2020.

The committee comprises Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Wildlife, Uttarakhand; the State chief wildlife warden; field director, Rajaji Tiger Reserve; a person nominated by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII); and a person nominated by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The committee is also supposed to factor in the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, a legislation that recognizes the historical abuse meted out against the tribal communities of India.

Background

A bunch of PIL’s were filed at the High Court by Arjun Kasana of Think Act Rise Foundation, Himalayan Yuva Gramin Vikas Samiti, Van Adhikar Samiti Dudhala highlighting the troubles faced by the community with respect to their forest rights and illegal eviction.

On August 17, 2020 in the matter Think Act Rise Foundation vs State of Uttarakhand and others (WP [PIL] No. 140 of 2019) and all other PIL’s clubbed together, acting Chief Justice Ravi Vijaykumar Malimath and Justice NS Dhanik had said, “On a prima facie, consideration of the contention advanced, we are of the view that the rights of the van gujjars require to be considered appropriately. Various allegations have been made by the petitioner against the State and their agencies with regard to enrichment and various other acts of commission and omission committed by the State. We are of the view that the legal rights of the van gujjars as available in law requires to be protected. They require not only the protection of the law, but the benefit of the law also.”

They directed the respondent State to constitute a committee and come out with a proposal with regard to the scope of the committee, the extent to which the inquiry will be done by the committee and the period within which, a report or a solution will be offered by the committee for the entire dispute at large by September 28, 2020.

On September 28, the court further directed the State counsel to “apprise this Court as to whether the order dated 17.08.2020, by which a Committee has to be formed, has been complied with or not” and listed the case after 3 weeks. Finally, the court was informed about the panel on October 20.

Submissions made in favour of the Van Gujjars

The submissions made by Think Act Rise Foundation states that the Van Gujjars, who are forest dwelling semi-nomadic communities, have been staying in the various ranges of forests in Uttarakhand for several years and are dependent on the forest for their bonafide needs. It was further submitted that they are being forcefully evicted contrary to the provisions of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 insofar as it is applicable to the State of Uttarakhand.

SabrangIndia has also extensively reported on the plight of the Van Gujjars. They state that the written submission further mentions international conventions that speak about forest rights, such as the UN Convention concerning Indigenous and Tribal Population, the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the General Conference of International Labour Organization which spoke about protection and integration of indigenous and tribal populations into national community and the Indigenous and Tribal Population Convention, 1957. Article 12 of the 1957 Convention states that the indigenous, tribal and semi-tribal population shall not be removed without their free consent from their habitual territories except in accordance with national laws and regulations for reasons relating to national security or in interest of economic development or of the health of these populations.

Earlier in August 2018, the High Court had ordered for the eviction of the Van Gujjars from national parks, reserved forests and protected forest areas in Uttarakhand. However, the Supreme Court had stayed this order in September 2018.

CJP’s fight in defending Tribal rights

Citizens for Justice and Peace, along with All India Union of Forest Working Peoples (AIUFWP) has been actively working to protect the land and livelihood rights of Adivasis and all forest dwelling communities of India.

In July, 2020 the two organizations moved National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), National Commission for Women (NCW) and National Commission of Scheduled Tribes (NCST) against police personnel and forest officials of Rajaji National Park, Dehradun in Uttarakhand. The police and forest officials destroyed the shelter of members of Van Gujjar community and physically assaulted women and men including gendered custodial violence.

Since June 2020, CJP actively facilitated the use of technology to ensure monthly meetings with district and village activists to chalk out strategies for struggle and further mobilisation to ensure protection of rights of the forest dweller. They have also been involved in webinar trainings with AIUFWP to discuss the legal and Constitutional rights, the Adivasi freedom struggle and the filing of community forest claims for forest dwellers of Chitrakoot and Sonbhadra, Uttar Pradesh, Sunderbans, Kalahandi, Orissa, Dudhwa and Rajaji National Park regions of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, Kaimur, Bihar and Maharashtra.


Related:

Uttarakhand: Van Gujjars injured, property destroyed in clash with forest officials

U’khand HC directs state to look into forest rights claims of Van Gujjars

CJP-AIUFWP move NCW against sexual assault and abuse of Van Gujjar women

CJP-AIUFWP move NCST against atrocities on Van Gujjars

Covid-19 and Adivasi Empowerment: CJP’s unique contribution

Uttarakhand: Committee formed to consider Van Gujjars forest rights

The committee is expected to submit its report after analysing all issues raised by the Tribe within 6 months 

The Uttarakhand Government has decided to form a five-member committee to look into the eviction and rehabilitation problems faced by the nomadic tribe of Van Gujjars in the state, as reported by The Hindustan Times. The High Court of Uttarakhand was informed about the formation of a committee by the State on October 20, 2020.

The committee comprises Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Wildlife, Uttarakhand; the State chief wildlife warden; field director, Rajaji Tiger Reserve; a person nominated by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII); and a person nominated by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The committee is also supposed to factor in the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, a legislation that recognizes the historical abuse meted out against the tribal communities of India.

Background

A bunch of PIL’s were filed at the High Court by Arjun Kasana of Think Act Rise Foundation, Himalayan Yuva Gramin Vikas Samiti, Van Adhikar Samiti Dudhala highlighting the troubles faced by the community with respect to their forest rights and illegal eviction.

On August 17, 2020 in the matter Think Act Rise Foundation vs State of Uttarakhand and others (WP [PIL] No. 140 of 2019) and all other PIL’s clubbed together, acting Chief Justice Ravi Vijaykumar Malimath and Justice NS Dhanik had said, “On a prima facie, consideration of the contention advanced, we are of the view that the rights of the van gujjars require to be considered appropriately. Various allegations have been made by the petitioner against the State and their agencies with regard to enrichment and various other acts of commission and omission committed by the State. We are of the view that the legal rights of the van gujjars as available in law requires to be protected. They require not only the protection of the law, but the benefit of the law also.”

They directed the respondent State to constitute a committee and come out with a proposal with regard to the scope of the committee, the extent to which the inquiry will be done by the committee and the period within which, a report or a solution will be offered by the committee for the entire dispute at large by September 28, 2020.

On September 28, the court further directed the State counsel to “apprise this Court as to whether the order dated 17.08.2020, by which a Committee has to be formed, has been complied with or not” and listed the case after 3 weeks. Finally, the court was informed about the panel on October 20.

Submissions made in favour of the Van Gujjars

The submissions made by Think Act Rise Foundation states that the Van Gujjars, who are forest dwelling semi-nomadic communities, have been staying in the various ranges of forests in Uttarakhand for several years and are dependent on the forest for their bonafide needs. It was further submitted that they are being forcefully evicted contrary to the provisions of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 insofar as it is applicable to the State of Uttarakhand.

SabrangIndia has also extensively reported on the plight of the Van Gujjars. They state that the written submission further mentions international conventions that speak about forest rights, such as the UN Convention concerning Indigenous and Tribal Population, the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the General Conference of International Labour Organization which spoke about protection and integration of indigenous and tribal populations into national community and the Indigenous and Tribal Population Convention, 1957. Article 12 of the 1957 Convention states that the indigenous, tribal and semi-tribal population shall not be removed without their free consent from their habitual territories except in accordance with national laws and regulations for reasons relating to national security or in interest of economic development or of the health of these populations.

Earlier in August 2018, the High Court had ordered for the eviction of the Van Gujjars from national parks, reserved forests and protected forest areas in Uttarakhand. However, the Supreme Court had stayed this order in September 2018.

CJP’s fight in defending Tribal rights

Citizens for Justice and Peace, along with All India Union of Forest Working Peoples (AIUFWP) has been actively working to protect the land and livelihood rights of Adivasis and all forest dwelling communities of India.

In July, 2020 the two organizations moved National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), National Commission for Women (NCW) and National Commission of Scheduled Tribes (NCST) against police personnel and forest officials of Rajaji National Park, Dehradun in Uttarakhand. The police and forest officials destroyed the shelter of members of Van Gujjar community and physically assaulted women and men including gendered custodial violence.

Since June 2020, CJP actively facilitated the use of technology to ensure monthly meetings with district and village activists to chalk out strategies for struggle and further mobilisation to ensure protection of rights of the forest dweller. They have also been involved in webinar trainings with AIUFWP to discuss the legal and Constitutional rights, the Adivasi freedom struggle and the filing of community forest claims for forest dwellers of Chitrakoot and Sonbhadra, Uttar Pradesh, Sunderbans, Kalahandi, Orissa, Dudhwa and Rajaji National Park regions of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, Kaimur, Bihar and Maharashtra.


Related:

Uttarakhand: Van Gujjars injured, property destroyed in clash with forest officials

U’khand HC directs state to look into forest rights claims of Van Gujjars

CJP-AIUFWP move NCW against sexual assault and abuse of Van Gujjar women

CJP-AIUFWP move NCST against atrocities on Van Gujjars

Covid-19 and Adivasi Empowerment: CJP’s unique contribution

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