Forest officials allegedly harass, intimidate Adivasis in Chitrakoot 

Public officials are allegedly not only forcefully evicting Adivasis from forest land, but also digging up their farm land, cutting off their access to the land, thus affecting their livelihood 

Representation Image        Courtesy: Paul Salopek

Forest officials in the Manikpur area of Chitrakoot district in Uttar Pradesh are allegedly engaging in multiple illegal methods of keeping Adivasis away from forest lands. Such incidents have unfortunately become rather common in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand where several instances of officials allegedly resorting to brutality and threats to intimidate Adivasis have recently come to light. This is also significant because the harassment and intimidation come in wake of Adivasis filing community claims to forest land in line with their rights enshrined in the Forest Rights Act 2006. 

Chitrakoot district has vast tracts of forest land that are not only home to, but also a source of livelihood for Adivasis, other forest dwelling communities and forest workers. Most of these people hail from economically weak backgrounds and depend on forest produce and forest land to sustain themselves and earn a decent living.

Instances of intimidation, harassment and abuse have been reported from Adivasis in villages like Unchdih, Gopipur, Ranipur, Nagar and Kihuniya. They are allegedly being prevented by forest officials from tilling their lands. When they object to these acts and stake their claim, they are allegedly threatened with the prospect of false cases and arrest. In Unchdih, the officials have dug up holes in Adivasi farms and have planted saplings there instead. In Gopipur, land belonging to Gram Panchayat has also been dug up. Further, in other villages such as Ranipur, Kihuniya the adivasis are being evicted from their homes and are not being allowed to cultivate land.

These unwarranted acts of forceful evictions of such vulnerable sections of society are condemnable and also amount to infringement of the basic fundamental right of right to life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution as well as violative of provisions of The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006. Further they also go against the Supreme Court order of February 2019 staying evictions of all forest dwellers from their lands in Wildlife First vs. Union of India in IA No. 35782/2019.

Despite legal provisions and court decisions being in favour of the Adivasis or forest dwellers, public officials have been defying them and are acting in complete disregard of even humanitarian concerns when the country is reeling under the Covid-19 pandemic. To bring these incidents to the cognizance of UP government, All Indian Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP), a partner organisation with Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), has written a letter dated July 8, to the Chief Minister, Ministers of Social Welfare as well as Forests, Chief Secretaries of Social Welfare and Forest Departments as well as the Deputy Collector of Chitrakoot District. AIUFWP has been working for the welfare of such forest dwelling communities by ensuring their voices are heard by the government and assisting them in staking claim to their rights which have been recognised under the Forest Rights Act, 2006.

The growing incidents of harassment of adivasis has become a matter of concern. Several instances have come to light where members of forest dwelling communities have been allegedly threatened, attacked, assaulted and abused by forest officials, often in alleged complicity with the police. 

An incident of land grabbing took place in late June in Lilasi village Muirpur of Sonbhadra district, UP where a businessman allegedly illegally usurped forest land and started construction of a house and a shop on that land. When Adivasi villagers reached the spot to talk to him, his hired goons allegedly issued death threats to Adivasis and chased them away.

Some of these incidents that go beyond humanitarian standards have been brought to the notice of the National human Rights Commission (NHRC) by CJP and AIUFWP. 

In one incident, forest officials in Uttar Pradesh allegedly attacked and even molested Adivasi women belonging to the Tharu tribe, in the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve in broad daylight, while in another incident Van Gujjars of Rajaji National Park, Dehradun were beaten up, their shelters were destroyed. They were arrested on trumped up charges and were allegedly even tortured in custody. A woman member of the community was also allegedly subjected to gendered violence in custody. Such escalated incidents of injustice against India’s indigenous people are on the rise and need urgent attention of concerned authorities.

The letter may be read here.


UP Adivasis oppose land grab attempt, get death threats
CJP moves NHRC against police and forest officials in Dehradun for assaulting tribals
Adivasi women attacked in UP, CJP-AIUFWP move NHRC
Assault on Tharu women prompts FIR but forest officials flex muscles in UP
Van Gujjar Mustafa Chopra and grandsons secure bail



Related Articles