In a bid to strengthen gram sabhas across the country, a paper titled ‘Power To People, Power To Gram Sabha’ has been published by Legal Resource Centre, Delhi, written by Sanghamitra Dubey and Puja. A sample Gram Sabha Resolution has been prepared which can be used as a guide for them to pass resolutions to protect their forest rights. This has been done in the light of several incidents of forest department officials impinging upon the forest rights of forest dwelling communities especially during the lockdown imposed owing to Covid-19 pandemic.
Legal Resource Centre involves academic and action-oriented legal research and works for strengthening legal knowledge, capacities and strategies for rights of adivasis in India.
The sample resolutions can be altered in different contexts and issues faced by different communities, and has been prepared for Scheduled Areas. In case of non-Scheduled areas, the reference to Fifth Schedule of the Constitution can be removed. Additionally, they have also prepared a Sample covering letter which can also be altered accordingly.
The paper also provides an exhaustive list of legal provisions that can be used depending upon the circumstances. These include the Forest rights Act, 2006 including provisions related to recognition and vesting of rights as well as penal provisions; and relevant provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, and the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act
Further, it also provides some additional advice that may come handy in passing Gram Sabha Resolutions while addressing Forest Rights violations. This includes advice on whom to address the resolutions to, how to maintain a record of the same, what should be the coram of the meeting and so on.
In the past few months there have been several isolated incidents of forest rights violations and harassment of forest dwelling communities all across India. 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. 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.
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.
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.
Around mid-July, adivasis of Kaimur district of Bihar also protested against the oppression of forest officials in several villages of the Adhaora block.
The growing incidents of harassment of Adivasis have become a matter of concern, and the Gram Sabha Resolution can assist in the quest for justice.
The complete document may be read here.
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