As the hearing on 24th of July looms close, Teesta Setalvad talks to senior advocate Shomona Khanna about it’s implications and whether the courts, lawyers and governments understand the Forest Rights Act of 2006. Ms Shomona’s main area of focus and work is the rights of indigenous peoples, tribals and forest dwellers, over their traditional lands and resources and the advancement of constitutional principles and jurisprudence around these rights.
Ms Shomona states that the FRA has emerged out of several decades of peoples movements, tribal rights movements, Adivasi movements and many other movements. It also recognises what is now called international best practice which is the symbiotic and integrated relationship between indigenous peoples and the forest, and across the world we are moving towards the recognition of the fact that one cannot conserve the environment or preserve it’s biodiversity without the indigenous peoples active collaboration. She also goes on to say that, unfortunately there is a tendency in India to move in the opposite direction and the existing colonial and post colonial laws relating to the forest and the environment are focused on treating indigenous communities as interlopers or encroachers which is a completely unscientific approach.