Skip to main content

Gujarat salt cultivators' forest rights in Little Rann of Kutch not recognized: Agariyas tell Indian People's Tribunal

By Pankti Jog*
Disappointed with the Gujarat government’s reluctance to recognize their seasonal user rights under the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006, over the Wild Ass Sactuary of the Little Rann of Kutch (LRK), agariya salt cultivators of the region have strongly represented their case before the Indian People’s Tribunal, which took place in New Delhi on December 15-16, 2016.
Held to mark 10 years of the enactment of FRA, 2006, the tribunal was organized by the Human Rights Law Network in collaboration with 50 other organizations working for the rights of tribals, nomadic and denotified tribes to hear the cases of violation or denial of land rights of communities.
The jury panel was chaired by Justice Suresh, former chief justice of the Bombay High Court.
Salt cultivators told the jury that they have been farming salt in the LRK for the last nearly six centuries, and they have historical documents to prove this. Yet, they contended, the Gujarat government never surveyed LRK to mark their presence.
While LRK was declared as Wild Ass Sanctuary in 1973, no survey was carried out see who all were residing on this 5,000 sq km wide area, they pointed out.
The agariyas recalled that soon after Independence, the Government of India issued notification saying salt farming below 10 acres would not require lease. The average land use by each salt farmer, however, is just about 4 or 5 acres, they added.
“We do not use more than 3% of the total land of the sanctuary. We also know that fishing and pastoral communities too are depend on LRK for their livelihood. Along with us, they too should get seasonal community user rights”, said an agariya representative.
An agariya representing to the tribunal
“Our demand will neither require conversion of any land into revenue land, nor will it divert any land from protected forest area. Ours is a most reasonable demand, leaving no reason for the government to deny it”, the agariya added.
Along with agariyas of LRK, 60-odd community groups from Rajasthan, Maharastra, Chhattisgadh, Orrissa, Jharkhand, Uttrakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka and West Bengal gave their testimonies before the tribunal.
Cases represented included delay in disposing of claims of community forest rights to outright denial of habitat rights to nomadic and denotified tribes, to diversion of forest land for industrial purposes underming FRA, 2006, and forceful eviction of communities by mining and hydropower projects.
Soon after the hearing, the jury came up with a note, saying, “Even after 10 years of enactment of FRA, 2006, the forest departments across the country act as 'lords of the land' and do not want to understand that they do not have the power to reject the rights of the tribal and other forest dwellers.”
“We are surprised to see that the government has failed to act on FRA, 2006. In the case of nomadic and denotified tribes, it has not even initialised the procedure of FRA, 2006, which is unacceptable”, the note regreted.
The jury of the Indian People’s Tribunal on FRA would be sharing its interim report with the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and the the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Government of India.
Poining out that this would give the government “fair chance” to respond on each of the testimonies presented to the tribunal, Justice Suresh remarked, “If the government does not say anything in justification, the Indian People's Tribunal will publish its final report with the jury’s remarks.”
---
*With Agariya Heetrakshak Manch, Gujarat

Comments

TRENDING

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

'Wedding of the century': What does Mukesh Ambani want to prove by such extravaganza?

By NS Venkataraman*  Mukesh  Ambani,   a renowned Indian industrialist who is said to be the richest person in India and  one of the richest persons in the world,   has just now conducted the wedding celebration of  his son in Mumbai,   with unheard level of lavishness in India.

'28% rise in sedition cases': Top global NGO alliance rates India's civil space 'repressed'

By Rajiv Shah Rating India's civic space as repressed , Civicus, a global civil society alliance, in its new report submitted to the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) on the state of civic space in the country has said that the use of sedition law against the Modi government’s critics continues. "Under the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, sedition cases have increased by 28 per cent with over 500 cases against more than 7,000 people", it says.

'Anti-poor stand': Even British wouldn't reduce Railways' sleeper and general coaches

By Anandi Pandey, Sandeep Pandey*  Probably even the British, who introduced railways in India, would not have done what the Bhartiya Janata Party government is doing. The number of Sleeper and General class coaches in various trains are surreptitiously and ominously disappearing accompanied by a simultaneous increase in Air Conditioned coaches. In the characteristic style of BJP government there was no discussion or debate on this move by the Indian Railways either in the Parliament or outside of it. 

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

How embracing diversity enriched my life, brought profound sense of joy

By Mike Ghouse*  If you can shed the bias towards others, you'll love the connections with every human that God or his systems have created. This gives a sense of freedom and brings meaning and joy to life. Embracing and respecting how people dress, eat, and practice their beliefs becomes an enriching experience.

Banned Maoist party protests in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, claims support across globe

By Harsh Thakor*  Despite being a banned and designated as terrorist organisation under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act since 2009, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) is said to have successfully implemented a one-day bandh across Kolhan division in Jharkhand on July 10th, with repurcussions in the neighbouring Chhattisgarh. The bandh was called to protest against alleged police brutality in the Kolhan-Saranda region.

Post-poll mob lynching spree, bulldozer justice: NAPM seeks united resistance

Counterview Desk  Condemning what it calls "the horrific spree of mob lynchings across the country after the Lok Sabha election results", India's premier civil society network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), has called for "united resistance" against "hateful communal politics, mob lynching of religious minorities and caste-based oppression".

Hindutva economics? 12% decline in manufacturing enterprises, 22.5% fall in employment

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  The messiah of Hindutva politics, Narendra Modi, assumed office as the Prime Minister of India on May 26, 2014. He pledged to transform the Indian economy and deliver a developed nation with prosperous citizens. However, despite Modi's continued tenure as the Prime Minister, his ambitious electoral promises seem increasingly elusive.