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100 Indian, world conservationists criticize Supreme Court order to "evict" forest dwellers

By Our Representative
A joint statement by about 100 India’s and the world’s about 100 conservationists and conservation biologists, expressing dismay on the recent Supreme Court order to allegedly evict a million claimants under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) of forest land, has said it is "a real setback for conservation in India."
According to them, "Forest dwellers have for centuries used and managed these forests that we are now considering to be valuable for conservation. The rights of local communities are an integral part of any sustainable and just model of conservation, as is now recognised in international law."
"Furthermore", they say, "FRA not only recognises these rights, it also legally empowers communities to protect their forests and wildlife as well. It is the first and only law in India that gives those who live in and with forests the power to protect them."
They adds, "Since it was notified into force in 2008, the FRA has been a key weapon in the hands of communities across India, from Niyamgiri to North Bengal to Uttarakhand to Maharashtra, who seek to protect forests and defend themselves against corporate and government resource grabbing."
The statement continues, "We do not agree with the claim of the petitioners in this case that their positions represent the interests of conservation. We do not agree with their claim that only “bogus claimants” will be affected by this recent order."
"We find it particularly ironic that they went to court claiming that the procedures under this Act are ‘arbitrary’, and are now seeking to say that those same procedures are so effective and sacrosanct that millions of people should be evicted on the basis of their results", it adds.

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