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BJP's "intentional" non-implementation of FRA: Political parties told to up the ante

Counterview Desk
India's top land rights network Bhumi Adhikar Andolan (BAA) in a statement has said that the recent Supreme Court verdict on Forest Rights Act (FRA) is a continuation of historic Injustices over Adivasis and other forest dwelling communities, insisting, if implemented, FRA 2006 would become "dysfunctional".
It warns, the order "will definitely see more unrest in various parts across India which will be leading to the impoverishment of the tribals and other forest dwelling communities."

Text of the BAA statement:

New Delhi, February 21: The recent order of the Supreme Court on a petition filed by the Wildlife Trust of India, Nature Conservation Society and Tiger Research and Conservation Trust evicting of more than a million forest dwellers whose claims under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) has been ‘rejected’, is in line with the sustained attack by the pro-corporate and conservation lobby since enactment of the Act in 2006 in the name of public interest.
By blocking the process of claiming and reclaiming of forest rights of the forest dwellers this order will make the process of implementation of FRA 2006 dysfunctional. FRA – Bhumi Adhikaar Andolan (BAA) will appeal this order and will not be mute spectator to the spectre of terror to be unleashed in the forest areas.
We urge political parties to oppose this and not fall victim to the malicious propaganda of the wild life groups and rather engage in effective implementation of FRA. As the General Elections approach, there is a need for open political debate on intentional non-implementation of FRA by the government agencies, in connivance with corporate forces and so-called wild life protection groups.
It is to be noted that as per the provisions of the Act under section 12 that Gram Sabha has supreme power over a number of committees and their recommendations along with that of the Forest Rights Committees have precedence over the technical ‘rejections’ by the district and other committees.
Other committees at sub-division or district level can only ask for reviewing these claims. The Court seems to have overlooked this critical point. In absence of the Union government’s lawyer in various hearings the details and processes of recognition and rejection of claims has been overlooked and the affidavits filed by the State governments have not been thoroughly discussed and looked into.
The absence of the government’s lawyer during the hearings only reinforces the predominance of colonial mindset against forest people in this legal process and how the government views their rights and welfare.
This order, if followed, can become a pretext for forest officials to attack lakhs of forest dwellers across the country, preventing which was the very purpose for enacting the law. This Act was enacted in order to remedy the historical injustice committed by the colonial rulers as well as after independence against the country's forest dwellers.
The last time country-wide evictions took place was in 2002-04, by an order issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), under the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government (that too with a passing reference to a non-existent Supreme Court order of November 23, 2001) in giving a wrong impression that evictions had been ordered by the Supreme Court to all the state and union territories.
It was stated that approximately 12.50 lakh hectares of forest land is under encroachment and that "all encroachments which are not eligible for regularisation should be summarily evicted in a time bound manner and in any case not later than September 30, 2002."
Is another historic injustice about to be committed against them yet again? At least two thirds of the country's forest lands are tribal lands under the Vth Schedule of the constitution. The implementation of this order will definitely see more unrest in various parts across India which will be leading to the impoverishment of the tribals and other forest dwelling communities.
With this draconian order, even the status of right holders, who have already received the rights will be endangered. In all probability they would also be attacked by the forest department and by the mafias engaged by the companies.
It needs to be noted that the historic Kisan Long March to Mumbai undertaken by farmers and adivasis last year, and happening even now, as we write this, also raised the large scale irregularities in the settlement of claims under FRA.
Communities across the country are still struggling to ensure proper implementation of the Act since governments have not shown any political will and made every attempt to dilute the law and also violate it in name of development and conservation.
Forest Rights Alliance - Bhumi Adhikar Andolan condemns the lackadaisical attitude of the NDA government and demands effective implementation of the FRA and subvert any attempt at diluting the law and stop from proceeding to forced evictions in light of the current Supreme Court law.
We also demand that government issue an Ordinance in larger interest of protecting rights of forest dwellers to stop any evictions in the name of implementing the Supreme Court order and prevent attempts of further harassment.

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