Responding to the national call for action by Bhumi Adhikar Andolan, more than hundred protest demonstrations, public meeting etc were organised across the country, yesterday.
Millions of adivasis and other traditional forests dwellers submitted memorandums to the Prime Minister, Chief Ministers, Ministry fo Tribal Affairs through their district administration authorities and demanded that their rights are recognised through effective implementation of Forest Rights Act and Forest Rights Act (Amendment) Bill 2019 is withdrawn immediately.
Various social movements and organizations protested at the Block, Taluk, District and State Level administrative headquarters expressing their anger and disappointment for the shoddy manner in which the State governments and Central Governments are dealing with the implementation of the Forest Rights Act.
The protest demonstrations were held in Tripura, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Delhi, Rajasthan, Kerala, and Uttar Pradesh respectively. This nation-wide action happened in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling on February 13th asking for eviction of millions of Adivasis and other traditional forest-dwelling communities, since their claims under the FRA have been rejected.
After the countrywide protests against this ruling, at the intervention of the Union government, the Supreme Court amended and stayed it till 10th July 2019. Using the SC ruling, the forest department is yet pushing people out of their lands, destroying their farm fields and several such instances have been reported since then. The Supreme Court is due to hear the different petitions on 24th July 2019.
It needs to be noted that the Forest Rights Act (FRA) was enacted in 2006 to undo the historical injustice against Forest Dwelling Scheduled Tribe and other traditional forest-dwelling (OTFD) communities by recognizing their pre-existing rights over forest land and community forest resources.
However at present, the FRA is confronted among others, with two immediate and serious challenges that undo the letter and spirit of the Act -these include the recent SC order on forest evictions and secondly the proposed amendments to the Indian Forest Act, 1927 involving powers to extinguish and abrogate forest rights, creation of private “production forests”, and giving police and semi judicial powers to the forest department with immunity against atrocities and sexual violence.