Communities Demand Power to Protect Their Forest Resources - Mass Mobilisations Across Country



Friends,

Even as atrocities like the arrest of Abhay Sahoo continue, people's
struggle are also winning new victories.  After initially
reeling under sabotage, violations and deliberate efforts to nullify
the community rights parts of the law, communities have fought back and
are claiming their rights over forest resources - and particularly
their powers to protect and conserve their traditional forest
resources.  Campaign-affiliated mass organisations and other mass
groups have undertaken
mobilisations on the issue over the last several weeks, and in many
States October
is witnessing rallies, demonstrations and village level actions aimed
at claiming and taking control of community resources.

Below this email are the details of the community rights struggle
programs in the States.  As always, general information on the
situation in various States can be found at:

http://forestrightsact.awardspace.com

Meanwhile, the Act's implications for industrial projects on forest lands are
finally beginning to get attention at the national level.  The Ministry of
Environment  and Forests has continued its deliberate policy of
ignoring the Act entirely, seeking to continue grabbing land for
corporates like POSCO and - in
addition - trying to relocate people from tiger reserves in violation of the
Act.

But what was possible a year ago is not possible now, and the people's
struggle now has the law on its side.  There remain many challenges
ahead, but the turning of the tide is visible.

Campaign for Survival and Dignity

TAMIL NADU:  In Kanyakumari and Tirunelveli Districts, mass efforts at
claiming community forest resources have begun.  In Gudalur in the
Nilgiris District, more than 50 villages declared their community
forest resource boundaries and have put up sign boards with their
boundaries marked, listing the resources in the village, the area
covered, and the fact that violations of community decisions in these
areas would be an offence under the Forest Rigths Act.

JHARKHAND: A mass rally took place on the issue of community rights in
Sahebganj District on October 3rd.  Rallies are planned in Latehar,
Chatra, Palamu, Khunti and Ranchi Districts on the 13th (today), 14th, 18th,
21st and 22nd respectively.

GUJARAT: Yesterday (the 12th), a large rally took place in Songarh, at which
1,500 to 2000 people are expected.  On the 26th of September, a similar
mass meeting took place in Rajpipla.  More rallies are expected this
month.  The rallies are focused on public discussions on community
rights, planning the claiming process and demanding official acceptance
and recognition of community rights.

RAJASTHAN: Village level actions have continued in the face of total
apathy from the government (on community rights) and repeated attempts
to impose additional requirements and hamper recognition of individual
rights.  On the 16th a rally will take place in Banswada District
against violations of the Act and demanding recognition of community
rights, while a similar rally is planned for the 20th in Pali
District.

ANDHRA PRADESH: Community rights and community forest resources claims
are taking place on a large scale in the 8 districts that fall within
the Scheduled Areas.  After initially opposing community rights claims,
the government began to allow them about a month and a half ago.
Approximately 800 villages in these districts are currently claiming
their community forests under the Act.  Resistance from the Forest
Department has been particularly strong in the Adilabad district, where
they have been attempting to prevent filing claims in villages; the
peopel have responded with a series of mandal-level protests.

MADHYA PRADESH: Protest rallies are planned in all districts in forest
areas; protests have begun from October 1st.  The mass rallies are demanding
recognition of community rights and also promoting the process of using
the provisions of the Act for taking control of forest resources.

MAHARASHTRA: Village level meetings and planning of claiming community
control over forests have begun in parts of the State, in particular in
Thane district, where a padayatra was taken out in mid-September on the
issue.  A mass organisation meeting is planned to take place in Mumbai
later this month.

ORISSA: Protest programmes have been launched across the state on
community rights and on state apathy.  These will continue up to 10th
November.  A morcha took place today in Sundargarh District, and
similar protests are planned in Jharsuguda, Gajapati, Dhenkanal and
Malkangiri Districts on the  20th, 22nd, 27th and 28th of October
respectively.   Meanwhile villages in several parts of the State,
including protected areas, have individually demarcated and declared
their rights to community forest resources.  Please also see
www.fra.org.in.

KERALA:  On Aug 28th, 185 hamlets in Attappady of Palakkad district
took oath to determine and declare community forest rights. A similar
process is on in Wayanad. These are the major tribal belts of Kerala.
It is now proposed that there will be a state level convention
bringing together Adivasi organisations across the state, including
the Adivasi organisations of political parties such as CPM, CPI etc.,
which will focus on declaring intention of declaration of CFRs across
the state. State Level Monitoring Committee members will also be
invited for this convention.