Plans for Protest Against
Repression and Continued Colonisation of Forest
There has been silence for a long time from us on this list, but as
usual that doesn't mean things are not happening. Indeed the struggle
has been continuing on multiple fronts since the sabotaged Forest
Rights Act was passed in December.
First, evictions and repression have by no means stopped. The most
brutal event so far happened on the 19th of April, Thursday, in
Ghateha, Rewa District, Madhya Pradesh, where activists and protesters
organised by the National Forum of Forest Peoples and Forest Workers
and the Birsa Munda Bhu Adikar Manch were fired on by police when
attempting to assert rights over disputed forest lands which had
apparently been denotified in 1974. The firing occurred despite ongoing
negotiations with the Collector, who was reportedly taking a positive
view. Till the present date – over a week - a large police force
remains in the area and most of the families have fled. Efforts are on
in Madhya Pradesh to get the police out of the area, and some pressure
is occurring in Delhi. The organisations need more support. Please see
the action alerts circulated earlier by NFFPFW for more details and how
Rewa has not been the only incident. In northern West Bengal, 150 acres
of cultivated land were occupied by the Forest Department on April 12.
In Madhya Pradesh, in addition to the Rewa incidents, Burhanpur and
Khandwa districts have also seen forced evictions. In Andhra Pradesh,
Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and other areas, repeated evictions have
occurred through plantations, JFM committees or other methods that are
made to appear "participatory." It is clear that there are efforts
across the country to evict people before they can claim their rights
under the Forest Rights Act.
In response, the Campaign has decided to issue a national call for
action between May 7th and 11th . Protests in major cities across the
country are planned. The demands include a halt to evictions, state
repression and the use of JFM and other tactics to mask evictions and
land grabbing by the Forest Department. As well, the CSD will be
demanding amendments to the Forest Rights Act to respond to the
sabotage of the legislation during its passage in December - continuing
our stand and work that this Act, while a huge victory for the
struggle, is by no means effective in itself. Finally, the CSD also
will be demanding the Scheduling of all adivasi areas and of all
adivasi communities, a vital step towards enforcing respect for adivasi
institutions and rights in the legal framework, and as part of the
struggle against the targeting of adivasi areas for mining and other
forms of resource grabbing.
The notice for the protests is pasted below. In addition, the process
of framing Rules for implementing the Forest Rights Act is underway,
and it is hoped that rules sensitive to adivasis and forest dwellers
will emerge from this process. The Campaign continues its struggle
against the SEZ Act ,the new Environmental Impact Assessment
notification and other steps aimed at seizing, privatising and
destroying the resources of this country's forests and forest
Campaign for Survival and Dignity
NATIONAL CALL TO ACTION
RECOGNISE OUR RIGHTS
END THE COLONISATION OF OUR HOMELANDS
In December 2006, the UPA government passed the Scheduled Tribes and
Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act.
When it was passed, Minister for Tribal Affairs P.R. Kyndiah declared
that this "historic Bill will undo a historical injustice."
But what has happened since?
The Forest Department has begun widespread evictions across India.
Disobeying the mandate of Parliament and sabotaging the law, the aim of
the Department is clear – to ensure that tribals and forest dwellers
are thrown out before they can claim their rights under the Act.
A steady expansion in programmes like plantations, Joint Forest
Management, acquisition for biodiesel and so on is ensuring that
people's lands are being taken from them even while the Act hangs in
The Act itself is so badly sabotaged that it contains clauses that
would exclude the majority of tribals and forest dwellers from
eligibility and make the process for recognition of others' rights even
more difficult. Even when it is in force, it will do nothing for most
forest dwelling peoples.
Adivasis in particular face an increasing offensive by the government
to seize their lands and resources for corporations and contractors, be
it in the name of mining, of "development" or of SEZs. The
Constitutional protection for adivasi lands and rights is being
nullified by the lack of Scheduling of most adivasi areas, even as it
is illegally violated and ignored in the Scheduled Areas that exist.
Is this how the UPA government intends to "undo the historical
injustice" done to us?
Between May 7th and May 11th, the Campaign therefore will be issuing a
national call to action for protests across India. We expect protests
in major cities of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh,
Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Tamil Nadu and elsewhere.
Our demands will be as follows:
1.Immediately halt all evictions and bring the Act into
force to prevent such evictions.
2.Amend the Act in this session of Parliament to correct
the sabotage of the legislation at the time of its passage (see reverse
for required amendments).
3.Halt all Joint Forest Management and plantation schemes
that are aimed at takeover of people's lands. Any future
'participatory' conservation has to respect the powers and rights of
the gram sabha under the Act.
4.Respect the Constitutional provisions of the Fifth and
Sixth Schedules and ensure that all adivasi areas are scheduled and all
adivasis declared as Scheduled Tribes.
5.Repeal or withdraw all policies and legislations aimed
at making it easy to seize control of resources for capital, like the
Special Economic Zones Act and the revised Environmental Impact
Bharat Jan Andolan, National Front for Tribal Self Rule, Jangal
Adhikar Sangharsh Samiti (Mah), Adivasi Mahasabha (Guj), Adivasi Jangal
Janjeevan Andolan (D&NH), Jangal Jameen Jan Andolan (Raj), Madhya
Pradesh Van Adhikar Abhiyan (MP), Jan Shakti Sanghatan (Chat), Peoples
Alliance for Livelihood Rights, Chattisgarh Mukti Morcha, Orissa Jan
Sangharsh Morcha, Campaign for Survival & Dignity (Ori), Orissa
Adivasi Manch, Orissa Jan Adhikar Morcha, Campaign for Survival and
Dignity – TN, Adivasi Aikya Vedike (AP), Bharat Jan Andolan (Jhar).
Points of Amendment in the Act
- Remove the requirement that forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and
other traditional forest dwellers should primarily reside in the
forest; if this is understood to mean that their residences should be
on forest land, this will exclude the vast majority of people. All
those who self-cultivate forest land or depend on collection of minor
forest produce or other forest resources for their survival and
livelihood should be eligible.
- Implement the assurance of the Minister for Tribal Affairs that
"all those settled in forests by government policy", like forest
villages, should be covered under the Act. Otherwise, non-ST's among
these groups, who are among the most vulnerable forest dwellers, will
be excluded unless they have resided in the forest for 75 years.
- Reinstate the recommendation of the Joint Parliamentary Committee
that the gram sabha for the Act should be the assemblies of the actual
hamlets or settlements, not the gram sabha of the revenue village or
Gram Panchayat. The revenue gram sabhas will be too large and will
result in manipulation.
- Replace section 13 of the Act – which says the legislation will
be "in addition to and not in derogation of" other Acts - with a clear
statement that this Act will override any legislation that contravenes
it. The vague clause gives far too much space for judicial intervention
and manipulation by the authorities.
- Reinstate the process of recognition of rights recommended by the
Joint Parliamentary Committee, which stated that the primary authority
should be that of the gram sabha and that higher committees should not
have the power to arbitrarily overturn the decisions of the gram sabha.
This is necessary if the legislation is to be transparent and
democratic in implementation; otherwise there will be widespread abuse
of power and corruption.