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New Delhi, July 22 : Responding to the national call for action by Bhumi Adhikar Andolan, more than hundred protest demonstrations, public meeting etc were organised across the country today. 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are recognised through effective implementation of Forest Rights Act and Forest Rights Act (Amendment) Bill 2019 is withdrawn immediately.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.

The memorandums submitted to the Authorities demanded that the government :

Implement the FRA in its true spirit to rectify the historic injustice done to the Adivasis and other forest dwelling communities.

Must treat all ‘Rejected Claims” under FRA as Suo Moto Appeals and these claims should be carefully reviewed at the Gram Sabha, SDLC and DLC levels.

Make no attempts to evict any tribal household from the forest areas until the above process is completed.

Must issue relevant advisories to all the District Collectors and concerned officials on the above.

Parallel attempts to amend the Indian Forest Act or formulate new forest policies must be suspended immediately.

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.

Leaders of the key constituents of Bhumi Adhikar Andolan gathered in New Delhi at the historic Jantar Mantar street and said the following :

“Protest against eviction of Adiwasis and forest dwelling communities are happening across the country today. This is clearly the result of corporate loot of natural resources. This is an attempt by the government to facilitate corporate to do so, which is a direct violation of Forest right Act-2006.”

– Hannan Mollah (All India Kisan Sabha, & former MP Lok Sabha)

“It is unfortunate that the Supreme Court of India has given such decision to evict millions of Adivasis. We demand to scrap this ruling of the apex court. We need to understand that this decision of the Supreme Court has nothing to do with the forest or wild life conservation.”

– Roma (All India Union of forest working people)

“Continuous attempts are happening of illegal occupation of land to favor corporate institutions. Adivasis, farmers and Dalits are paying its price in the currency of their land for the implementation of anti-people policies of the state.”

– Jaikaran (All India Kisan Khet Mazdoor Sangathan)

“Our current government is a Manuwadi and a pro capitalist government, it will always remain anti-people. The Supreme Court ruling on eviction of millions of Adiwasis and the proposed amendments in the Indian Forest Act 1927 has made clear that this government will never support people and will keep supporting the corporates.”

– Satyvan (All India kisan Khet Mazdoor Sangathan)

“We have witnessed various atrocities and violent attacks on Adivasis, Dalits and forest-dwelling people, but surprisingly very few resistances have been observed. This eviction is a conspiracy of government, corporate and the Supreme Court has also become a part of it by the ruling of 13th February-2019. We demand to scrap this ruling for which nation-wide protests are being organized today. If our demands are not met we will accelerate the movement further.”

– Vijoo Krishnan (All India Kisan Sabha)

“The massacre in Sonbhadra (U.P.), in which 10 Adivasis were killed made it clear that governments will do nothing to stop the oppression of Adivasis. On the name of development and greater good state governments are trying to dilute the FRA-2006. The sole reason for this is to make easy ways for corporate to acquire land and natural resources.”

– Mujahid (Minority Coordination Committee, Gujarat)

“Jal-Jangal-Zameen belongs to the Adivasis of the country, we will fight with any institutions which deny our rights. We have faced numerous atrocities and harassment from the forest department, but we know and we understand that the rejection of the claims filed by Adivasis is illegal.”

– Nawada (Tharu Adiwasi Mahila Mazdoor Kisan Sangh, Lakhimpur Khiri)

“Forest rights act is one special act which talks about people’s rights. It recognizes the historical injustice done to the Adivasis of India, and also recognizes that the forest people are essential for the conservation of forests. Clearly the ruling of the Supreme court of India is illegal and against constitution. The proposed amendments in the Indian Forest Act 1927 are attempts to deprive people from their rights. We will keep struggling against the malicious intentions of the government; government should know that people will not leave their land at any cost.”

– Ashok Chaudhary (All India Union of forest working people)

The protest across the country was organised by the following organisations, Girijana Sangham Andhra Pradesh; Zindabad Sanghatan, Gram Sabha Samuha, Campaign for Survival & Dignity(CSD), Bhumi Adhikar Aandolan, NAPM in Odisha; Green Forum, National Alliance of People’s Movements, Sundarban Van Sramajeevi Manch in West Bengal; All India Union of Forest Working People Sundarban in Bakhura, Medinipur, North Bengal – West Bengal; Narmada Bachao Andolan in Alirajpur – Madhya Pradesh; Narmada Bachao Andolan in Nandurbar, Pune – Maharashtra; All India Kisan Sabha in Tripura, Maharashtra and many other places, MAKAAM, Dalit bahujan front, Natwaan Sangham, Human Rights Forum, Rayathu Swarajya Vedika, Telengana Praja Front, Telangana Raythanga Samiti, National Alliance of Peoples Movements in Andhra Pradesh & Telangana; National Alliance of People’s Movements – Rajatalab, Uttar Pradesh and many others.

In Solidarity,

Hannan Mollah, Medha Patkar, Jitendra Chaudhary, Roma, Ashok Choudhary, Ulka Mahajan, Atul Anjan, Prafulla Samantara, Brian Lobo, Dr. Sunilam, Sanjay Basu Malik, Gautam Bandopadhyay, Adv. Aradhna Bhargava, Dayamani Barla, Teesta Setalvad, Virendra Vidrohi, Suneet Chopra, Raghvendra, Vijoo Krishnan, Prem Singh, Satyavan, Anil Choudhary, Bhupinder Singh Rawat, Madhuresh Kumar, Ashok Shrimali, Krishna Prasad, Deep Singh Shekhawat, Sanjeev Kumar, Anil Varghese, and other representatives.

Contact for more information: bhumiadhikarandolan@yahoo.com

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