MAHILA KISAN ADHIKAAR MANCH (MAKAAM) or Forum for Women Farmers’ Rights condemns and expresses deep concern over the increasing incidence of violence, harassment and atrocities against adivasi and other traditional forest dwellers especially women forest dwellers in Uttarakhand. The Forest Rights Act 2006 proclaims the responsibility of the state to defend and uphold the rights of Adivasis and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFD) to correct the ‘historical injustice’ done to tribal and OTFD communities. The Act provides for the Tribal Development Department and responsible departments in the states to ensure the implementation of the Act and facilitate the process to record the rights of these forest dwellers and to register their rightful claims. However this has been lacking in most states and instead it is CSOs and NGOs who have undertaken these efforts upon themselves to support these communities towards the realization of these rights. Even so, the rights of women and especially of single women continue to be neglected. In Uttarakhand the CSOs and NGOs have diligently pursued this effort to record women’s rights and ensure their claims are recorded. In Saniya Basti of Udhamsingh Nagar District women’s claims have been recorded and claims filed, but women and these OTFD and Adivasi communities have been confronted by various hurdles. Women’s claims in Saniya basti have been misplaced and instead the women have had to contend with harassment and sexual harassment and gender based violence. The police Department has also resisted their efforts to register a case against the accused forest department functionaries and instead admitted the complaint of the Forest department against the women of Saniya Basti and proceeded to file a criminal case against them. Even in this period of lockdown the women of Saniya basti have had to contend with threats and aggressive actions of police and forest department personnel to evict and threaten them out of their occupied forest territories.
Even as the situation remains tense for forest dwellers, there are fresh instances of violence reported this time from Haldwani Range Rangsali, where the ranger and accompanied by 20 other forest department functionaries entered Kalega village armed with lathis, sticks /batons and rifles and attacked and beat women from the Van Gujjar community residing therein on 4th September 2020. These women were wounded and had to be hospitalized. These women and their families have resided in this area for a long period as available documents on grazing permits etc have established. This is a violation of their rights under the Forest Conservation Act 1927, and a violation of their rights under the FRA 2006 as their claim documents are under submission for claims to be recorded. This attack is also a violation of the orders of the Supreme Court of 8 August 2020 whereby courts have called for a settlement between the representatives of Van Gujjar community and the Chief Conservator of Forests.
We call upon the State administration of the Uttarakhand government to protect the constitutional guarantees and forest rights of the adivasi and OTFD community and women and to ensure justice. Further we call upon the government to ensure that the impacted community and women are compensated for the losses including bodily injury and loss of livelihoods, and that the perpetrators of the attack on their resources and their person be punished. Further that orders be issued to ensure that no further threats and displacement and denial of access of Van Gujjar, Adivasi and OTFD communities be done until the Forest Rights of communities are recognized and settled.
MAKAAM, or Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch (Forum For Women Farmers’ Rights) is a nationwide informal forum of more than 120 individuals and organisations of farming women, of women farmers’ collectives, civil society organisations, researchers and activists, drawn from 24 states of India, to secure due recognition and rights of women farmers in India. Contact: [email protected]; [email protected]