Tribals / Forest Dwellers are facing eviction and backwardness in Yogi Raj

forest rights act

   The population of Tribals (Scheduled Tribes) in Uttar Pradesh is 11.35 lakhs of which 80% are landless. That is why the Forest Rights Act – 2006 and Rules 2008 came into force for the empowerment of Tribals. Under this law, Tribals and non-Tribals living in a Reserve Forest area were to be given a lease of residential and agricultural land under their occupation. The Ttribals had to submit their claims in this regard. At that time there was Mayawati’s government in Uttar Pradesh, but her government did not take any effective action in this direction which resulted in 74,701 claims i.e., 81% of the total claims filed by the Tribals in Uttar Pradesh were rejected as on 30.1.2012, land title was given to only 17,705 i.e. only 19% claims were accepted and a total of 1,39,777 acres of land was allotted.

Seeing Mayawati government’s apathy and the anti-Dalit / Tribal mentality in allotment of land to the Tribals, All India People’s Front had to file a PIL in the Allahabad High Court, on which the High Court, in August 2013, passed an order that the claims filed under the Forest Rights Act should be reprocessed and disposed of on priority, but the Akhilesh government, which followed Mayawati’s government, also did not take any action during its 5 years rule.

Now, let us also look at the role of Yogi government of the BJP in the implementation of the Forest Rights Act. It is well-known that the BJP had written in its manifesto of Uttar Pradesh’s 2017 Legislative Assembly elections that if its government is formed then all illegal possession of land (Gram Sabha and forest land) will be evacuated. On forming the government in March 2017, Yogi government started taking immediate action on this and in compliance of this, the Gram Samaj land and forest land was ordered to be evacuated from those who had possession of the land but their lease was not in their name. According to this order, 74,701 Forest Rights claims which had been rejected were also to be got evicted. Against this eviction action of Yogi government’s, All-India Peoples Front (AIPF) again had to go to the Allahabad High Court. AIPF requested a stay of the eviction proceedings and a re-examination of all claims. The Allahabad High Court on this request granted a stay to the eviction proceedings and gave one month’s time to all claimants to file left over claims and appeal in the old claims and the government to re-hear and settle all claims in three months. But no action has been taken by the Yogi government in this regard till date.

Meanwhile, on February 28, 2019, in a writ petition filed by the Wildlife Trust of India challenging the validity of the Forest Rights Act, the Supreme Court passed an order directing all the state governments to get the land vacated related to the claims filed under the Forest Rights Act. Modi government did not put up Tribals / Forest dwellers’ claim in the Court. As a result, the Supreme Court passed an order to get the land vacated relating to all claims filed under Forest Rights Act by July 24, 2019. The number of families likely to be affected by this in the country is 20 lakhs, out of which there are 74,701 families in Uttar Pradesh. Against this order, we again appealed to the Supreme Court through the Adivasi Vanvasi Mahasabha, in which we requested the Court to stay the eviction order and direct all the states to reprocess all claims pending or rejected. On this, the Supreme Court, accepting our request, ordered a stay on eviction and a re-hearing of all the claims by all the states till 10 July 2019, but even after almost 2 years, the Yogi government has not processed a single claim. As a result, not a single tribal has got even an inch of land.

In the year 2019 during Yogi regime itself, there was a nationally famous massacre regarding possession of land in Ubha village of Sonbhadra district, in which 10 Tribals were killed and close to three dozen were injured. Although action was taken against the culprits, the Tribals were given other land rather than the land in their possession.

Not only this, the BJP government had stopped issuing the Scheduled Caste certificate to the Dhaangar caste of Sonbhadra, while issuing SC certificate to Dhangar subcaste of the backward caste Pal Gadaria. Only after a long struggle we could succeed in getting it restored. The Yogi government is still getting reserved seats contested by issuing a SC certificate in the name of Dhangar, the Dhangar tribe of Pal Gadaria, the best example of which is SP Singh Baghel, who was first MLA and is now an MP.

Some time ago when Chandauli district was carved out of Varanasi and Sonbhadra districts, Tribals of that area were not notified as Tribals, as a result of which they have been deprived of the benefits of being Scheduled Tribes. Although we have been repeatedly writing to the Yogi government in this regard, no action has been taken till date. Similarly, the matter of putting Kol caste of this area, which is currently in the scheduled caste list, in the list of Scheduled Tribes, has been going on for a long time, but the Yogi government has not shown any interest in it.

Although the Yogi government has, in its four-year achievements, talked about granting the status and basic facilities of revenue villages to 38 villages of Vantangia / Musahar / Kol and Tharu groups, but these people have not been given the title of the land in their possession till date.

It is well known that region of Sonbhadra, Mirzapur and the Naugarh area of Chandauli districts is a tribal dominated area and is the most backward region of Uttar Pradesh. There is not even safe drinking water available in this area and the Tribals are forced to drink dirty water from Chuad and dirty wells. In some villages, Adivasis are deranged in large numbers due to excessive fluorosis in the water. The Yogi government has announced a plan to provide safe tap drinking water in this and Bundelkhand region but did nothing for it in the last four years, as the Legislative Assembly elections are going to be held next year. Many villages of Sonbhadra district are still not connected by road and the means of transport in this area are very limited.

It is clear from the above brief that the Yogi government in Uttar Pradesh has not made any effort for the upliftment and empowerment of the Tribals due to which they are victims of poverty, hunger, unemployment, disease, illiteracy and terrible backwardness. Like the Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav governments, the Yogi government has not even given an inch of land which is their right under the Forest Rights Act to the Tribals / Forest Dwellers despite the order of the High Court and the Supreme Court, Therefore, it can be said that Adivasis are in a very bad condition after the four years of Yogi Raj.

SR Darapuri, National Spokesperson, All India People’s Front



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