With the Center’s attempts at diluting the Forest Rights Act and given the introduction of the draft EIA notification, the anxieties of indegenous populations across India are at an all time high; so are efforts by the populations to secure their land rights and livelihoods.
Activists and tribal leaders have from Chhattisgarh have said that the present Congress government, and previously the BJP-led government in the state, have attempted to neutralise the FRA and make it toothless, making it difficult for tribals to stake claim to land they have inherited for generations. With their applications of land claims being rejected time and again by the local authorities, locals gheraoed the panchayat office in Rainpur village, Korba district.
The protests came about after houses of close to 50 families were bulldozed after their applications for land claims were not taken into account. After staging protests which lasted all day and night, the adivasis managed to ensure that receipts of their land claims were given to them, something which had never happened earlier.
The houses given to them under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana were recently bulldozed to fulfill the demand for a cow shelter. Close to 50 families are currently homeless, one of them the family of Chander Singh.
Speaking to NewsClick, he said: “My house was completely destroyed; we were not given any warning. I was taken aback and did not know what was happening. Four generations of my family have lived on this land, we still do not have the patta (land claim); we have applied three or four times. However, we have still not been given any acknowledgment of these applications and what action was taken. Till date, we do not know. On the contrary, bulldozers have been used on our houses in an attempt to evict us from the forest land.”
Speaking to NewsClick, Sanjay Parate, a leader of the Kisan Sabha in the state said: “The Forest Rights Act stands completely diluted by the state, making it difficult for the tribals to register their claims to the land. In many instances, applications were not accepted by the municipal authorities. Even when they were accepted, there was no accountability on the part of the state that the application had been received, since there were no receipts given.”
“Most of these inter-generational land claims then ended up in the dustbins of state offices, making the tribals particularly vulnerable without any land in their name,” he added.
The cow shelter was reportedly slated to be built on another spot. However attempts are now being made to ensure the land is cleared out and the adivasis relocated.
Activists in the area are now attempting to start a movement to ensure the protection of community forest rights.
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