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AIFFRS Statement on

AIFFRS Statement on the Supreme Court Order asking for eviction of Adivasis and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers

26.02.2019

We are shocked and appalled by the Supreme Court order dated 20/2/2019 for eviction of Adivasis and other Traditional Forest dwellers from their Traditional habitats, thus depriving them of their right to life and livelihood guaranteed by Article 21 enshrined in Indian constitution. We unequivocally and strongly oppose this retrograde anti people order which is against all humanitarian precepts, Natural Justice, the spirit of the Indian constitution and various covenants and declarations of the United Nations charter on the Rights of the Indigenous people. The Supreme Court gave this order on a petition filed by Wild life First which is an extremely callous, anti people, regressive conservationist NGO.

It should be noted that the Adivasis and other Traditional Forest Dwellers have been co existing with wild Animals since time immemorial with a symbiotic relationship. It is a sheer travesty of truth and historically unjust to blame the Adivasis and other Traditional forest Dwellers for destroying the eco system and wild Life. One should clearly see the nefarious game plan of this anti people apolitical wild Life NGO Acting on behalf of the corporate Sector and other vested interests to handover the Forest Land to the Corporate Sector for commercial exploitation. Already the sword of Damocles is hanging over Forests and Forest Dwellers by the new draft Forest Policy and CAF Act, with a clear cut intention to handover the Forest lands to the Corporate Sector.

It is quite outrageous that the Government of India which is elected by the people to safeguard their interests did not appear or argue in different hearings of this case before this anti Adivasi order was past.

This is not only a serious dereliction of Constitutional duty of the Central Government but also a Conspiracy of complicity to handover the Forest lands to the Corporate Sector. The Court Order violates Section 6 of the Forest Rights Act which says, “it is a criminal offence not to process the claims of   Adivasis and other Traditional Forest Dwellers of their claims to the Forest land Under the Forest Rights Act 2006.”

The Supreme Court has asked the Chief Secretaries of 16 states Governments including Jharkhand to evict total 1.1 million Adivasi and Other Traditional Forest Dwelling families whose claims were rejected by the respective Forest Departments. But as of 30th Nov. 2018 as per the FRA implementation report status maintained by the ministry of tribal affairs, total 18,92,893 claims were rejected. The total individual claims filled from 20 different states, were 40, 6,606, as on 30.11.2018. While in Jharkhand as of now total no. of 1,07,756 individual claims (both of STs and OTFDs) were filled under Forest Rights Act. But out of that 28,107 claims were rejected.

Resonating with the Nationwide outrage and protest against the latest Supreme Court Order asking States to report action for eviction of those whose individual forest rights claims said have been rejected, All India Front For Forest Rights Struggles too demands an immediate review of the order. It also demands from central government to bring an ordinance immediately in order to put stay order on it.

AIFFRS notes with pain the fact that not only the Government has failed to defend the rights of the tribal people, but also the Supreme Court has failed to apply the provisions of the Act properly in the course of its hearing the case. Instead of chastising the government, the SC chose to warn the State Governments that serious note will be taken in the case of non compliance with regard to eviction of forest dwellers whose claims have been rejected. 

It is well known that in state after state, there have been constant protests regarding improper process of rejection of claims filled by the Gram Sabhas, and hence in no state can claim that process of rejection has been finalized at all. Why then is the SC demanding that state governments file a report on the status of completion of the rejection process? 

It is also well known to the Wildlife lobby who have filed the case in the first place that the major destruction of the forest has taken place through mono-cultures, tourism, diversion of forests for mining and other development requirements (keeping Corporate interest in mind). Why then they have chosen to target FRA which is not merely recognition of the fact that historical injustice has been committed to Forest dwellers, but also recognition of it that the forests themselves cannot be saved without the active cooperation of the forest dependent Adivasis and dependent people. Clearly the nexus between Corridor form of Development and the Creation and preservation of wildlife corridors can be seen as the price extracted by this lobby for their silence on the real causes for the destruction of the forests. 

AIFFRS demands that not just the present order of SC be reviewed, but the entire nexus between the draft National Forest Policy 2018, CAF Act 2016 and wrong implementation of FRA be reviewed as well and stringent orders be passed, so that the letter and spirit of the FRA be implemented.

Xavier Kujur

On Behalf of
All India Front for Forest Rights Struggles (AIFFRS)

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Feb 27, 2019