Tribal backlash on BJP brews

Civil society groups to launch nationwide campaign to undo Supreme Court judgment

By Basant Kumar Mohanty in New Delhi
  • Published 26.02.19, 3:04 AM
  • Updated 26.02.19, 9:20 AM
  • 2 mins read
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On February 13, the apex court had directed 19 states, including Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand and those in the Northeast, to take steps to evict occupants of forest land whose claims had been rejected under the Forest Rights Act. Shutterstock

Civil society groups will launch a nationwide movement from Tuesday to sensitise tribal people against a Supreme Court judgment that has cast a cloud on the survival of nearly 20 lakh forest dwellers and their families.

Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), an umbrella body of Adivasi and forest dwellers’ organisations, has announced the programme called “BJP Sarkar Jawab Do! (the BJP government should explain)” from Tuesday till March 10 across the country.

On February 13, the apex court had directed 19 states, including Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand and those in the Northeast, to take steps to evict occupants of forest land whose claims had been rejected under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, also called the Forest Rights Act (FRA).

According to official data, nearly 20 lakh claims for record of rights in the categories of individual rights and community rights have been rejected by state government agencies in the past 10 years. (See chart)

The court asked states to evict those whose claims have been rejected and file compliance affidavits before July 12.

CSD convenor Sankar Gopalkrishnan said the order is the direct “result of the BJP government’s decision to not say a word in court for the last four hearings”.

“This is only the last step in this government’s consistent sabotage of this law, from May 2014 to the present,” he said.

The CSD will organise a Jal Jangal Jeevan Bachao Sajha Manch in Bhopal on Tuesday while the Adivasi Chhattra Sanghatan and allied groups will hold rallies in all districts of Madhya Pradesh on Thursday.

The thread will be picked up in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Odisha. Meetings will be held over the next four days in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand.

Each programme will be accompanied by awareness campaigns about the central government’s role, Gopalkrishnan said, adding that the Centre must take immediate steps to reverse the order.

P.S. Krishnan, a retired bureaucrat and a votary of social justice, has written to tribal affairs minister Jual Oram, urging him to bring an ordinance immediately to undo the court judgment.

“It appears that your ministry was not in the picture in this case…. In view of the orientation of the ministry of environment and forests, there is room for apprehension that the facts and the constitutional and legal position pertaining to STs may not have been placed properly before the court,” he wrote. “The first step is to get the order stayed. There is only a small window of time available. Therefore, there is no alternative, but to get an ordinance issued urgently,” he wrote.

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