11, Jul 2020 | CJP Team
In yet another example of impunity, forest officials in Uttar Pradesh allegedly attacked and even molested Adivasi women belonging to the Tharu tribe, in the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve. In light of this, CJP and the All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP) have once again approached the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) demanding action against the officials who also allegedly beat up youngsters with lathis. The shocking acts of violence transpired in broad daylight!
The incident comes close on the heels of the attack on the dera (shelter) of a family of Van Gujjars in Uttarakhand where a septuagenarian man was beaten up and women were subjected to gendered violence. At that time too CJP had filed a complaint with the NHRC.
Adivasis, or India’s indigenous people, have been leading a peaceful struggle for their rights to ‘jal-jungle-jameen’ or forest land and its bounty for several generations. As if colonial oppression wasn’t enough, they have also faced the brunt of corporate greed, disguised as the promise of development, backed by powerful political patrons holding vested interests. Of late, the attacks on Adivasis appear to have exacerbated. This escalation of violence appears to be related to an increasing number of Adivasis asserting their rights guaranteed under the Forest Rights Act 2006, by filing community land claims.
Among its four pillars of action, the land and livelihood rights of Adivasis and traditional forest dwellers, is one. CJP, with its expertise in navigating cases of human rights violations in the courts and beyond has been active on the issue; partnering with the All India Union of Forest Working Peoples (AIUFWP) since 2017 to battle any setback to these rights in the courts. This includes legally fighting back against malicious prosecution of leaders of the community and defending the Forest Rights Act, 2006 in the Supreme Court. We stand with the millions of Forest Dwellers and Adivasis whose lives and livelihoods are threatened. Please support our efforts by donating here.
The Tharu community which resides in quite a few villages along the Indo-Nepal border has been fighting for its community rights to the forests in that region for decades. One such village, Kajaria located in Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, Lakhimpur Kheri district, Uttar Pradesh experienced an attack by forest officials merely because some Adivasis were tilling land that the forest officials claimed was forest land.
This is not about one incident, but a series of such incidents, which began with harassing the Tharu Adivasis by digging trenches of approximately six feet on the periphery of the village, in early June, to prevent them from accessing the forests. This not only led to drying of trees but also stopped the drainage of rain water from the adjacent fields leading to water logging and destruction of their wheat crop!
When this was brought to the notice of the Deputy Collector by the villagers, the forest officials laid low for a few days. But then on July 1, the forest officials reached the field again, came to the village, allegedly fired shots in the air, molested women and beat up some youngsters. One such young man, Suvendar Rana has recorded a video of himself retelling the horrific incident whereby forest officials including forest ranger Alok Sharma came to the village while the villagers were working on the field and started an unprovoked, violent assault. He recounted that they beat them up with lathis and hence they fled from there. He further said that the officials then started attacking and molesting his mother, even tore the clothes of many women working at the field, including those of his mother.
The villagers managed to get an FIR registered on charges of rape, criminal intimidation as well as penal sections of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, against the forest officials and one policeman who despite reaching the spot at the time of incident, did not protect the Tharu women from being molested but instead started hurling casteist slurs at them and abused them. There is also a falsified FIR by one forest official stating that the women tore up their own clothes and threatened to file false charges of molestation on them!
CJP and AIUFWP’s joint memorandum which has been sent to the NHRC explains the incidents in detail, with evidence to prove their allegations. The memorandum urges the Commission to initiate immediate and stringent action against the public officials.
The joint memorandum states, “The Tharu community of Kajaria village has been repeatedly harassed and threatened by the public servants with the intention of establishing fear in the minds of the community and to make them subservient to their authority. But the community being dauntless is still standing strong and willing to fight for their rights despite unfavourable and hostile surroundings with no guarantee of their own and safety of their loved ones.”
While stressing on the importance of NHRC’s intervention in this matter, the memorandum says, “This constant intimidation from persons of authority creates a fearful mindset which makes these vulnerable communities prone to mental trauma and arouses a feeling of being oppressed in a democratic country where equality of law is a significantly fundamental right.”
CJP and AIUFWP have, through this memorandum, urged the Commission to “take cognizance of this matter and bring justice to the Tharu Adivasi community so that public officials are hereafter deterred from unnecessarily harassing and assaulting tribal communities across the country.”
The complete memorandum may be read here:
The annexures are listed below: