03, Jul 2018 | CJP Team
On June 29, 2018, more than one thousand Adivasi people from 8 Gram Sabhas (GSs) in Chandauli district of UP filed community resource rights claims to forest land under Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006 at District Magistrate’s office. This is a huge step given how these communities are being repeatedly targeted by police and other vested interests using a slew of false cases, only because they dared to stake claim to forest land.
In a press release, the All India Union of Forest Working Peoples (AIUFWP) said that a sizable number of tribal and other forest dwellers went with their complete documents on community forest rights, and presented those to the Sub Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Mr. Jiyalal in Collectorate Office in Chandauli. People were in high spirits as they filed the claims and harsh weather conditions didn’t deter them from their resolve to claim ownership over their land.
CJP has been closely following how Adivasis are struggling to get the FRA, 2006 implemented. In the process, Adivasi women leaders in UP are being systematically bullied and harassed. With the help of its partner organisation AIUFWP, CJP filed a habeas corpus petition in Allahabad HC and received a favourable order. We are fighting for the human rights defenders in court, and also intervening in everyday episodes of institutional violence in the area. Please donate generously to support these efforts.
Reportedly, the district authorities were “quite scared” after they saw tribals coming in a rally to the Collectorate Office. As per the press release, the gates of the office were shut and tribals weren’t allowed to enter the premises which made the women, present in large numbers, angry. The women insisted that the gate be opened. While the gate wasn’t opened, the SDM came out and spoke to people. Surprisingly, notes the release, the SDM was reported to have said that he wasn’t aware of the FRA, 2006. He also refused to give a receipt for the memorandum submitted to him.
Senior leader of the AIUFWP, Shri Matadayal from Chitrakoot intervened and said that being the SDM he should be aware that he needs to give receipt of any application that is submitted to his office. He also asked, “Otherwise how will people keep the record?” Matadayal also explained the FRA, 2006 in detail to the SDM. He advised the officials to read the Act and “work carefully to implement the Act”. The press release informs that SDM wasn’t aware of its implementation process. Matadayal informed the SDM then, that it is he who is the President of Sub Divisional Level Committee under the Act and he has to receive all the claims and work with Gram Sabha to implement the Act effectively.
The Gram Sabhas which presented the claim are:
- Bhardua – Block Naugarh
- Chamer Bandh
- Uditpur Surra
All the GSs resolved to file their community resource claims together. Earlier, on March 23 2018, as many as 16 GSs in Sonbhadra UP had filed their claims together in Collector’s office. However, they had to face repressive measures from the state and forest departments, purportedly to deter them from their collective resolve to stake claim on what they feel rightfully belongs to them. All the GSs were served notices and police cracked down on all the Gram Sabha office bearers for having filed the claims.
Clandestine arrests of Adivasi women leaders
In a particularly disturbing move, Adivasi human rights defenders Sukalo Gond (Treasurer of AIUFWP) and Kismatiya Gond (Secretary, Forest Rights Committee) were picked up in a clandestine manner from Chopan station, Sonebhadra, UP just as they were returning after a meeting with the state forest minister, Dara Singh Chauhan and Forest Secretary in Lucknow. Their names were not mentioned in any FIR and at present, they are being detained illegally by the police. Even after the lapse of more than 20 days, they have not been produced before any court! This is a blatant violation of the law as a person must be produced before the court within 24 hours of arrest.
CJP and AIUFWP have been jointly monitoring the situation of forest rights in UP. On June 27, 2018, CJP moved the Allahabad HC demanding the immediate release of Kismatiya and Sukalo. On June 29, 2018, a two member bench of the Allahabad High Court issued a notice to the respondents in the case that include the State of UP (through the Principal Secretary, Home), Sonebhadra Superintendent of Police (SP) and District Management (DM) and Station House Officer, Muirpur Police Station. The court has demanded an explanation for the detention from the SP and the DM. The court also directed that both Sukalo and Kismatiya be produced before it at the next hearing on July 9.
Past episodes of Institutional violence
Not only this, Adivasis have been facing constant institutional repression in the form of false cases being foisted on them. In May 2018, the Muirpur police picked up around twelve villagers, ten of whom were women forest rights workers. Though the Station officer (SO) PS Mr. Satyaprakash Singh had said that the people were involved in chopping trees that were part of a supposed afforestation project, the police failed to provide any details when the CJP team enquired about the details of the project. After multiple calls from the CJP team and a day long ordeal they were finally let off at Dudhi, an area about 30 kilometers away from Lilasi village. They had to walk barefoot from there, adding further to their hardships.
Soon after, on May 22, the UP police entered the Lilasi village and started assaulting Adivasis, in particular, Adivasi women, who were engaged in their daily chores. They hit on the head of Kismatiya and she bled profusely. When the villagers tried to file an FIR and get her medical tests done, they received no support from the administration or authorities.
CJP had immediately intervened in both the cases and helped spread the word through its constant follow ups and interventions. With CJP’s help two letters were sent to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) dated May 30 and June 14 highlighting the severe repression on Adivasis and fallacious cases as a vicious state and forest department targeted them. In a big win for the movement, the NHRC subsequently directed the DM of Sonbhadra to submit a report within three weeks from the date of meeting. NHRC had also assured of sending its own, independent fact finding team to investigate the blatant episodes of gross human rights violations.
- Gram Sabha Resolution
- Community rights claim form
- Community rights resource
- List of the claimants
- Evidence of elders
- Map of the land claimed, with plot number and boundaries
- A brief note of definition of Forest land, community resource and OTFD
- A brief note on the amended rules of 2012 FRA
- List of NTFP that is found in Kaimur region (this area is known as Kaimur region)
- Details of the rights as explained in the Working Plan of FD 1973-1983
- Gazetteer of Varanasi 2002 (it gives details of geographic area, forest, different groups of people, tribes, non tribes and others that gives detail of at least 10 generation)
- A book written by former IAS Amir Hasan “Tribal Administration in India” – It describes the alienation of tribal from their ancestral land and how Forest Department encroached upon the lands of Gram Sabha.
- A note on the denial of Scheduled tribe status to the Adivasi of Chandauli District
- List of NTFP, flora and fauna from working plan Varanasi Division 200
- Order of Ministry of Tribal Affairs dated 9th June 2008, describing the phrase ” Primarily residing in”
- Copies of the cases filed Court by state and forest dwellers, copy of the false cases