29, Mar 2022 | CJP Team
Even as nine Community Forest Rights (CFR) claims were being filed for Sonbhadra district, an additional 12 CFR claims were also filed in Chitrakoot district, on March 23, 2022 as a tribute to freedom fighters Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev who attained martyrdom when they were executed at the Central Jail of Lahore, 91 years ago on March 23, 1931.
Matching the enthusiasm level with people of Sonbhadra, the villagers from Manikpur tehsil of Chitrakoot district led by local grassroots women leaders, put together all documents necessary to file community forest land claims for 12 villages, namely -Jaraumafi, Naugar, Bandhabhitar, Mahuliha, Kolkaloni, Bhauri, Kailaha, Audar, Nihi, Nayakher, Sehkat and Karouha.
Previously, exactly one year ago, the All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP) assisted by Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) had helped people from eight villages of Chitrakoot district file community land claims in March 2021.
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.
At a program organised under the banner “Nagrik Manch” at Rotary Club, Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh, Ashok Choudhary (Executive Chairman) of AIUFWP stated, “In today’s era, to fight with communalism, capitalism and economic crisis, all the hard-working people will have to gather and smash capitalism.” He reiterated the iconic statement made by Bhagat Singh during his trial of Lahore Conspiracy Case: “A blast is necessary for those who are deaf. Death of a person is inevitable, but the thoughts are always alive.”
Unfortunately, as stated by the Press Release issued by AIUFWP, General Secretary, Roma, “The Union of India is not committed about the implementation of Forest Rights Act, 2006 in its true spirit.”Therefore, AIUFWP, assisted by CJP, has been working relentlessly to support these forest dwelling communities who are deprived of their fundamental right to life with dignity. We help them navigate the complex labyrinth of bureaucracy and stake legal claim to forest land.
While submitting the CFR claims of 9 villages at Dudhi tehsil, Sonbhadra district, Sukalo Gond, President of AIUFWP, said,“The Union of India is yet to implement the Forest Rights Act, 2006. The district administration has no respect for the Act. They attack us and belittle our understanding about the Act. Union of India is not discharging its duties under the rules of FRA, 2006, due to which, even today, crores of Adivasi, tribal and forest dweller communities in the country are deprived of their rights.” Gond further said, “We are continuously being harassed and face eviction threats by the forest department. We the forest dweller community people will fight and become victorious in our struggle for our ancestral rights over land, forest and water. This is our constitutional right and we shall win our fight through a collective and democratic process.”
The detailed process of filing claims, overcoming the tedious hurdles, meeting the required provisions of the emancipatory Forest Rights Act, (FRA 2006) provided by the on-ground forest rights activists may be read here.
The program was led by community leaders Sukalo Gond, Munnar, Rajkumari, Daulat from Sonbhadra district and Matadayal and Rani from Chitrakoot district.
Here are some pictures to show you how the movement unfolded on the ground:
As per the press AIUFWP, thousands of women, men and children from Adivasi and forest dweller communities, who are members of AIUFWP, asserted their community forest rights claims at Sub-Divisional Magistrate Office of Manikpur. They sang songs of resistance, raised slogans while marching down the streets of Manikpur tehsil of Uttar Pradesh. As they marched inside the office premises of public servants, they handed over their community forest rights claims to the respective public institutions.
Filling out forms, giving details of the exact amount of land to which the claim is being made, providing the government authorities rightful IDs as proof, attaching maps, list of herbs (locally called jadi-booti) in the region, list of names of all claimants, relevant signatures of officials, etc. is a painstakingly long process for communities and activists, who continue to struggle for resources that are their own. To comprehend how complicated the procedure is, take a look at this presentation that explains it.
With these on-ground efforts, AIUFWP and CJP reaffirm our commitment to defending both, Forest Rights as well Women’s Rights in our country.
*All images by AIUFWP, except image of newspaper article in Jagran