14, Jul 2020 | CJP Team
In yet another act of impunity, Adivasis protesting illegal construction on forest land were chased away by hired thugs who allegedly threatened to burn them alive if the Adivasis ever returned to the site. The incident took place in Lilasi village that falls under the jurisdiction of the Muirpur police station in Sonebhadra district of Uttar Pradesh.
A local businessman named Ramvruksh Sahu had allegedly usurped forest land illegally and started construction of a house and a shop on it. This prompted some 40-50 residents of Lilasi to go to the construction site in Lilasi Bazar and talk to Sahu. The villagers told Sahu that a claim for community rights to this land has already been made by them and is pending with concerned government authorities and that this being forest land, no such construction should be done here. That’s when some anti-social elements or goondas who were hired to guard the illegal activities going on at the spot chased them away hurling cuss words and death threats.
This prompted a few residents namely; Sukuvariya Devi, Mankunwar, Sitakunwat, Mangari, Savita Devi, Phoolmati, Lakshminiya and Phoolbas, to write to authorities narrating the entire sordid saga. According to the letter, the thugs chasing the villagers threatened to burn them alive should they return to the spot. The letter also alleges that the entire illegal operation was being carried out in connivance with Muirpur Police.
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.
This letter has been sent to District Collector, Sonbhadra; Superintendent of Police, Sonbhadra; Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Chairpersons of National Human Rights Commission as well as National Commission for Scheduled Tribes. The letter further states that this incident has caused much agitation among the villagers of Lilasi and they hold Muirpur Police as well as the forest officials of that area responsible for this incident along with Sahu for being complicit with him. It further states that no property deed can be made of a land being a forest land. The letter also points out that the villagers have been intimidated in the past for fighting for their rights as tribals over forest land and forest produce by registering false cases of rioting against them.
Their complaints to the police and forest officials of Muirpur area have gone unheard and hence this letter was sent on June 24. Through this letter, the villagers have urged the concerned authorities and commissions to take necessary action to halt this illegal construction and to take penal action against the perpetrators so that their rights of staking claim to this forest land is not impinged upon. A complaint has also been made on the online portal of the Home Department of Uttar Pradesh called Jan Sunwai (Public hearing) under the land dispute category; this is pending further action.
In several isolated incidents, tribals across the country have been facing hurdles in their daily livelihood and are also being assaulted by public officials such as the police and the forest officials. CJP and the All India Union for Forest Working People (AIUFWP) have approached the National Human Rights Commission to bring to its notice these incidents whereby tribals belonging to different communities are being harassed, abused and assaulted. In one incident, forest officials in Uttar Pradesh allegedly attacked and even molested Adivasi women belonging to the Tharu tribe, in the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve in broad daylight, while in another incident Van Gujjars of Rajaji National Park, Dehradun were beaten up, their shelters were destroyed and were even subjected to custodial violence, which ended up in one women being sexually assaulted in custody. Such escalated incidents of injustice being meted out to tribals are on the rise and need urgent attention of concerned authorities.
The letter may be read here:
The Jan Sunwai complaint may be read here: