23, Oct 2019 | Gayatri Korgaonkar
Bhumi Adhikar Andolan and forest rights groups have planned multi-level protests in response to the unrelenting violation of people’s rights and dilution of Forest Rights Act, despite a Supreme Court stay on evictions.
From November 17, 2019 onward, state, district and village level actions have been planned by movement groups to protest these violations. The protests will culminate on November 21, 2019, the day of the national action to have a Sansad Gherao at Sansad Marg, Delhi. The collective has called upon like-minded groups to extend their support to this movement.
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.
Despite further evictions having been put on hold until the next date of hearing, November 26, the forest department has continued to push people out of their lands. Advasis have had their farms and houses destroyed, and have been victims of violence in Burhanpur Madhya Pradesh and Sonbhadra, Uttar Pradesh. Several such instances have been reported in many states since February 13, 2019.
This means that the NDA II Government, to facilitate corporate loot and exploitation of the tribal people, is also proposing draconian amendments to the Indian Forest Act, 1927. All this will further vitiate the situation in the forests and snatch away the rights of the Adivasis and forest dwellers.
This is not the first time agrarian rights groups has joined hands to protest in this matter A series of meetings have been held by movement groups and Adivasi groups across the country in past few months including 300 mass protests across the country on July 22.
Many organisations have also intervened in the Supreme Court. Under pressure some of the state governments have filed their affidavits in the court and agreed to review the process. However, the role of Union Government in the SC has remained dubious. Union government has failed to protect the rights of the adivasis and the other forest dwellers groups as mandated by the Forest Rights Act.
The participating groups include Bhumi Adhikar Andolan, All India Kisan Sabha, All India Union of Forest Working People, All India Kisan Mahasabha, National Alliance of People’s Movements, All India Agricultural Workers Union, Jagrut Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, All India Krishak Khet Mazdoor Union, Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch, and Delhi Solidarity Group.
In the statement, the groups have stated that is completely unconstitutional and illegal that blatant violation of the Central Act has continued by the State governments with Union government turning a blind eye.
It also needs to be noted that the State governments have failed to protect the interests of the farmers and landowners despite many judgements on Section 24(2) of the 2013 Act by the High Court. Even in the ongoing Constitution Bench hearing in Supreme Court, the Union government has consistently stonewalled the efforts of the farmers groups who have challenged the unconstitutional amendments to the 2013 Act.
Unfortunately, Union government is siding with the Corporations who have challenged the HC judgements in favour of farmers, say the protesting organisations.
In the press statement, the Bhumi Adhikar Andolan also urged the Supreme Court to clear the ongoing controversy surrounding the recusal of judges who have been party to the previous judgements. On October 21, Supreme Court judge Justice Arun Mishra took strong exception to a request by parties to recuse himself from heading a Constitution Bench meant to re-examine his own judgment relating to provisions of compensation in the Land Acquisition Act.
It’s a matter of constitutional propriety that judges who have been part of the previous judgements must recuse. The matter concerns millions of farmers and those dependent on agriculture and their interests must be protected. Union government also must come clear on this issue and stand with the people.