16, Jul 2020 | CJP Team
Martin Luther King Jr. is known to have said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter”. The Tharu Adivasi community of Kajaria village located in Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, Lakhimpur Kheri district, Uttar Pradesh, particularly the women, refused to remain silent after being threatened and assaulted by government officials demanding their subservience. They were attacked, molested, threatened with bullets fired in the air for farming on a land yet they arose as a community, got an FIR filed against the perpetrators from the forest department as well as one police personnel and got back to farming on the land.
In a joint report released by Tharu Adivasi Mahila Mazdoor Kisan Manch in alliance with All India Union for Forest Working People (AIUFWP) it was stated that the land that the forest officials were claiming to be forest land and were trying to prevent the adivasis from farming on, is actually a piece of land on which members of Tharu community have been farming on since many generations. In 2008 this land got submerged when River Mohana flowing from Nepal had flooded. A few years later this land re-emerged from the river as its flow lessened and since then the forest department has been trying to claim it as forest land. In 2013, the Tharu Community filed its claims under the Forest Rights Act on this piece of land and the claims have been pending ever since.
Yet, every year when it’s time to sow seeds in these lands, forest officials employ some means of harassment to stop these Adivasi women from tilling their lands. This year, too they tried harsher means but remained unsuccessful in suppressing the resilient and indomitable spirit of these women and the community is now back on the land, tilling, sowing seeds, so they can make a living out of it and contribute to the food security of the country.
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. Kajaria village experienced an attack by forest officials merely because some Adivasis were tilling land that the forest officials claimed was forest land. On July 1, the forest officials reached the field, came to the village, allegedly fired shots in the air, molested women and beat up some youngsters.
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.
Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) along with its partner organization AIUFWP wrote a joint memorandum to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) giving a detailed account of this incident.
The complete report may be read here.