15, Mar 2019 | Daisy K.
Even though there exist laws to protect forest dwellers in the country, residents, especially women, continue to face severe forms of harassment at the hands of officials, said women activists from Sonbhadra District of Uttar Pradesh during an event in Mumbai.
They recounted stories of resistance and struggles in their attempts to secure land during an event organised on Wednesday by Citizen of Justice and Peace (CJP), along with All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP). The event saw the participation of women leaders of AIUFWP including Roma Malik, Sokalo Gond, Kismatiya Gond and Rajkumari Bhuiya.
Speaking on the occasion, Roma Malik traced the struggles for land claims. “This struggle is not just for the Adivasis but for the entire civil society. There is no law here in India which talks about the protection of jungles and the protection of people’s livelihoods. The British made all the laws, they looted our jungles and then they bought in the Land Acquisition Act of 1894. After that, they bought in the Indian Forest Act in 1927 and people were then called “encroachers” of forests.
“The Forest department post-independence became one of the biggest landlords in the country by appropriating land through the Gazette of India. This went on from 1947 till the 1970s. After that came the Wildlife Protection Act which began the rhetoric that the people are harmful to the jungles. Further, the entire system of Zamindari dislodged the actual cultivators and caretakers of the land and the jungles,” she said. She added that the AIUFWP had reclaimed more than 20,000 hectares of land which is now been collectively cultivated by the women.
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