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Supreme Court orders eviction of over 1 million adivasi families

On Wednesday, 13th February, The Supreme Court of India directed the state governments to evict more than 1 million adivasi families, claiming the forestland under the FRA( Forest Rights Act), before 27 July, 2019. On that day, the case is scheduled to be heard again.

The people who are to be evicted are those people, whose claims were discarded by the Supreme Court after scrutiny. Nearly, 11,27,446 claims were rejected by the Supreme Court.

The Apex Court ordered the eviction across 16 different states. The states that are most likely to be effected are Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Odisha. These states together have almost 20% of the discarded ‘claim’ petitions.

The FRA( Forest Rights Act) was brought by the Colonial rule, in 1927 under which the people residing in forest lands from generations have been referred as ‘violators’ under the law. The ‘violators’ under the rule, we’re fined and jailed in some instances as ‘penalty’.

The move by the British rulers was opposed and protests were carried out in the following several decades.

In a trial of undoing the ‘historical injustice’ by the British, The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights Act 2006) was brought by the UPA regime ,led by former PM Manmohan Singh in an attempt to recognise the forest dwellers and provide them land holdings after their ‘scrutiny’ under the new FRA Act.

The dwellers claiming the ownership of forest land has to produce their ‘claim’ in front of a committee comprising of DC(District Collector) and Forest Officials. As a declaration, most people presented the ‘receipts’ or ‘invoice’ provided to them by the Forest Officials as the penalty imposed on them from 1927.

The new Act states that all the people dwelling in the forest lands before 31st December,2005 and for the last 3 generations has to be recognised and provided with ‘land holdings’. Acquirement of ‘land holdings’ means that the ‘plot’ becomes validly ‘documented’ as per law.

The Colonial era Act was considered as ‘injustice’ to the tribal and forest dwellers and hence the new Act introduced by the Manmohan Singh-led UPA regime, was brought as a solution to the previous atrocities by the British rulers.

The UPA introduced FRA was criticised too. Some believed that the process involved in the acquirement of ‘land holdings’ is very ‘complicated’ and itself would demolish many claims. Whilst, another considered ‘environmentalists’ also believed that if the ‘land holdings’ are provided, then the flora and fauna of the jungle would be effected.

The matter landed in the vicinity of the court as some retired forest officials and an NGO filed a petition, challenging the law.

The petitions challenging the validity of the FRA were filed by Wildlife First(NGO) and retired forest officials who claimed that the law is resulting in ‘deforestation’ and ‘encroachment’ on forest lands.

The petitioners demanded the eviction of those, whose claims are rejected under the law.

However, the Adivasi activists and lawyers allege that the Centre’s lawyer mounted a weak defence concerning the case and hence the harsh decision was possible.Another report , suspect the ‘absence’ of government’s lawyer on 13th February.

The matter is heard and talked in the political spheres too, Rahul Gandhi alleged that the BJP ruled government was standing as a ‘silent spectator’ when the Act was challenged in the Court. He further said that it indicates the intention to drive out lakhs of tribal and poor farmers from the forests.

He also ensured that the Congress is in stand by wit the devoid brothers and sisters and will fight injustice.

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