Tribals brave snow to protest against denial of forest rights
Shimla: Braving sub-zero temperature conditions and icy cold weather, nearly 1,500 tribals held a mass rally at Kinnaur's district headquarters Reckong Peo on Saturday to lodge their fiercest protest against bureaucratic roadblocks in implementing the Forest Rights Act (FRA).
The FRA is aimed at protecting the rights of forest-dwelling tribal communities under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006. However, over the years, its implementation has been tardy and there have been concerted efforts to dilute it, alleged tribals.
Zila Van Adhikar Samiti and Him Lok Jagriti Manch—which have launched a massive struggle to seek implementation of the Act alleged that district administration Kinnaur on December 17, 2018 had rejected 47 individual forest rights claims at Lippa village. "Despite the recent spell of snowfall and bad weather which brought down the temperatures in this high altitude region, people from villages across the district participated in the protest," said Jiyalal Negi, of Zila Van Adhikar Samiti.
He claimed that the decision of the District Level Committee was not just about one village - this was telling of the bureaucratic ignorance on the provisions of the Forest Rights Act as well as their attitude towards the common people of the state.
Daulat Ram, a nonofficial member of the DLC who presents at the protest rally, said, "FRA is getting violated at each procedural step, and the voice of the nonofficial members gets completely overshadowed and ignored by the office holding members of the DLC".
In the Lippa case too all three nonofficial members had refused to accept the decision of the official members, he said at the rally. Prakash Bhandari of Himdhara Collective, while addressing the gathering said, "When they have implemented section 3(2) of the act for diversion of forest land for village development activities then why not for section 3(1) which recognises Individual and Community rights. When it comes to Section 3 (1), the people of Kinnaur are not considered as 'forest dwelling communities" whereas under 3(2) they are - this is a partial reading of the Act".