AIKS Will Fight to Defend the Rights of Over 2 Million Adivasis & Traditional Forest Dwellers
All India Kisan Sabha feels that the Supreme Court verdict on Forest Rights Act ordering the eviction of over a million Adivasis and traditional forest dwellers is unfortunately giving legal sanction to the historic oppression they have been subject to and will perpetuate the deprivation they have faced for time immemorial. The orders came on the petition of Wild Life First Vs Ministry of Forest and Environment challenging the Forest Rights Act itself. According to the latest figures available (December 2018) of the 42.19 lakh claims made only 18.89 lakh claims have been accepted. This order could render 23.30 lakh people vulnerable to eviction from their land and forests. Evicting over 2 million people as their claims under FRA has been rejected only points to the farcical implementation the Act which we have been all the while highlighting. It is tantamount to declaring war on the livelihoods of the most oppressed sections. The Supreme Court unfortunately has not looked into how the Adivasis and traditional forest dwellers will continue to live without forest and land rights. It has left them with only one option- to fight or perish. It is the BJP led Central Government which deliberately created a situation to kill the Forest Rights Act as its counsel was absent on crucial dates. Clearly, there seems to have been connivance with the lobbies promoting predatory tourism and the officials of the Forest Department who have always been against the FRA from the very beginning. The fact that neither was the Ministry of Tribal Affairs which is the nodal agency for implementation of FRA given responsibility of the case nor did they feel the necessity to intervene in the matter also points to the callous attitude of the BJP Government.
The AIKS along with the Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch, Bhumi Adhikar Andolan and like-minded organisations will appeal against this order as the rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution as set out in Article 21 and under the Schedules V and VI which reaffirm their autonomy and assure a life of dignity for them. Further the Samata Judgement of 1997 that had defended the rights of Adivasi communities to their homelands will also be overturned by this order. The Adivasis’ unhindered access to land and forests, Minor Forest Produce and commons guaranteed by the FRA is indispensable for their livelihood security. A major legislation which protected their rights in the wake of predatory tourism, mining, wild life conservation lobby as well as corporate plunder is being nullified. In the last five years the BJP Government has passed several laws which dilute and eliminate the protections given by the Forest Rights Act like the amendments passed to the Mining Act, the Compensatory Afforestation Act and several notifications from the MOEF which dilute the FRA. State Governments under the NDA have also adopted amendments which dilute the provisions of the LARR Act 2013 and the efforts to rob the rights guaranteed by the Chhotanagpur Tenancy Act (CNTA) and Santhal Paragana Tenancy Act (SPTA) in Jharkhand are also well-known.
AIKS demands that the BJP Government pass an Ordinance immediately to stop eviction of the Adivasis and other traditional forest dwellers from their land and forests. It is notable that nearly a lakh Kisans, a sizeable number of whom are Adivasis are marching from Nashik to Mumbai with Forest Rights being an important demand as well as pointing to the farcical implementation of the FRA so far in the State. AIKS calls upon all its units to rise up in protest, unite all forces willing to fight against this injustice and resist evictions on the basis of this order.
Ashok Dhawale, President Hannan Mollah, General Secretary