A DAY after the Supreme Court directed 17 states to carry out eviction of all those whose claims in respect to forest land had been rejected, the CPM on Thursday said the order will affect more than one million tribals and traditional forest dwellers and asked the Central government to issue an ordinance to protect them from eviction.
CPM Politburo member Brinda Karat shot off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying, “It will be highly unjust to adivasis and traditional forest dwellers if an ordinance is not passed immediately to protect them from eviction.” She added: “It will be virtual declaration of war against adivasis.”
“According to the latest figures available (December 2018) of the 42.19 lakh claims made, only 18.89 lakh claims have been accepted. This means that 23.30 lakh adivasis and traditional forest dwellers are vulnerable to eviction according to the Supreme Court orders… It is highly regrettable that the counsel arguing for the Central Government was absent from the Court on the crucial date.”
“This betrayal of the rights of adivasis was the culmination of the connivance of the Ministry concerned with the petitioners. Many of the petitioners in the case are retired officers of the forest department. At no point in these years did the legal representatives of your government take a strong position in court in defence of the rights of adivasis and traditional forest dwellers,” she said.
She said the nodal agency for the implementation of the Forest Rights Act is the Tribal Affairs Ministry “but instead of giving the responsibility of the case to them, your government has left it deliberately to the Ministry which has been totally against the Act from the beginning”.
“The Forest Rights Act specifies under Sec 4 (5) that no one can be evicted without proper procedure. However, the authorities who are supposed to follow this procedure are themselves responsible for the violation and arbitrary rejection of claims even those claims recommended by the gram sabhas.”
She demanded that an impartial body should go through the claims of adivasis which have been rejected and not leave it to the ministries.