Tribune News Service
Shimla, December 29
Braving bone-chilling cold, more than 1,500 tribals on Saturday held a protest in Reckong Peo, Kinnaur, against the district administration’s failure to implement the Forest Rights Act.
The catalyst of the protest was the December 17 decision of the Kinnaur administration to reject 47 individual forest rights claims of Lippa village in the district. The agitation was held under the banner of the Zila Van Adhikar Samiti and Him Lok Jagriti Manch, which have been struggling for the implementation of the Act. A memorandum has also been submiited to Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur in this regard.
“The decision of the district-level committee is not just about one village, it is about bureaucratic ignorance on the provisions of the Forest Rights Act as well as their attitude towards the common people of the state,” Jiyalal Negi, Zila Van Adhikar Samiti, said.
The government had been dragging its feet in clearing the claims under the Act for the last 10 years and that the objections being raised by the administration had no legal backing. “Thousands of claims are hanging in Kinnaur district alone at various stages because of lack of bureaucratic action,” he said. Daulat Ram, a non-official member of the DLC, said: “The FRA is getting violated at each procedural step, and the voice of the non-official members gets completely overshadowed and ignored by the office-holding members of the DLC. In Lippa case too, all three non-official members had refused to accept the decision of the official members.”
Prakash Bhandari of Himdhara Collective said: “When they have implemented Section 3(2) of the Act for the diversion of forest land for village development activities, why aren’t they doing the same 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. As such, this is a partial reading of the Act.”
Negi also objected to the repeated stand of the administration that the tribals of Kinnaur did not qualify to be forest dwellers. “We cannot survive in a remote area like Kinnaur without depending on land and forests. This is a question of not just our survival, but of our identity as tribals,” he said.
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