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    Violation of Forest Rights in J&K - JK Latest News

    Eviction notices and axing of apple trees against SC order?

    Last year, in February, 

    Supreme Court had direct-

    ed for eviction of more 

    than 1 million scheduled 

    tribe (ST), and other forest 

    dwellers from forestlands in 16 

    Indian states. The February 13, 

    2019 order had directed the evic-

    tion of more than 11.8 lakh people 

    living around forests in the name 

    of wildlife protection. 

    The order was criticized by 

    forest rights activists, forest 

    dwellers and above all by the 

    United Nations special rappor-

    teurs for human rights. To pro-

    tect the rights of these tribals and 

    forest dwellers, the Government 

    of India finally admitted before 

    the Supreme Court that most 

    rejections of claims for forest 

    rights entitlements were illegal 

    and requested the court to stay 

    its eviction order. On 1st March 

    2019 Supreme Court stayed its 

    own order to evict forest dwell-

    ers which was considered to be 

    a major relief for such a huge 


    But when it comes to 

    protecting the rights of Scheduled 

    Tribes (ST’s) and Other Tradi-

    tional Forest Dwellers of Jammu 

    & Kashmir like Gujjars, Bakerw-

    als, Pahadis, Chopans, Kashmiri 

    speaking forest dwellers or even 

    Dogri speaking people living 

    around forests for ages the Gov-

    ernment seems to have different 


    The Supreme Court directions 

    came after the Union ministry 

    of Tribal Affairs approached 

    the court pleading for modifica-

    tion and a temporary stay on the 

    implementation of the eviction 

    order. The ministry maintained 

    that Forest Rights Act 2006 was a 

    welfare legislation and under the 

    Act, the rejection of a claim does 

    not ipso facto lead to the eviction 

    of forest dwellers and tribals.

    The ministry had also 

    expressed concern over the high 

    rate of rejections of claims and 

    submitted that since the details 

    of rejection claims have not been 

    provided by the governments, it 

    is possible the poor and illiterate 

    forest dwellers may not have got 

    due opportunity to substantiate 

    their claims.


    Very recently Forest Depart-

    ment officials chopped down 

    hundreds of apple trees in Kani-

    dajan and its surrounding vil-

    lages in Pakher pora block of 

    district Budgam. 

    Forest Depart-

    ment officials allege that a large 

    chunk of forest land has been ille-

    gally encroached by locals which 

    includes traditional forest dwell-

    ers (Kashmiri speaking people) 

    and Scheduled Tribe gujjars. The 

    locals on the other hand claim 

    that land has been allotted to them 

    more than 60 to 70 years back by 

    the Government under the “Grow 

    More Food “ programme. Earlier 

    Forest department officials had 

    issued eviction notices to the 

    people living near forests under 

    section 79-A of Indian Forest Act 

    1927. The notices were issued in 

    many districts directing the local 

    population to surrender land to 

    the forest department and cut 

    down all the fruit or non-fruit 

    bearing trees that were planted 

    on the land under control of the 

    local population. A demolition 

    drive was undertaken by the 

    Government in Pahalgam area 

    of South Kashmir as well wherein 

    several huts of nomadic Gujjars 

    were raised to ground. These huts 

    locally called Kotha’s are used by 

    nomadic populations in summer 

    months when they migrate to 

    upper reaches in search of fodder 

    for their livestock. 


    On one hand Government is 

    cutting down apple trees grown 

    by forest dwellers around their 

    villages and on the other hand 

    Government claims that they 

    would be going to implement 

    the Scheduled Tribes and Other 

    Traditional Forest Dwellers (Rec-

    ognition of Forest Rights) Act 

    2006 commonly known as Forest 

    Rights Act (FRA-2006). As men-

    tioned in my previous article the 

    Forest Rights Act (FRA- 2006) rec-

    ognizes and vests the forest rights 

    and occupation on Forest land in 

    favour of Forest Dwelling Sched-

    uled Tribes (FDST) and Other Tra-

    ditional Forest Dwellers (OTFD) 

    who have been residing in such 

    forests for generations. This act 

    also establishes the responsibili-

    ties and authority for sustainable 

    use, conservation of biodiversity 

    and maintenance of ecological 

    balance of the forest dwellers. 

    Issuance of eviction notices goes 

    completely against the FRA 2006. 

    Before the abrogation of article 370 

    this law was not applicable in J&K 

    but from October 31st Forest Rights 

    Act is very much applicable here 

    and the Govt is doing a criminal 

    act by dislodging traditional forest 

    dwellers from their ancestral land. 

    Where shall these people go. 


    Noted adivasi and forest rights 

    activist and researcher C.R. 

    Bijoy is the foremost indepen-

    dent researcher who has been 

    involved with the implementa-

    tion of the Forest Rights Act 2006 

    in an interview with note Journal-

    ist Muzamil Jaleel said that it is 

    the village panchayat through its 

    Gram Sabha or Deh Majlis not the 

    Government which has to imple-

    ment the FRA 2006. I had men-

    tioned this in my previous piece as 

    well during the concluding para. 

    Unfortunately, the village pan-

    chayats across Jammu & Kashmir 

    are not at all updated or informed 

    about this and the Government 

    is trying to do everything on its 

    own. If the Gram Sabha which is 

    called Deh Majlis in J&K under 

    J&K Panchayati Raj Act 1989 has 

    to implement the Forest Rights 

    Act (FRA-2006) how dare Forest 

    Department will issue eviction 

    notices to people living around for-

    ests or chop off their apple trees?


    The Forest Rights Act (FRA-

    2006) requires that the claimant 

    should be a Scheduled Tribe in 

    the relevant area. In some States, 

    a person’s Scheduled Tribe status 

    is restricted to a particular area 

    or District within the State. How-

    ever, in other States, as per the 

    Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) 

    Order, 1950, the Scheduled Tribes 

    are recognized as such for the 

    entire State, and not just to the 

    area of their domicile or the 

    Scheduled Area or any other geo-

    graphical location. For example, 

    in Himachal Pradesh, members 

    of the Scheduled Tribes from 

    Lahul and Spiti (Scheduled Area) 

    who may have moved to Kullu or 

    Manali (a non-Scheduled Area), 

    continue nevertheless to remain 

    Scheduled Tribes (ST’s) under 

    the Presidential Order of 1950 and 

    are not divested of such status 

    merely due to a change in their 

    domicile within the State. Same 

    is the case with J&K. ST’s from 

    Kupwara or Kishtwar living in 

    Srinagar or Jammu continue to 

    get ST benefits there as well. The 

    criteria and evidence required for 

    Other Traditional Forest Dwell-

    ers (OTFD) like pahadis, Chopans, 

    Kashmiri or even Dogri speaking 

    people living in forest areas of 

    Ramban , Reasi , Doda etc to claim 

    rights under FRA are a) Primarily 

    resided in forest or forests land for 

    three generations (75 years) and 

    b) Depend on the forest or forests 

    land for bonafide livelihood needs. 

    Section 2(o) of FRA 2006 refers to 

    “any member or community” 

    for this purpose, and hence if an 

    OTFD village establishes its eli-

    gibility under the Act, there is no 

    need for every individual to do so 



    The requirement under Sec-

    tion 2(o) of FRA 2006 is that the 

    “member or community” should 

    have “primarily resided in” forest 

    land for at least three generations 

    prior to December 13, 2005 (for all 

    states except J&K). In the case of 

    Jammu & Kashmir the date will 

    begin from Oct 31st 2019 in my 

    opinion as FRA 2006 was extended 

    to J&K from the same date. The 

    community should depend on the 

    forest for their bonafide livelihood 


    Once this eligibility crite-

    ria is fulfilled, the vesting provi-

    sion of the Act, namely Section 

    4, does not differentiate between 

    forest dwelling STs and Non ST’s 

    also called Other Traditional 

    Forest Dwellers (OTFDs). Any two 

    evidences specified in Rule 13 can 

    be provided while making a claim. 

    Insistence of any particular form 

    of documentary evidence for con-

    sideration of a claim has been held 

    to be illegal by the Gujarat High 

    Court in Arch Vahini vs. State of 

    Gujarat & Ors


    Very recently Chief Secretary 

    chaired the maiden meeting of 

    the UT-level Monitoring Com-

    mittee on FRA 2006. Administra-

    tive Secretaries of the Revenue, 

    Forest, Ecology & Environment, 

    Rural Development, and Tribal 

    Affairs departments besides 

    Principal Chief Conservator of 

    Forests (PCCF) participated in 

    the meeting. CS informed that 

    under the FRA 2006, the forest-

    dwelling scheduled tribes and 

    other traditional forest dwell-

    ers will be provided the rights 

    over forestland for the purpose 

    of habitation or self-cultivation/

    livelihood; ownership, access to 

    collect, use, and dispose of minor 

    forest produce, and entitlement to 

    seasonal resources among others. 

    The Chief Secretary impressed 

    upon the Forest Department to 

    kick start the initial survey of 

    claimants by the Forest Rights 

    Committees and assess the nature 

    and extent of rights to be recog-

    nized and protected. 


    We are trying our best to create 

    awareness on FRA in remote 

    areas. People are protesting but 

    no Govt official is ready to listen 

    to them. I recently met 108 year old 

    Zooni Begum in Zilsidara Bran-

    war in Budgam district. She was in 

    tears after getting eviction notice 

    from Forest Department. If the 

    Supreme Court has stayed all evic-

    tion proceedings across India, how 

    can the government ask people to 

    surrender the land in Jammu & 

    Kashmir? The intentions of Govt 

    are not clear vis a vis implement-

    ing Forest Rights Act 2006 in J&K. 

    On one hand Govt assures to give 

    the STs and other forest dwellers 

    their rights and title over the forest 

    land but the actions like issuance 

    of eviction notices and chopping of 

    fruit trees of these poor people is 

    defeating the essence of this great 


    The Forest department 

    is trying its best to dispossess the 

    forest dwellers of their land which 

    they have been cultivating for sev-

    eral generations. If these people are 

    evicted from their villages what is 

    the purpose of implementing FRA 

    2006 in Jammu & Kashmir? The 

    erring forest officers should be 

    taken to task and we will be filing 

    a formal complaint against them 

    before the court of law.. 

    Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is 

    Chairman of Jammu & 

    Kashmir RTI Movement. He is 

    a Climate Action fellow at ANU 


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