Chhattisgarh Forest Department Demolishes 35 Houses without Notice, Offers No Compensation

Reported by

Deepika JoshiLand Conflict Watch

Last updated on

February 24, 2021

Location of Conflict

Biranpara village, Dugli panchayat

,

Dhamtari

This is a Left Wing Extremism Affected District

This is A Schedule Five District

Reason or Cause of Conflict

Forest Administration (Other than Protected Areas)

(

)

People Affected by Conflict

168

Land Area Affected (in Hectares)

49

ha

State

Chhattisgarh

Sector

Conservation and Forestry

On October 13, 2020, houses of 35 tribal families were demolished in Biranpara village in Dhamtari district, allegedly by the Joint Forest Management Committee (JFMC) of Dugli village and neighbouring Dinkarpur village. During the eviction, standing crops were destroyed and food grains were set on fire. Under the National Forest Policy of 1988, JFMCs are formed by communities for the protection and management of forests. Its Executive Committee has the power to make arrangements to prevent encroachments. Biranpara is a forest village under the jurisdiction of Dugli panchayat and houses about 100 households. The families whose homes were demolished claim to have been occupying and cultivating about 100-120 acres of land in the village since 1993-94. Around six families claim to have land titles and informed LCW that they had applied for forest rights under the Forest Rights Act, 2006, several times, but their claims were always rejected verbally, and they did not get receipts of their applications. Without legal rights over the land, the JFMC called them encroachers and started demolishing their houses. In a fact-finding report, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has accused the JFMC of the demolition. "The JFMC made the first demolition attempt in 2015, few days after these households were given a No Objection Certificate by the panchayat, headed by then sarpanch Ramkanwar Mandavi, verifying that the households are residents of that area," Sameer Quereshi, CPI(M) coordinator for Dhamtari district, told LCW.  The fact-finding report calculated a loss of INR 6 lakh per household, including property damage, crop loss and court expenses, and a total loss value of INR 2 crore over the last five years. According to the report, the harassment started five years ago. Since then, the JFMC made three demolition attempts -- in 2015, 2017 and 2020 – and destroyed crops. The affected families say they have been facing social boycott by the residents of Dugli, Dinkarpur and neighboring villages since 2015. This has affected their work prospects too. Quereshi further told LCW that the forest department had filed several complaints and legal charges against the residents of the 35 households, which resulted in their imprisonment. They were released on bail only after an order from the Chhattisgarh high court. The villagers also allege that the dominant castes/communities want to evict them from the land and occupy their land as well as the surrounding forestland. The land, located close to the main road, is much sought after. After the demolition incident in 2020, the 35 households tried to file a police complaint, but the police refused to intervene citing Section 155 of the Criminal Procedure Code (whereas a police officer cannot investigate a non-cognisable case without the order of a magistrate) and referred them to a magistrate. Protesting against the inaction of the authorities, the families submitted a memorandum to the district collector. But there was still no action. The families then sat on a two-day strike, but nothing happened. It was only when they threatened to march to the chief ministers house that officials from the district administration stopped them, assuring action against the perpetrators of the violence. No compensation/relief has been offered to the families so far. A month after the incident, a government team reached the village for investigation and did not find any evidence to prove that the 35 families were legal residents of the village. District Collector J.P. Maurya told LCW that officials from the forest department and sub divisional magistrate office inspected the village thrice. He reiterated that these families are encroachers and that the JFMC is merely checking encroachment. However, on asking why the houses were demolished without any notice/procedure even if it is a case of encroachment, Maurya could not give a satisfactory reply. He also denied any social boycott of the families.

Region Classification

Rural

Type of Land

Both

Private and Common

Type of Common Land

Forest and Non-Forest, Non-Forest (Grazing Land)

Total investment involved (in Crores):

Type of investment:

Land Area Affected
(in Hectares):

49

ha

Starting Year

2015

Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Demand for rehabilitation, Demand for legal recognition of land rights

Government Bodies Involved in the Conflict:

Forest Department

Corporate Parties Involved in the Conflict:

Other Parties Involved in the Conflict:

Has the Conflict Ended?

No

When did it end?

Why did the conflict end?

Resources Related to Conflict

  • News Articles Related to the Conflict:
  • Documents Related to the Conflict:
  • Links Related to the Conflict:
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