J&K Forest Department Chops Apple Trees in Budgam, Razes Huts of Gujjars

Reported by

Mubashir BukhariLand Conflict Watch

Last updated on

June 3, 2021

Location of Conflict

Kanidajan

,

Budgam

Reason or Cause of Conflict

Forest Administration (Other than Protected Areas)

(

)

People Affected by Conflict

144

Land Area Affected (in Hectares)

20

ha

State

Jammu and Kashmir

Sector

Conservation and Forestry

In December 2020, the Jammu and Kashmir forest department chopped down hundreds of apple trees belonging to 30 families in Kanidajan village and its adjoining areas in Budgam district. The department alleges that the trees were grown on forestland encroached by the Gujjars and Bakarwals, who form 12 per cent of the former states population. The families, meanwhile, claim that the land was allotted to them some 6070 years ago by the state to grow food. According to them, the officials not only destroyed their apple orchards – the only source of income for many – but also razed their huts to the ground. The Gujjars and Bakarwals are recognised in the region as Scheduled Tribes, or forest dwellers under the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006. Nomads by nature, the communities build temporary huts, called dokas, as they move from place to place in search of fodder for their livestock. The settlement of nomadic communities is often termed as encroachment by the state. Whenever these nomads settle on any common land, they claim traditional right over it and demand ownership. The state, on the other hand, considers them encroachers as they have no legal titles over what the state considers government land. The absence of permanent land to settle in and the lack of legal titles as well as laws to safeguard their interests has left these nomadic communities vulnerable. Ashraf Katoo, divisional forest officer in Budgam, told LCW that the forest department had chopped apple trees on 20 hectares of forestland in Kanidajan on which 30 families were illegally using. "This land belongs to the forest department, and these families are encroachers, so we had to retrieve it." The FRA recognises the right of forestdwelling communities to live on forestland and cultivate the same and mandates that no forest dweller can be evicted if their claim for rights is pending. But the Act is yet to be implemented in Jammu and Kashmir (it is expected to come in force in the union territory from March 2021). On February 13, 2019, the Supreme Court had ordered the eviction of more than one million Scheduled Tribes and forest dwellers in 16 states. The court later stayed its order following an outcry of protests from activists and the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs. Meanwhile, in midNovember 2019, the Jammu and Kashmir government invoked the 94yearold obsolete Indian Forest Act, 1927, and began issuing eviction notices to Gujjars and other traditional forestdwellers, directing them to surrender their land and cut down trees that were planted on government land. A demolition drive was also undertaken in Pahalgam in which several huts belonging to the Gujjars and Bakarwals were razed. Dr. Javaid Rahi, noted Gujjar scholar, activist and General Secretary of the NGO, Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation based out of Jammu, told LCW on June 2, 2021, that the organization is continuing its advocacy efforts for the forest rights of the Gujjar communities and are constantly negotiating with the concerned district and other relevant higher authorities.

Region Classification

Rural

Type of Land

Common

Private and Common

Type of Common Land

Forest

Total investment involved (in Crores):

Type of investment:

Land Area Affected
(in Hectares):

20

ha

Starting Year

2020

Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Demand for legal recognition of land rights, Complaint against procedural violations

Government Bodies Involved in the Conflict:

Forest department

Ashraf Katoo, divisional forest officer in Budgam, told LCW that the forest department had chopped apple trees on 20 hectares of forestland which around 30 families were illegally using. "This land belongs to the forest department, and these families are encroachers, so we had to retrieve it."

Corporate Parties Involved in the Conflict:

Other Parties Involved in the Conflict:

Has the Conflict Ended?

When did it end?

Why did the conflict end?

Resources Related to Conflict

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