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

Reported by

Mubashir BukhariLand Conflict Watch

Last updated on

August 16, 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

Starting Year

2020

State

Jammu and Kashmir

Sector

Conservation and Forestry

In December 2020, the Jammu and Kashmir forest department cut 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 forest land encroached by the Gujjars and Bakarwals. The families claim that the land was allotted to them 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. 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. The absence of recognition of their land rights leaves nomadic communities vulnerable. Ashraf Katoo, divisional forest officer in Budgam, told LCW that the forest department had cut 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. Earlier in midNovember 2019, the Jammu and Kashmir government had invoked the Indian Forest Act, 1927, and issued 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.

Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Demand for legal recognition of land rights, Complaint against procedural violations, Demand to retain/protect access to common land/resources

Compensation for the losses caused by the forest department.

Region Classification

Rural

Type of Land

Common

Type of Common Land

Forest

Total investment involved (in Crores):

Type of investment:

Year of Estimation

Has the Conflict Ended?

When did it end?

Why did the conflict end?

Categories of Legislations Involved in the Conflict

Forest and Scheduled Area Governance Laws, Other

Legislations/Policies Involved

  1. Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006

    Section 2(1)(c) [defines “forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes” as members or community of the Scheduled Tribes who primarily reside in and who depend on the forests or forest lands for bona fide livelihood needs and includes the Scheduled Tribe pastoralist communities]; Section 3(1)(a) [This section secures the rights of forest-dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers to hold and live in forestland under individual or common occupation for habitation or for self-cultivation for livelihood]; Section 4(1) [This section recognises and vests forest rights in forest-dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers]; Section 4(2)(a) [No forest rights can be modified or forest rights holders resettled until the process of recognition and vesting of rights is complete in all the areas under consideration]; Section 4(5) [No member of a forest-dwelling Scheduled Tribe or other traditional forest dweller shall be evicted or removed from forest land under his occupation till the recognition and verification procedure is complete]; Section 6 [Lays down the procedure to be followed by the authorities to vest forest rights in forest-dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers]

  2. Indian Forest Act, 1927

    Section 79A [A forest officer not below the rank of a Divisional Forest Officer has the authority to issue eviction notices (in this case to Gujjars) to traditional forest dwellers and impose penalty for unauthorisedly taking possession of land constituted as reserved or protected forest]

  3. Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989

    Section 3(1)(v) [Punishment for offences of atrocities, including dispossessing a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe from his land or premises or interfereing with the enjoyment of his rights over any land]

Whether claims/objections were made as per procedure in the relevant statute

What was the claim(s)/objection(s) raised by the community? What was the decision of the concerned government department?

Legal Processes and Loopholes Enabling the Conflict:

Forced evictions/ Dispossession of Land, Non-implementation/violation of the FRA, Lack of legal protection over land rights, Use of old/outdated laws , Scheduled Tribes status or lack of status

Legal Status:

In Court

Status of Case In Court

Pending

Whether any adjudicatory body was approached

Name of the adjudicatory body

Name(s) of the Court(s)

Supreme Court of India

Case Number

Writ Petition (Civil) No. 109/2008

Major Human Rights Violations Related to the Conflict:

Displacement

Whether criminal law was used against protestors

Official name of the criminal law. Did the case reach trial?

Reported Details of the Violation:

Forest department officials razed the temporary shelters of Gujjars, called dokas.

Date of Violation

December 4, 2020

Location of Violation

Kanidajan village

Nature of Protest

Government Departments Involved in the Conflict:

Forest department

PSUs Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Government Authorities for Comments?

Yes

Name, Designation and Comment of the Government Authorities Approached

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:

Did LCW Approach Corporate Parties for Comments?

N/A

Name, Designation and Comment of Corporate Authorities Approached

Other Parties Involved in the Conflict:

Resources Related to Conflict

  • News Articles Related to the Conflict:
  • Documents Related to the Conflict:
  • Links Related to the Conflict:
No Images Available

Documented By

Mubashir Bukhari

Reviewed By

Mubashir Bukhari

Updated By

Mubashir Bukhari

Edited By

Mubashir BukhariLand Conflict Watch
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