Pastoral Community in Gujarat's Banni Grasslands Demands Titles Recognising Community Forest Rights

Reported by

Aditi PatilLand Conflict Watch

Last updated on

January 6, 2020

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Land Use

In 2015, each of the 47 villages under the jurisdiction of 16 gram panchayats administering Banni grasslands in Kutchch district in Gujarat was granted Community Forest Rights (CFR) under the Forest Rights Act (FRA). The CFR extended over the entire area of the grasslands (2,500 square kilometres). While the claims were cleared by the government, the Maldhari community that lives on the grasslands never got titles formally recognising their traditional rights over the land. The forest and revenue departments could not come to an agreement over the grasslands status as either forest or revenue land as the grasslands have till date not been demarcated. When the Madharis called on the chief minister in 2017 requesting ownership titles, they were told that a committee comprising the chief minister and officials of the revenue and forest departments was formed, which would grant them land titles. Despite this, in early October 2018, the revenue department started a regular survey of the land in three of the panchayats under the Gujarat Land Revenue Code, 1879, which applies to revenue villages and not forest villages. This was opposed by the Maldhari community, which has used the Banni grasslands only as a pastureland and discouraged any farming or private land holding within it. The panchayats condemned the survey, saying that the government wanted to start the land resettlement process sidelining the task of clearing the community's CFR claims that were approved in 2015. A year later, the Maldharis approached the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in December 2018 over the neglect of CFR. In July 2019, the principal bench of the NGT directed the Gujarat government to complete the demarcation of Banni grasslands within four months and to submit a report to the tribunal, noting that the grasslands has till date not been demarcated on the ground. Once the area is demarcated as forest and nonforest land, claimants of forest rights would not be labelled encroachers and evicted. The NGT bench directed the state to carry out demarcation on a priority basis and to ensure that no nonforestry activity is carried out in the area. The next hearing in the case is scheduled on November 6, 2019.

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Private and Common

Type of Common Land

Non-Forest (Grazing Land)

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Government Bodies Involved in the Conflict:

Gujarat government, State forest department, National Green Tribunal

Other Parties Involved in the Conflict:

Community Forest Rights, Learning and Advocacy Group, Sahjeevan, Banni Breeders' Association

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