Residents of Buxa Tiger Reserve in West Bengal Demand Recognition of Forest Rights

Reported by

Mitali Biswas

Legal Data by

Edited by

Updated by

Published on

April 18, 2017

April 18, 2017

Updated on

April 18, 2017

Location of Conflict

Buxa tiger reserve

Jalpaiguri

Reason or Cause of Conflict

Protected Areas

(

Tiger Reserve

)

People Affected by Conflict

18000

Households Affected by Conflict

Land Area Affected (in Hectares)

ha

Starting Year

1989

State

West Bengal

Sector

Conservation and Forestry

Buxa hills in Jalpaiguri district were declared a tiger reserve in 1983. Of the total 42 villages in the reserve, the state forest department identified 18 villages in the core area to be relocated. These villages are homes to tribes like Rawas, Mechs, Santhals, Oraos and Garos. The residents depend on the forests for firewood and timber as well as for grazing cattle and collecting other nontimber forest products. In 2009, the state announced a relocation package of INR 10 lakh for every adult living in the core area of the tiger reserve. Just when some families decided to take the money, the government revised the amount to INR 10 lakh per household. This dissuaded the families from accepting the compensation. Now, the residents of the 18 villages are demanding that their land and forest rights be recognised under the Forest Rights Act (FRA). The FRA stipulates that the government should first recognise the rights of the indigenous people living in the forest and then plan any kind of relocation. Lal Singh Bhujel, who represents Uttar Banga Van Jan Shramajeevi Manch at Buxa, an organisation working for the rights of forest dwellers, has been educating the village residents about their rights. On May 21, 2019, LCW contacted Bhujel for an update. "The entire system is in shambles. They have not recognised the rights of the forest dwellers and have rejected the land claims of close to 1.5 lakh families in this part of northern Bengal," he said. He spoke about the harassment at the hands of forest department officials by recounting a recent incident where the Village Assembly had stopped the illegal felling of trees. Later, the villagers were hauled up and taken to the police station. "They do what they want to do," Bhujel said while describing the injustices meted out by the forest department. In 2019, a report claimed that FRA claims were being wrongfully rejected in Buxa Tiger Reserve. When LCW asked him about the February 2019 Supreme Court eviction order, Bhujel responded with a question, "If our claims were rejected, why were we not informed?" Forest dwellers are routinely harassed by the forest department and the police. On one occasion, in 2008, two villagers died inside Buxa when forest staff opened fire on groups alleging that they were felling trees. Similarly in 2018, a tribal youth was shot dead while collecting firewood, which the forest department alleged as illegal felling of trees. In December 2020, forest officers from the reserve illegally detained a local youth. Around 100 villagers marched to the forest office demanding transfer of the officer involved in the illegal detention.

Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Demand for legal recognition of land rights

Demand for promised compensation

Demand to retain/protect access to common land/resources

Complaint against procedural violations

Refusal to give up land for the project

Other Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Region Classification

Rural

Type of Land

Common

Type of Common Land

Forest

Total investment involved (in Crores):

Type of investment:

Year of Estimation

Page Number In Investment Document:

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

Legislations/Policies Involved

Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006
Section 3(1)(a) [This section recognises the right of forest dwellers to hold and live on forest land under either individual or common occupation, to either live on or cultivate]; Section 3(1)(f) [This section grants to forest dwellers rights over disputed land regardless of the nature of dispute]; Section 4(1) [This section vests all forest rights in Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers]; Section 4(2) [This section lays down stringent conditions that must be fulfilled before any forest dwellers are resettled or any of their rights are affected]; Section 6 [This section lays down the procedure to be followed to file claims under the Act]; Rule 12A(10) [This rule mandates all Sub-Divisional and District Level Committees to give detailed reasons if they reject a claim or recommendation regarding forest rights]; Rule 12B(4) [This rule mandates the District Level Committee to record reasons in the event that community forest resource rights are not recognised]
Indian Forest Act, 1927
Section 26 [This section prohibits the felling of trees in reserved forests, which is punishable by imprisonment up to six months and/or a fine of up to INR 500]; Section 66 [This section empowers forest officers to prevent and interfere for the purposes of preventing offences under the Act]
Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972
Section 38V(5) [This section lays down the strict conditions that must be met if there is to be resettlement of Scheduled Tribes or forest dwellers]
Ministry of Environment and Forests Guidelines for Voluntary Village Relocation in Notified Core/Critical Tiger Habitats of Tiger Reserves, 2010
These guidelines lay down a detailed procedure and safeguards under the Wildlife (Protection) Act and the Forest Rights Act voluntary and consent-based relocation in areas identified as critical tiger habitats.
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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:

Non-implementation/violation of FRA

Lack of legal protection over land rights

Forced evictions/dispossession of land

Non-payment of compensation/promised compensation

Legal Status:

Out of Court

Status of Case In Court

Whether any adjudicatory body was approached

Name of the adjudicatory body

Name(s) of the Court(s)

Case Number

Main Reasoning/Decision of court

Major Human Rights Violations Related to the Conflict:

Arrest/detention/imprisonment

Killing

Other harassment

Whether criminal law was used against protestors:

Reported Details of the Violation:

Forest dwellers are routinely harassed by the forest department and the police. On one occasion, when the Village Assembly obstructed the illegal felling of trees, false charges were slapped on them and they were taken to the police station. In 2008, two villagers died inside Buxa when forest staff opened fire on groups alleging that they were felling trees. Similarly in 2018, a tribal youth was shot dead while collecting firewood, which the forest department alleged as illegal felling of trees.

Date of Violation

Location of Violation

Buxa tiger reserve

Nature of Protest

Protests/marches

Development of a network or collective

Complaints/petitions/letters/memorandums to officials

Government Departments Involved in the Conflict:

West Bengal Forest Department, National Tiger Conservation Authority

PSUs Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Government Authorities for Comments?

Name, Designation and Comment of the Government Authorities Approached

Corporate Parties Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Corporate Parties for Comments?

Communities/Local Organisations in the Conflict:

Uttar Banga Van Jan Shramajeevi Manch

Resources Related to Conflict

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

Image Credit:  

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Documented By

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Reviewed By

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Updated By

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Edited By

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