Tribespeople Refuse to Vacate Core Area of Udanti-Sitanadi Tiger Reserve in Chhattisgarh

Reported by

Asha Verma

Published on

August 9, 2017

August 9, 2017

Updated on

August 9, 2017

Location of Conflict

Mainpur

Taurenga, Jangara, Sahebin Kacchar, Koyba, Indagaon and Bhoot Bera panchayats

Gariaband

Reason or Cause of Conflict

Protected Areas

(

Tiger Reserve

)

People Affected by Conflict

12000

Land Area Affected (in Hectares)

85109

ha

Starting Year

2004

State

Chhattisgarh

Sector

Conservation and Forestry

Under Project Tiger, the state government had classified Udanti and Sitanadi Wildlife Sanctuary as a composite tiger reserve in February 2009. Since then, the tribespeople living in the core area for generations have become vulnerable to displacement. Reportedly, after the process to classify the tiger reserve started in 2004, the forest department barred the tribes from accessing and gathering minor forest produce. This severely affected the lifestyle and livelihood practices of 17 villages. Some tribeswomen also alleged that forest officials attempted to frame fake charges on them for collecting firewood from the core area of the tiger reserve.  The villagers claimed that the forest department offered them resettlement packages to move out of the core zone. But the tribespeople demanded that their rights be recognised under the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006. Over the years, the Kamar, Gond and Bhunjia tribal communities have come together to demand their entitlements.  According to a 2014 news report, the six panchayats that would be affected refused to surrender their land for the tiger reserve. In 2014, a media report stated that over 200 villagers held a meeting where they decided to focus on increasing the forest cover and wildlife population themselves. They also drafted a petition to demand the management of the forests. They claim that they have already submitted applications to the administration for both individual and community forest rights, but the government has only granted individual forest rights to some families. The Gram Sabhas have also submitted many applications to the subdivisional magistrate and other state officials, including the chief minister, requesting urgent attention to their problems. But the state has so far failed to address their concerns. The panchayats, under the banner of UdantiSitanadi Tiger Reserve Forest Jansamiti, continue to demand recognition of their rights.  In February 2019, the Supreme Court verdict about the eviction of forest dwellers with rejected FRA claims came as a shock to the tribespeople, and it only intensified their demand for rights.  In the same year, the new state government gave another chance to forest dwellers to reapply for their FRA titles, but this process has been delayed due to bureaucratic hurdles.  A breakthrough came in August 2020 when the government granted community forest rights to a few villages in the Risgaon zone.  The Dhamtari district collector told a newspaper that in October 2020, the Department of Tribe and Scheduled Caste had informed that it was not possible to go on with the rights recognition process at this time. However, the same news article also quoted a December 2020 letter by the Secretary (Tribal Affairs), which stated that the the Central Government hereby recognises and vests forest rights under Section 3(1) of the same [FRA] Act.  Based on this letter, the villagers claimed that the forest officials and the district administration were delaying the process even after receiving communication from the tribal department.  On January 19, 2021, villagers gathered in thousands and protested outside the office of the Tiger Reserve Deputy Director. Prior to this, on January 8, they had attended a public meeting to discuss their strategy. Subsequently, the district administration informed the villagers that the area is classified as a Critical Wildlife Habitat and it was only following protocol. On February 16, the villagers wrote a letter to the subdivisional magistrate to request a special Gram Sabha to settle the rights. Meanwhile, the administration is yet to start a process to consider the claims for FRA titles, Benipuri Goswami, a local activist, told LCW.

Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Demand to retain/protect access to common land/resources

Demand for legal recognition of land rights

Other Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Region Classification

Rural

Type of Land

Common

Type of Common Land

Forest

Total investment involved (in Crores):

2.08

Type of investment:

Year of Estimation

Page Number In Investment Document:

Has the Conflict Ended?

No

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

Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972
Section 38V [The state government may, on the recommendations of the National Tiger Conservation Authority, notify certain areas as tiger reserves]; Section 38V(5) [Scheduled Tribes and other forest dwellers shall not be displaced or have their rights adversely affected for the purpose of creating a tiger reserve unless the consent of the Gram Sabha and the affected persons is obtained, resettlement packages have been provided and land has been allotted to the affected families in the location of resettlement]
Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006
Section 3(1)(a) [The right to hold and live on forestland under common occupation for self-cultivation shall be a forest right]; Section 3(1)(d) [Right to uses and entitlements such as fishing, grazing and traditional seasonal resource access shall be forest rights]; Section 4(3) [The Union government shall recognise and vest forest rights in forest-dwelling Scheduled Tribes who had occupied forest land before December 13, 2005]; Section 6(3) [The Gram Sabha shall pass a resolution containing the nature and extent of individual and community forest rights and forward it to the Sub-Divisional Level Committee, which shall examine the resolution and forward it to the District Level Committee for final approval]
Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Rules, 2007
Rule 6 [It shall be the function of the Sub-Divisional Level Committee to examine the resolutions of the Gram Sabha and ascertain the veracity of the claims for forest rights]
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    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

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

Yes

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

Claims for recognition of individual and community forest rights were made under Section 6 of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.

Legal Processes and Loopholes Enabling the Conflict:

Non-implementation/violation of FRA

Lack of legal protection over land rights

Legal Status:

Out of Court

Status of Case In Court

Whether any adjudicatory body was approached

No

What was the Decision of the Concerned Government Department?

Name of the adjudicatory body

Name(s) of the Court(s)

Case Number

Major Human Rights Violations Related to the Conflict:

Judicial harassment

Whether criminal law was used against protestors

Reported Details of the Violation:

The police allegedly made attempts to frame protesters with fake charges.

Date of Violation

Location of Violation

Nature of Protest

Protests/marches

Complaints/petitions/letters/memorandums to officials

Government Departments Involved in the Conflict:

Forest department

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:

Udanti-Sitanadi Tiger Reserve Forest Jansamiti

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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