Van Gujjars Evicted from Jim Corbett Park in Uttarakhand, Demand ST Status

Reported by

Tarun Joshi

Legal Data by

Edited by

Updated by

Published on

October 13, 2016

October 13, 2016

Updated on

October 13, 2016

Location of Conflict

Sunderkhal

Ramnagar

Nainital

Reason or Cause of Conflict

Protected Areas

(

Tiger Reserve

)

People Affected by Conflict

Households Affected by Conflict

784

Land Area Affected (in Hectares)

89

ha

Starting Year

1962

State

Uttarakhand

Sector

Conservation and Forestry

Jim Corbett was established as a national park in 1936 and was designated as a tiger reserve in 1971. In 2009, it was notified as a critical tiger habitat. The forest area in and around Jim Corbett is inhabited by the Van Gujjars, a nomadic tribe. There are about 20 villages in the buffer zone of the reserve and 70 villages located within five kilometres of the buffer zone. Since 1995, entire villages have been displaced in the name of tiger conservation.
Since the implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006, the people living in and around the park have been demanding recognition of their forest rights. However, the state government has denied rights to the forest dwellers. This is in part because Uttarakhand does not recognise the Van Gujjars as a Scheduled Tribe (ST), thereby making the process of claiming their rights under the FRA even more difficult.
In May 2015, officials of the forest department entered Tumadiya Khatta, a village situated in Ramnagar on the fringes of the park, and destroyed the huts and crops of the forest dwellers and assaulted women.
In December 2016, the Uttarakhand high court declared Jim Corbett as an eco-sensitive zone, ordering the immediate evacuation of the Van Gujjars living within a 10-kilometre radius. The same year, the National Green Tribunal ordered the eviction of 800 people from the core park area.
In 2018, the court further ordered the eviction of 57 families. Noting that "the state government cannot give a premium on dishonesty", the court in its order said, “Rehabilitation policies are primarily meant for those persons who are displaced by way of compulsory acquisition of their land for public projects or due to natural calamities. How the state government is contemplating the rehabilitation policy for persons who have encroached upon forestland, with impunity, is beyond our comprehension”. The order was put on halt due to the petition of activist Tarun Joshi from the All India Union of Forest Working People. But there was no rehabilitation of those who were evicted following the 2016 order.
In February 2019, the Supreme Court ruled that forest-dwelling communities whose FRA claims have been rejected must be removed and resettled outside the parks.
The Van Gujjars are currently fighting for an ST status that will enable them to claim their rights over forestland. While the Van Gujjars are recognised as ST in Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand does not extend the same rights to them as the state recognises the Van Gujjars as Other Backward Class. Without a formal legal status and recognition by the state, the social and economic development of the Van Gujjars has been left to the forest department, whose other role involves enforcing restricted access to protected areas.
On August 17, 2020, the Uttarakhand high court asked the state government to set up a committee within six weeks to look into the problems faced by the Van Gujjars. This was after a PIL was filed by a non-profit, Think Act Rise Foundation, which said that the community lacks basic rights and is often forcefully evicted. The committee was formed on October 20, 2020, comprising the principal chief conservator of forests and wildlife of Uttarakhand, the state chief wildlife warden, field director of Rajaji Tiger Reserve, a person nominated by the Wildlife Institute of India and a person nominated by the World Wildlife Fund. The committee is expected to submit a report within six months.  

Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Demand for legal recognition of land rights

Demand to retain/protect access to common land/resources

Other Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Demand for Scheduled Tribe status

Region Classification

Rural

Type of Land

Common

Type of Common Land

Forest, Non-Forest (Grazing Land)

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

Legislations/Policies Involved

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]
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 in forestland 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]
Indian Forest Act, 1927
Section 61-A [This section lays down the procedure for summary eviction of unauthorised occupants that has not been followed]
F. No. 12015/13/2010-BCII, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, dated Dec 8, 2011
Page 23, Entry 32 [This entry classifies Gujars as OBCs]
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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

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

Scheduled Tribe 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)

High Court of Uttarakhand, Supreme Court of India

Case Number

WPPIL No. 79 of 2020, WPPIL No. 140 of 2019

Main Reasoning/Decision of court

In 2018, the Uttararakhand high court held that the Van Gujjars were a threat to wildlife and that the state government's proposal to rehabilitate them was against public policy. It noted that rehabilitation policies are meant to be directed towards those who are compulsorily displaced or who lose their land due to natural calamities and, thus, the Van Gujjars are not entitled to such rehabilitation as they are encroachers. However, in 2020, the court observed that the Van Gujjars have rights in law that need to be protected and that they not only require legal protection but should benefit from the law as well. In this spirit, it directed the state to constitute a committee to help the Van Gujjars. It ordered the additional advocate general to submit a proposal regarding the constitution and scope of the committee and the extent to which an inquiry would be done by the committee.

Major Human Rights Violations Related to the Conflict:

Physical attack

Raid/break-in/theft

Whether criminal law was used against protestors:

Reported Details of the Violation:

In May 2015, forest department officials entered Tumadiya Khatta, a village situated in Ramnagar area, on the fringe of the park. They destroyed the huts and crops of the forest dwellers and assaulted women.

Date of Violation

Location of Violation

Tumadiya Khatta, Ramnagar

Nature of Protest

Advocacy (for inclusion in courts)

Development of a network or collective

Involvement of national and international NGOs

Government Departments Involved in the Conflict:

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:

Van Gujjars of Sunderkhal, Van Gujjar Kalyan Samiti

Resources Related to Conflict

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

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Updated By

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