Your urgent support is needed! More than one million people at risk of eviction from their land and forests in India! Please endorse the letter enclosed below that will be sent to the Indian Supreme Court and the Prime Minister of India urging them to stop this injustice!
On February 13, 2019, India’s Supreme Court passed an order that instructs state governments to evict forest dwelling communities if their claims to live in their forests have not been recognized under the Forest Rights Act (FRA). The evictions would be carried out in the next 4 months and will affect more than a million forest dwelling communities. But after forest movements mobilized against the order, on February 28, the Supreme Court has put on hold the evictions till next date of hearing, 24 July 2019. Until then, state governments that rejected the claims should report on the process adopted. This latest decision follows the Government of India’s appeal for modification of the earlier order.
While the latest order by the Court brings some modicum of relief for the forest communities of India, this in no way dissipates the threat.
India’s “Forest Dwelling Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers” (known as the Forest Rights Act), which came into force in 2008, is a fundamental law that recognizes many rights of Adivasis (indigenous peoples) and other traditional forest dwelling communities in India. It also empowers village institutions – the Gram Sabbhas – to govern their own forests as well as other forests they depend on.
Since it was approved, the FRA and therefore the rights of millions of peoples who depend on forests in India, has been systematically attacked. Although many communities have applied for recognition of their territorial rights, the state of India has not responded in due time to the legal processes. Behind these attacks and delays are not only corporate interests from the mining and tree plantations industry, to name a few, but also the interests of the conservation industry. Some conservation NGOs have been opposing the law ever since the first draft Bill was tabled in 2005, with the aim to impose a conservation model that excludes the forest dependent communities who have guarded and lived with the forests for generations.
Forest dwelling communities in India urgently need your support!
Please endorse the letter enclosed below that will be sent to the Indian Supreme Court and the Prime Minister of India urging them to stop this injustice!
You can sign here:
For further information on the FRA, see an article here.
The WRM Team
Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi
Supreme Court members of India
We, the undersigned, are writing to express our deepest concerns about the recent Supreme Court order, released on February 13, 2019, which orders the eviction of millions of forest dwellers. Even though on February 28 the Court has put on hold this order, this in no way dissipates the threat against forest communities.
The reasons given by the court for the evictions are that their claims have been rejected. We understand that this assumption has been challenged by organisations in India and we support their judgement.
If applied, the Court order not only would lead to a concerted and fresh attack on millions of already beleaguered forest dwellers in India, but would also seriously undermine the historic Forest Rights Act, a landmark legislation that allows the millions of Adivasis and forest dwellers in India to continue being the stewardships of their forests. In particular, in instructing the state governments to evict ‘forest dwellers’ in cases of allegedly rejected forest rights recognition claims, the Supreme court of India chooses to ignore the centrality of Gram Sabbhas and its constitutional agency in all matters of forest rights recognition, including the rejection of claims.
We are shocked to find that the Government of India as well as various state governments have failed to defend the law in the Court during the process that led into the first decision. This follows the present Indian government’s consistent attempts to subvert and dilute the Forest Rights Act, and not ensuring that it is properly implemented.
We condemn the so-called conservationists who had been opposing this remarkable legislation ever since it was proposed more than a decade ago and who are the petitioners in the case in the Indian Supreme Court. We believe that contrary to the logic of the conservationists, the attack on Forest Rights Act effectively endangers the fraught process of forest and wildlife conservation in India. By challenging a law that is embedded in conservation ethics and science, and which provides the first opportunity in post independent India to protect forests as well as all forest dependent communities, human and non-human, the petitioners do the cause of conservation a great disservice.
We therefore urge the Government to abide by the law passed by India’s Parliament inside and outside the courts, and take necessary and urgent steps to ensure that the order is reviewed and rescinded. These evictions must be prevented.