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  • Baiga Adivasi peoples participate in a protest walk in India.

    Baiga Adivasi peoples participate in a protest walk in India. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Published 1 March 2019

"Adivasis have been occupying traditional land for generations, but as most of them are unaware of the act and its provisions, it puts all the power at the hands of government officials."

A group of activists has called for mass nationwide demonstrations to protest an eviction order issued by India's top court, targeting Indigenous communities living in the country's forests.

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The senior court responded by calling for the eviction of those who "could not prove their claims over the forestlands under the FRA," following a petition filed by some environmentalists and former forest officers against the 2006 Forest Rights Act (FRA) regarding its constitutionality and the inhibition of conservation efforts.

The passing of the law, in 2006, resulted in a mass effort by the forest department to evict anyone who could not prove that they are a "traditional forest dweller."

Vice chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes says many Indigenous Adivasi people had their claims rejected "as they could not produce proof." The court's move has rights groups questioning the government's responsibility towards the Adivasi, and other Indigenous communities.

The speculation was reiterated by the absence of the Indigenous people's lawyer, who failed to appear at the court hearing.

Those who will be most affected by the order have denounced the move, citing it will benefit corporate lobbyists more than anything while displacing millions. The people who were rejected have until July 27 to evacuate the region.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been accused, by activists, of manipulating past legislation, and decreasing the number of protection farmers and Indigenous peoples have over environmental resources.

"Adivasis have been occupying traditional land for generations, but as most of them are unaware of the act and its provisions, it puts all the power at the hands of government officials," Keshav Sori, director of the Direct Initiative for Social and Health Action (DISHA), pointed out.

The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes has sought a reevaluation for several cases, hoping to preserve, for some, the peoples' way of life that is "entirely based around Jal, Jungle, Jameen [water, forest, land]."

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