[Reader-list] HC glare on Roy hubby house by RASHEED KIDWAI

anupam chakravartty c.anupam at gmail.com
Wed Nov 17 16:48:24 IST 2010

Chargesheet on Government's Violations of Forest Rights
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*A Chargesheet*

*This note focuses on the Forest Rights Act and was prepared as part of the
protests that took place in November 2009.  It remains valid today. *

Passed in December 2006, the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest
Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act was hailed as a historic step
towards recognising the rights of forest dwellers and correcting a gross
injustice. Almost three years later, it is clear that the government has no
intention of allowing it to be implemented.

*Illegally Robbing People of Their Lands and Forests*

One and a half years after the law came into force, the Environment Ministry
finally issued orders this July that barred handing over people's lands and
forest resources to corporates or projects without their consent. Yet no
action has been initiated against the officials responsible for the illegal
forest diversion of the preceding year and a half, and meanwhile State
governments are continuing to threaten people with illegal eviction for
large projects in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Andhra
Pradesh and elsewhere. The same story of illegal threats is being repeated
in wildlife sanctuaries, national parks and tiger reserves.

*What can the government do? :* Comply with the law and stop expropriating

*What has the government done? : *Both Centre and State are still violating
the law.

*Forest Department Illegally Blocking People's Rights to Their Homes, Lands

The law lays down a clear three stage process for recognition of people's
rights. It also defines what constitutes admissible evidence. The Forest
Department has a role at the district and sub-divisional levels, but only as
one of the parties involved. But the Department has made every effort to
give itself illegal veto powers to deny rights. In most States the
Department is refusing to be present at the time of verification by the
Forest Rights Committee, and then demanding that the claim be rejected at
the screening stage as they did not attend. In several major States, only
rights of those on Forest Department lists of "pre-1980 encroachers" are
being recognised. In Rajasthan, the State government illegally insists that
the signatures of the forest beat guard and other officials are required on
every claim, resulting in harassment and extortion. The net result of this
kind of interference is that the majority of eligible claimants are being

*What can the government do? *: Issue clear orders against such interference
and take disciplinary action against the officers involved.

*What has the government done? *: The Central government has done nothing.
No State government has taken action either, and many – Chhattisgarh,
Rajasthan, West Bengal, etc. - have issued illegal orders favouring the
Forest Department or giving them extra powers in the process.

*Denying People's Control Over Their Forests*

The Forest Rights Act not only provides for rights to individual
landholdings – it also recognises that communities have the right and the
power to protect and manage their forests, and to prevent land mafias,
corrupt officials and government agencies from damaging or destroying them.
But these rights and powers are not being recognised anywhere. No procedures
have been provided for most of them, and no system is in place to ensure
they are respected.

*What can the government do? : *The Central government can issue clear Rules
and procedures for the recognition of all rights in the law. The State
governments are required by law to recognise and respect them.

*What has the government done?* : The rights in sections 3(1)(b), 3(1)(c),
3(1)(d), 3(1)(e), 3(1)(i), 3(1)(m) and 4(8), pertaining to nistari rights,
ownership of minor forest produce, grazing areas / water bodies, habitats,
community forest resources, illegal evictions and displacement respectively,
are ignored in the Rules, effectively rendering them meaningless. All State
governments have hence been conveniently ignoring and often violating these
rights as well.

*Imposing Joint Forest Management Instead of Respecting People's Rights*

The flip side of denying community forest rights is the promotion of
dangerous sham “participatory” schemes, particularly Joint Forest
Management. Indeed, huge amounts of money are being pumped into “plantation”
programmes in forest areas, mostly to be run through these Joint Forest
Management Committees. These Committees, though nominally “participatory”,
are in fact controlled by the Forest Department, as the forest guard is the
member-secretary. The result is that these Committees are controlled by
contractors and others who are close to the Forest Department, and in
practice function as proxy troops, engaging in plantations, evictions etc.
in place of the Department itself.

Most such plantations are done on people's lands, to which they have
unrecorded rights, or in common lands; after which these lands are illegally
converted into reserved forests without following due process of law.
Plantations deprive large numbers of people of their lands every year, even
after they were barred from doing so by the Forest Rights Act. But, despite
this, the government is pumping hundreds of crores into these programmes
every year, both from the Compensatory Afforestation Fund and from
international bilateral loans to State governments. If the government is
truly interested in 'participatory' forestry, why is it not respecting the
law and implementing these programmes in accordance with people's will as
expressed through their community institutions? Why is it violating the law
and democracy in favour of illegal “afforestation”?

*What can the government do? : *Shut down the Joint Forest Management
programme and ensure that all schemes in forest areas are undertaken with
the consent of and under the control of the communities.

*What has the government done? : *Both Central and State governments have
Intensified their offensive against community rights even in the face of
public and Parliamentary criticism. Several States – West Bengal, Kerala,
Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Orissa etc. - have accelerated JFM
Committee formation after the passage of the Forest Rights Act.

*Officials Illegally Taking Over Process*

The Forest Rights Act requires that all rights be recognised through a
transparent, public process, where the gram sabha or village assembly is
central.* *Instead of following that process, government officers are
imposing their own diktats. Gram sabhas are being deliberately called at the
panchayat level or even larger units in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and
elsewhere– where they are too large for adivasis and forest dwellers to have
their voices heard. This is in direct violation of the Act, especially in
Schedule V areas. Even where gram sabhas have functioned and recommended
claims, in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and other States, the
area over which rights are being recognised is being illegally reduced.
People cultivating an acre of land file claims for it, have their claims
duly verified, and find that the actual title is given for a tenth of the
area. Arbitrary criteria are imposed, such as making those who own revenue
land ineligible for rights, as has happened in Tamil Nadu. Claimants are not
being intimated of rejection and not being allowed to appeal.

*What can the government do? : *The Central government should clarify that
this kind of interference is illegal and a criminal offence, and State
governments should take action against their officers.

*What has the government done? *: The Central government has made space for
further interference by issuing ambiguous orders. State governments are
encouraging interference by issuing illegal orders on gram sabhas and
eligibility criteria.

*Terminating the Process Before People Can File Claims for Rights

The Act does not provide any timeline for implementation. Under the Rules,
only the gram sabha has the power to fix when the three month filing period
will begin, and can also extend that period.. Yet State governments are
arbitrarily imposing cutoff dates and threatening people that claims will
not be accepted after that. Now the Central government wants to rush the
major States into completing implementation in December 2009, when it has
barely begun and is riddled with illegalities.

*What can the government do? : *Ensure that officials and State governments
comply with gram sabha decisions on the timeline. Make sure all eligible
claimants know how and when to file for rights and are able to file appeals.

*What has the government done? *: Imposed illegal deadline after illegal

On Wed, Nov 17, 2010 at 4:34 PM, Samvit <samvitr at gmail.com> wrote:

> Wow!! This seems to be her real agenda. She shows the world that she
> is the messiah of the "oppressed" and then she usurps their land. I
> can't believe that she has a retreat in Panchmarhi. I am sure if
> someone investigates her you would find it a bigger scam than
> the 2G issue.
> -SR
> On Wed, Nov 17, 2010 at 4:23 PM, Aditya Raj Kaul
> <kauladityaraj at gmail.com> wrote:
> > HC glare on Roy hubby house
> > *
> > *
> >
> > *Link* -
> http://www.telegraphindia.com/1101117/jsp/nation/story_13187337.jsp
> >
> > *Bhopal, Nov. 16: *Writer-activist Arundhati Roy’s house in hill resort
> > Panchmarhi is under threat following the rejection of an appeal in Madhya
> > Pradesh High Court.
> >
> > The court has asked Arundhati’s husband, filmmaker Pradeep Kishan, to
> appear
> > before a sub-divisional magistrate.
> >
> > The order comes four years after the Madhya Pradesh government had served
> a
> > notice on Kishan and others for encroaching on tribal land.
> >
> > The bungalow owned by Kishan is in Bariyam village of Panchmarhi, 250km
> > south-east of Bhopal and part of the Panchmarhi special area development
> > authority created to protect wildlife in the region.
> >
> > In Bhopal, the buzz is that the Shivraj Singh Chauhan-led BJP regime is
> in a
> > mood to “punish” Roy following her support for “azaadi” in the Kashmir
> > Valley.
> >
> > Chauhan had recently gone on record suggesting jail as an “ideal place”
> for
> > Roy for her “seditious pronouncements”.
> >
> > Roy and Kishan got embroiled in the land controversy in 2003 when the
> local
> > administration claimed their elevated bungalow overlooking twin hillocks
> and
> > vast rolling greens was in notified forest land. Then SDM Niyaz Ahmad of
> > Pipariya had acted upon a complaint filed by Vijay Singh, a tribal, that
> > Roy’s husband and three others, including Aradhana Seth, sister of writer
> > Vikram Seth, had allegedly encroached on tribal land.
> >
> > In his affidavit, Vijay had accused them of constructing a cemented road
> to
> > their bungalows without bothering to obtain permission or pay adequate
> > compensation.
> >
> > Senior government officials who did not wish to be named said Kishan had
> > bought the 4,346sqft plot in 1994. The government subsequently filed a
> suit
> > arguing that the Forest Act of 1972 banned the sale of land in notified
> > forest areas. Section 18 of the law bars buying and selling of notified
> > forest land.
> >
> > Roy has also been a controversial figure in Madhya Pradesh.
> >
> > A few years ago, she campaigned for the rights of Bhopal gas survivors
> and
> > villagers displaced by the Sardar Sarovar dam. Soon after winning the
> Booker
> > in 1997, she joined Medha Patkar’s fight, saying the Narmada dam was a
> > “fault line” between the rich and the poor.
> >
> > Today, she is having to contend with sarcastic comments from state BJP
> > leaders who want her reaction to her husband “trampling upon the rights
> of
> > hundreds and thousands of animal species”.
> >
> > A state BJP spokesperson said: “Perhaps it’s time for Arundhati to look
> into
> > her own backyard. Instead of extending support to Kashmiri separatists
> and
> > Naxalites, she should consider the plight of helpless animals who have
> been
> > driven out of forest land simply because they do not have an Arundhati to
> > speak for them.”
> >
> > If the SDM’s verdict goes against them, Roy, Kishan and the others can
> > appeal to Manoj Srivastva, commissioner, Bhopal and Narmadapuram
> > (Hoshangabad) division.
> >
> > Reprieve may come at another level, too, if the Supreme Court accepts a
> > court-appointed empowered panel’s finding that Bariyam doesn’t fall in
> the
> > category of a forest village despite being in the heart of a forest.
> > _________________________________________
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