Communities Demand Power to Protect Their Forest Resources - Mass Mobilisations Across Country
Even as atrocities like the arrest of Abhay Sahoo continue, people's struggle are also winning new victories. After initially reeling under sabotage, violations and deliberate efforts to nullify the community rights parts of the law, communities have fought back and are claiming their rights over forest resources - and particularly their powers to protect and conserve their traditional forest resources. Campaign-affiliated mass organisations and other mass groups have undertaken mobilisations on the issue over the last several weeks, and in many States October is witnessing rallies, demonstrations and village level actions aimed at claiming and taking control of community resources.
Below this email are the details of the community rights struggle programs in the States. As always, general information on the situation in various States can be found at:
Meanwhile, the Act's implications for industrial projects on forest lands are finally beginning to get attention at the national level. The Ministry of Environment and Forests has continued its deliberate policy of ignoring the Act entirely, seeking to continue grabbing land for corporates like POSCO and - in addition - trying to relocate people from tiger reserves in violation of the Act.
But what was possible a year ago is not possible now, and the people's struggle now has the law on its side. There remain many challenges ahead, but the turning of the tide is visible.
Campaign for Survival and Dignity
TAMIL NADU: In Kanyakumari and Tirunelveli Districts, mass efforts at claiming community forest resources have begun. In Gudalur in the Nilgiris District, more than 50 villages declared their community forest resource boundaries and have put up sign boards with their boundaries marked, listing the resources in the village, the area covered, and the fact that violations of community decisions in these areas would be an offence under the Forest Rigths Act.
JHARKHAND: A mass rally took place on the issue of community rights in Sahebganj District on October 3rd. Rallies are planned in Latehar, Chatra, Palamu, Khunti and Ranchi Districts on the 13th (today), 14th, 18th, 21st and 22nd respectively.
GUJARAT: Yesterday (the 12th), a large rally took place in Songarh, at which 1,500 to 2000 people are expected. On the 26th of September, a similar mass meeting took place in Rajpipla. More rallies are expected this month. The rallies are focused on public discussions on community rights, planning the claiming process and demanding official acceptance and recognition of community rights.
RAJASTHAN: Village level actions have continued in the face of total apathy from the government (on community rights) and repeated attempts to impose additional requirements and hamper recognition of individual rights. On the 16th a rally will take place in Banswada District against violations of the Act and demanding recognition of community rights, while a similar rally is planned for the 20th in Pali District.
ANDHRA PRADESH: Community rights and community forest resources claims are taking place on a large scale in the 8 districts that fall within the Scheduled Areas. After initially opposing community rights claims, the government began to allow them about a month and a half ago. Approximately 800 villages in these districts are currently claiming their community forests under the Act. Resistance from the Forest Department has been particularly strong in the Adilabad district, where they have been attempting to prevent filing claims in villages; the peopel have responded with a series of mandal-level protests.
MADHYA PRADESH: Protest rallies are planned in all districts in forest areas; protests have begun from October 1st. The mass rallies are demanding recognition of community rights and also promoting the process of using the provisions of the Act for taking control of forest resources.
MAHARASHTRA: Village level meetings and planning of claiming community control over forests have begun in parts of the State, in particular in Thane district, where a padayatra was taken out in mid-September on the issue. A mass organisation meeting is planned to take place in Mumbai later this month.
ORISSA: Protest programmes have been launched across the state on community rights and on state apathy. These will continue up to 10th November. A morcha took place today in Sundargarh District, and similar protests are planned in Jharsuguda, Gajapati, Dhenkanal and Malkangiri Districts on the 20th, 22nd, 27th and 28th of October respectively. Meanwhile villages in several parts of the State, including protected areas, have individually demarcated and declared their rights to community forest resources. Please also see www.fra.org.in
KERALA: On Aug 28th, 185 hamlets in Attappady of Palakkad district took oath to determine and declare community forest rights. A similar process is on in Wayanad. These are the major tribal belts of Kerala. It is now proposed that there will be a state level convention bringing together Adivasi organisations across the state, including the Adivasi organisations of political parties such as CPM, CPI etc., which will focus on declaring intention of declaration of CFRs across the state. State Level Monitoring Committee members will also be invited for this convention.
Orissa Program will continue up to 10th November. Sundargarh - morcha (Collector building) today, 19th - Lethripada (Sundargarh), 20th Laikera, Jharsuguda; 27 Dhenkanal; 22 Malkangiri; 28 Mohana / Gajpati;
Replying to this email will send an e-mail to 7500+ members of Jharkhand Forum.