Govt discriminating non-tribal forest dwellers under new Forest Act: Ravinder



SUNDERBANI: Senior Congress Leader and former MLC Ravinder Sharma on Sunday said that the government is discriminating the non tribal forest dwellers, be they Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs or others, of their bonafide rights over forest lands under their occupation for decades besides hounding out farmers from the state lands under their cultivation for sixty to seventy years.
Reacting to series of complaints of the people during his tour of the area, Mr Sharma said that on one hand the tribal bakerwals and Gujjars alleged lot of hassles in getting their rights under “The ST and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, ” extended last year to J and K, to confer rights to the ST population and other Forest dwellers of their occupation over forest lands.
On the other hand the non tribals including Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and others are only entitled to the recognition and regularisation of the possession over forest land, if they are using the same for livelihood for three generations of not less than 75 years.
This provision is discriminatory and results in great injustice to other poor traditional forest dwellers, he said.
Sharma said that implementation of the act is welcome step especially by the party which had opposed the simple circular of Mehbooba Mufti government seeking to regulate the forcible eviction of tribals, which had no force of law, but the flawed implementation and certain provisions of the act are quite discriminatory to the genuine occupants of non tribal sections of forest dwellers.
He stressed for a fair, transparent and justified implementation of the provisions of the act for recognition of forest rights to tribal community and of other eligible forest dwellers at par with tribals without any discriminatory treatment.
He said that the tribals are eligible for the benefit of the same if they’re in occupation and use of the land prior to 13 Dec, 2005 but for other Forest dwellers the eligibility is three generations with atleast 75 years occupation, which is discriminatory and unjustified resulting into great injustice to thousands of poor farmers in possession and use of lands for decades.
He said the act itself provide s that no eviction shall be done without completion of verification process but the authorities are evicting people on pick and choose basis which is arbitrary and illegal.
Again the occupants of State lands for more than 30 years are entitled to claim ownership by adverse possession but the poor, small and marginal farmers and even landless people are being harassed and dispossessed forcibly and illegally.
The Congress leader urged the Lt Governor to take stock of the legal position and direct for stopping undue harassed of genuine cases without following due process of law and justice.