Amid Talk of Air Strikes, Struggles in the Forest Continue

Campaign for Survival and Dignity

Even as the media fills itself with war cries and debates on air strikes, the struggle for democracy in the forest areas continues. The very government that preaches the rule of law continues to violate its own laws on a daily basis, both at the State and at the Central levels. Thus, even as it continues to violate the law, the Environment Ministry has revised its terms of reference for a Committee “to study the implementation of the Forest Rights Act”; the revisions meet some concerns but ignore the most important ones. Meanwhile, the Ministry continues to pour money into illegal plantations, relocation from tiger reserves and Joint Forest Management programs that are used as tools to steal people’s lands and forests. As a group of eminent retired civil servants said in response to the formation of this Committee, “If the government is indeed serious about following the law, it should be enforcing respect for people’s resource rights.”

Meanwhile, people continue to gather and protest for their democratic rights. In Gujarat and Jharkhand, mass dharnas were held on April 7th, demanding recognition of community rights, democratic forest control, an end to repression and respect for the Forest Rights Act. In Rajasthan, as part of an ongoing drive by organisations there, 20 villages have recently issued notices against the Forest Department for criminal offences under the Forest Rights Act. In West Bengal, the National Forum of Forest Peoples and Forest Workers issued an appeal after the house of the co-convenor of the North Bengal Regional Committee was raided by the police at 3 am; he was only saved from being taken away in the night by protests by the rest of the village. The Forum has been involved in struggles to claim community forest resource rights in the area.

The media and the government would do well to ask themselves: what about democracy? And precisely which rule of law is the government defending?

Contact: 9810819301, www.forestrightsact.com

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