225 families of Hakki Pikki tribe refuse to vacate 'occupied' BNP land

Area known for man-animal conflicts; Centre seeks clarifications from forest dept

225 families of Hakki Pikki tribe refuse to vacate 'occupied' BNP land

Members of the Hakki Pikki tribe, who have been living “unauthorisedly” on a part of forest land near Bannerghatta National Park (BNP) since 1962, are not prepared to vacate it, despite several efforts by the State government. 

According to forest officials, the tribespeople appear to have realised the value of land and hence have refused to move out. 

As per the 2011 census, 120 tribal families live there. But a door-to-door survey conducted recently by the forest department put the number of families at 225. 

The matter has now drawn the attention of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) which has sought clarifications from the State in this regard. 

The then government of Mysore notified 350 acres of land in Ragihalli State Forest for the Hakki Pikki tribespeople on January 29, 1962, to establish a colony and settle and rehabilitate them. Some families of the Iruliga tribe were also accommodated there. 

A field survey by the forest department later revealed that the actual land allotted to them was 396 acres. The additional 46 acres fall under the Bhutanahalli Survey No 120 in Ragihalli Forest, which is part of BNP. Accordingly, a corrigendum was sent. 

The tribespeople, however, occupied more land under the Bannerghatta Kaval Survey No 1 and Bhutanahalli Survey No 120. 

A BNP official said the tribespeople were not willing to relocate to another area. A meeting in this regard was held with the chief secretary in 2012 and now the MoEF is seeking clarifications. The MoEF wrote to the forest department on October 3, 2012, and again in December, 2013, according to the officer. 

The department has to answer the following questions: whether the corrigendum sent to the tribespeople is legal and under which law has it been issued; the land notified in 1962 has been mentioned “as per the Karnataka Forest Act of 1900,” instead of “The Indian Forest Act of 1927”. Why is it so; what is the present status of the area and how much have they occupied on the ground and what about other areas; any repercussions on the revenue and forest departments and what is the status of other land where these people have settled? 

A team of forest officials will now survey the region this weekend and reply to the MoEF queries. 

What about allowing the tribespeople to stay there legally? 

“(In that case) we will have to issue notifications all over again. This will attract the Forest Consideration Act and the matter will require clearance from the Centre,” a forest official said. 

“After the declaration of eco-sensitive zones, this will be impossible. It will create further problems and boundary disputes. As an act of revenge, the tribespeople might even set the forest on fire or kill the wildlife.” 

The tribespeople have no records with them that the additional land belongs to them. All they have is a copy of the 1962 notification. An important elephant corridor, the area is notorious for man-elephant conflicts. Leopards also frequent the settlement and tarred roads and houses have been built there. 

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