Maharashtra to probe tribal hut blaze

Maharashtra to probe tribal hut blaze

Maharahstra government on Friday decided to probe into the setting on fire of century-old tribal huts deep inside the forest running through Maharashtra-Andhra Pradesh border, early this week.

The incident of arson came to fore on Tuesday when 70 tribal families from the endangered Kolam community walked 70 kms from Rajura tehsil’s Central Chanda forests, seeking justice from the chief conservator of forests (CCF) in the border district of Chandrapur.

Talking over phone from Nagpur, tribal advocacy group Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) leader Kishore Tiwari told Deccan Herald that the forest mentioned in the epic Mahabharat as Dandakaranya has been a homeland for centuries to the now endangered Kolam tribal community which wants to be left alone.

“On last Sunday, forest guards from Central Chanda sub-division came to Piparguda and Kolamguda villages in Rajura tehsil and allegedly set ablaze 70 huts. They refused to listen tribals cries for help or look at the documents provided by the state itself,” said Tiwari.

The angry tribals comprising old men, children and women walked two days to reach the CCF office in Chandrapur and held a dharna demanding justice and return of their homeland and shelter.

According to Tiwari, forest department officials, who are shaken by the reactions from the otherwise docile tribal community, have been attempting to justify their act on the ground that the razing of huts took place on the encroached forest land in compartment No 126 of the Vihirgaon Range in the Central Chanda Forest sub-division and it was carried out under the Forest Conservation Act.

Apart from filing a complaint to state chief minister, the tribal advocacy group has also written letters to the National Human Rights Commission and the SC-ST Commission demanding stringent action against erring officers  and a thorough probe into the antecedents that led to transgression of human rights.

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