Bring ordinance to save tribals facing eviction: CPI(M)

Bring ordinance to save tribals facing eviction: CPI(M)

The CPI(M) on Thursday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to issue an ordinance to protect at least a million tribals who face forced eviction from forest land following a Supreme Court order, saying if it is not done, it will be "virtual declaration of war" against adivasis.

In a letter to Modi, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat said, "your government has adopted ordinances on other issues. It will be highly unjust to adivasis and traditional forest dwellers if an ordinance is not passed immediately to protect them from eviction."

Referring to the Supreme Court order, Karat said according to the figures available till December last year, of the 42.19 lakh claims made only 18.89 lakh claims have been accepted. This means that 23.30 lakh adivasis and traditional forest dwellers are vulnerable to eviction according to the Supreme Court orders, she said.

If an ordinance is not issued, Karat said, "it will be virtual declaration of war against adivasis."

The UPA Government had passed the present Forest Rights Act in 2005 to right the historical injustices against adivasis, Karat, who was of the Select Committee that looked into the Bill, said.

"I am personally aware of the strong lobbies that argued against granting any rights to adivasis. Parliament overruled such wrong arguments and passed the law. We cannot allow that step to be reversed," she said.

The apex court order came in a petition filed by wildlife groups questioning the validity of the Forest Rights Act and pleading that all those tribals whose claims over traditional forestlands were rejected under the law should be evicted by state governments. The court gave states time till July 27 to evict tribals whose claims had been rejected and submit a report.

Karat said it was "highly regrettable" that the counsel arguing for the Centre was absent from the court on the crucial date.

"This betrayal of the rights of adivasis was the culmination of the connivance of the Ministry concerned with the petitioners. Many of the petitioners in the case are retired officers of the Forest department. At no point in these years did the legal representatives of your government take a strong position in court in defence of the rights of adivasis and traditional forest dwellers," she said.

In the letter, she also accused the government of passing several laws which dilute and eliminate the protections given by the Forest Rights Act and it included amendments passed to the Mining Act, the Compensatory Afforestation Act and several notifications from the Ministry of Environment and Forests.