Kinnaur tribals want rights protected before forest encroachments are removed

  • Saurabh Chauhan, Hindustan Times, Shimla
  • Updated: Jun 21, 2015 20:25 IST

Residents of the tribal district of Kinnaur, who have been demanding a stay on the Himachal Pradesh high court's recent order on removal of all encroachments on forest land till provisions of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) of 2006 were fully implemented in all areas, have now approached the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST).

They have also urged the Himachal government to file a review petition against the court order.

A delegation of area residents met NCST chairman Rameshwar Oraon, who is on a visit to Kinnaur, on Saturday and sought his intervention in the matter. "We want the state government to file a review petition in the high court against its ruling on evicting encroachers on forestland," said RS Negi, a local environmental activist.

The high court had in April this year instructed the government to remove any kind of encroachment on forest land in the state. Himachal Pradesh is one of the few states where provisions of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act have not yet been fully implemented.

In a detailed memorandum submitted to Oraon, the residents said: "We want the government to implement all provisions in the state, especially in tribal areas, as soon as possible."

Oraon convened a meeting with local officials and residents on Sunday to discuss the issue.

"Area residents aren't against encroachers on forest land being evicted but first want to ensure their rights are safeguarded," an official said.

Kushal Singh, who lives in the Bhabhanagar area, said the government had not yet allotted "nautor" (government wasteland) to the locals.

"We are seeking a stay of the court order on evicting all encroachers, as the eviction process should begin only after the issue of safeguarding our rights is settled," he added.

The state forest department had filed 132 encroachment cases under the Himachal Pradesh Public Premises Act, 1971, in Kinnaur district against those forest dwellers, who had filed forest rights claim for land right under the FRA in 2008. However, as per section 4 and 5 of the FRA, forest dwellers could not be evicted till the settlement of forest rights claims.

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