India: Clarion call to protect rights of traditional forest dwellers


    ITANAGAR,  Aug 03: The Arunachal Citizen’s Right (ACR),  All India Forum for Forest Movements, New Delhi  and North East Peoples Alliance (NEPA) today gave a clarion call for  protecting the rights of scheduled tribes  and other traditional forest dwellers and  implementation of  Forest Rights Act -2006  in this regard.
    Addressing the  media persons  here at Arunachal Press Club today, ACR president Taring Mama urged upon the state Governemnt to implement the Forest Rights Act-2006  in order to safeguard the tribal’s rights from corporate lobbyists, non-indigenous people and for the betterment of the people of the state.
    “If the state government implement it, the tribal people will conserve the forest in its own basis without hampering the ecology”, Mama asserted.
    Steps should be taken to bring awarness among the tribal people of  Arunachal  about the  urgent need of implementing this Act. If implemented it will be one of the best tools to preserve the private as well as community forest land of the state, said Souparna Lahiri, member of All India Forum for Forest Movements.
    “In the name of eviction, lots of houses were burnt down; many private structures were demolished earlier. If we implement it, it would be the best weapon to safe guard our properties including rights”, he said.
    He further informed that the Government of Arunachal had constituted the state level monitoring and implementation committee of Schedule Tribe and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Right) Act 2006 and had also constituted various district level, sub-divisional level and gram sabha level monitoring and implementation committee for the said Act
    `By this Act, not a single forest land of any individuals or community can be taken away by the government or corporate without consultation of the Gram Sabha, he said, adding the indigenous people has the right to obtain sustainable resources without destructing nature.
    As per the government notification, the state Social Welfare department has been endorsed to look after the Act without appointing any nodal officer.
    Earlier, the ACR in collaboration with NEPA organized a Community seminar on Forest Rights Act 2006 here at NEFA Club  today.
    Various stake holders of the state including social activists, lawyers, NGO leaders, journalists, government officials, academicians etc. thronged the hall to discuss the act and its importance for implementation in the state.
    While discussing about the forest land, state Land management director Ennyo Nangkar clarified that maintaining of forest record whether in urban or rural is solely depend upon state government where Land Management department is the nodal department to regulate the same.
    Stating that private land doesn’t come under the purview of land revenue, he informed that for any land dispute including forest land in rural area the gaon burahs (GBs) are authorized to settle cases. Nangkar also emphasized on needs for amendment on various forest regularization acts while seeing the customary practises of the indigenous people of the state.
    “The ratio of damages of the forest need to be balanced while giving traditional rights to the tribal people”, asserted Itanagar DCF D Gogoi, who represented on behalf of Forest and Environment department.
    While saying that time has come to check rampant destructions of forest, he revealed that the state has 82 percent land covered under forest and 22 percent of forest land comes under reserved area.
    Political secretary to CM, Bamang Tago emphasized on needs for implementation of the Forest Rights Act 2006 in the state along with 13 other forest rights act.
    “In the context of Arunachal, we are being in threat as there are no perfect guidelines to protect our land. So, consensus is needed to create among the masses before implementing such act”, Tago said.
    Souparna Lahiri dwelt on length about the back ground and importance of Forest Rights Act 2006.
    ACR president Taring Mama and RGU associate professor Dr Nani Bath discussed on the pros and cons of the act.
    It is worth mentioning here that the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 (FRA 2006 in short) was passed by the Indian Parliament in December 2006. This is the first time in the history of the post independent India that the Central Govt brought in a forest related legislation to recognize and vest the forest rights and occupation in forest land in forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers who have been residing in such forests for generations but whose rights were not recorded.

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