India: Jharkhand: Forest Dwellers Reclaim Their Rights Over Forests In Jharkhand

    The FRA, 2006 promised to undo the historic injustice meted out on the forest dwellers and recognise their rights over the forest and its ecology. Six years from the passing of the Act and the implementation of the Act is far from expectation. In fact, a severe lack of political unwillingness on the part of the implementing bodies has been witnessed repeatedly as the violations of the Act is seen widely.
    In Jharkhand, like in other states, even after the passage of four full years of enactment of FRA 2006 for implementation, the Jharkhand state has not yet provided even a single document of recognition of community right to manage the village forest by the village council. Last year, the District Commissioner of Ranchi District requested Jharkhand Jangal Bachao Andolan, a constituent group of AIFFM to help the administration in the preparation of the claim forms of 18 villages to begin with for Community Forest Rights (CFR) in the district. He ordered the officials to get the documents ready for distribution to the village councils on the 26th of January, the Republic Day of the Country. Unfortunately one year passed and despite the submission of all the claim forms, not even one has yet been passed by the authorized committee (DLC) for recognition.
    This callous attitude of the state to dilute the spirit of the Act and not implement it led the forest dwellers in Jharkhand with the mobilization by Jharkhand Jangal Bachao Andolan to use this Act as a weapon to establish their rights over the forests. People who have protected the forest for centuries decided to 'reclaim' their rights over the forests in their areas in Jharkhand.
    And, this process began with a lot of enthusiasm in Bangaona and Piragutu, two neighboring villages in Burmu block of Ranchi district on 20 January 2013.People from these two villages assembled in Bangaona to install iron bill boards on the entrance road of the village forest declaring that the forest of the village was now under the management of the Village Council (Gram Sabha) in accordance with the provisions of the Forest Rights Act 2006. Adults and children together moved around in the forest shouting slogans of assertion of their rights over the natural resources of the village. They demanded immediate withdrawal of the Forest Department from their village forest.
    This was the beginning of a campaign led by the Jharkhand Save the Forest Movement (Jharkhand Jangal Bachao Andolan) to establish physical control over the forests by the Gram Sabha even if the state does not provide the legal papers of recognition of the right to 'protect, regenerate and manage' the village forest by the Gram Sabha as enshrined in the Forest Rights Act 2006. Large number of villages are joining this campaign in the state and people in neighboring villages are gearing towards reclaiming the forest.
    This is one of the strategies within the campaign on Establishing Community Governance initiated by AIFFM across the country and is being used by forest dwelling communities in many states now.

    Source: AIFFM
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