ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Forest Rights Act, 2006

The Case of Tharu Adivasis of Uttar Pradesh

The customary rights of indigenous forest-dwelling communities over their forests were first constitutionally recognised under the Forest Rights Act, 2006. However, mainly individual rights have been recognised under this act, while community rights—its main strength—have been neglected. The act impacts, among other communities, the Tharu Adivasis living in forest villages of Uttar Pradesh, but how far has it been successful in addressing their needs?

The author is grateful to the Indian Council of Social Science Research, New Delhi for the fellowship that made this research possible. Thanks are also due to the anonymous reviewer for their valuable comments on an early version of this article and to S Kumar (Giri Institute of Development Studies, Lucknow), A Joshi, P Chatterjee, and Prashant K Trivedi (Giri Institute of Development Studies, Lucknow) for their suggestions during the study.

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act (FRA), 2006 recognises a range of individual and communal rights of Scheduled Tribes (STs) and other traditional forest-dwelling communities on forest resources, neglected since British rule. The act is an attempt to correct historical wrongs and ensure social protection to affected communities by providing access to hitherto forbidden rights in the very forests they have lived in for ages (Bandi 2013, 2014). After more than eight years of implementation, the act does not have universal acceptance by the different stakeholder groups that have fought for their interests over a long period of time (Menon 2007; Saravanan 2009). The major highlights of the act are that it ensures forest ownership rights to indigenous forest-dwelling communities who do not have proper documents despite having lived in the forests for more than three generations, and stipulates for the conversion of all forest villages, old habitation, unsurveyed villages, and other villages in the forestwhether recorded or notinto revenue villages. This brought relief to the lakhs of forest villagers who were living in the hope of realising these changes for a long time.

The main objective of this article is to understand how far the FRA has been successful in providing land and forest rights to the Tharu Adivasis of Uttar Pradesh (UP), especially those living in forest villages. The two districts Lakhimpur Kheri and Balrampur were selected for the present study as the FRA covers the Tharu community only in these two districts. Also, in these districts, the Tharu people live in both revenue villages as well as forest villages. The district Lakhimpur Kheri has 41 Tharu villages, out of which twoSurma and Golbojhiare forest villages situated within Dudhwa National Park. The district Balrampur has 46 Tharu villages; five of thoseNarihawa, Badka Bhukurwa, Chotka Bhukurwa, Kanchanpur, and Akalgharwaare forest villages situated deep within the Suhelwa Wildlife Sanctuary on the IndoNepal border (field data from district social welfare department, district Lakhimpur Kheri and district social welfare department, district Balrampur 2015). All seven Tharu forest villages are covered under the study.

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Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

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