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

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Inching towards Exclusion

Forest Rights in the North East

Most of the North East enjoys unbridled authority over forests unlike the rest of the country, free from state control under the debilitating impact of the colonial-era Indian Forest Act, 1927. Therefore, the Forest Rights Act, 2006 is perceived as irrelevant. But, the sweeping expansion of how “forest” is defined in law by the Supreme Court and its proposed incorporation into the Indian Forest Act threatens the customary forest rights of these peoples.

The belief that most lands, including forestlands, in most parts of the North East are exceptionally secure in the hands of the local indigenous communities—managed by their traditional institutions through tradition and customs—is so strong that both the people and the government seem to be undeterred by the laws enacted by Parliament. One is the Forest Rights Act, 20061 (FRA), which has been operational for more than a decade now and has been faced with a cold response with only Assam and Tripura implementing it. Another is the proposed amendment to the colonial-era Indian Forest Act, 1927. While the former act is a great boon to forests, forest-dwellers and wildlife, the latter is a terrible bane that promises to convert forests quickly into a war zone.

Except in Assam and Tripura, which have the lowest tribal population amongst the eight north-eastern states, the FRA is not implemented in Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, and Sikkim. While tribals constitute a third of the population of Manipur and Sikkim, all the remaining four states are overwhelmingly tribal majority states. The FRA is applicable to all these states, except that Nagaland under Article 371(A) and Mizoram under Article 371(G) require their respective state legislative assemblies to pass resolutions extending the FRA to their states. While Mizoram extended the FRA from 31 December 2009 onwards through a resolution passed on 29 October 2009 that was notified into force on 3 March 2010, Nagaland is yet to decide whether this law should extend to the state despite a state-level committee examining the issue for years now.

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Updated On : 18th Nov, 2019

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