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

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Voluntary Relocation and the Violation of Forest Rights in Kerala

Voluntary relocation of Adivasis from the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary has been going on since 2012, violating all existing legislations, including the Forest Rights Act, 2006. The 2008 guidelines of the National Tiger Conservation Authority, meant for the relocation of villages from tiger reserves, have been followed in this area, even though it has neither been notified as a critical wildlife habitat under the Forest Rights Act, nor a core area in the tiger reserve.

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act (FRA), 2006 was enacted to undo the historical injustice perpetrated on the forest dwellers, particularly the Adivasis in India. But, the reports from various parts of the country unravel the fact that they are facing a two-pronged threat. The first is a challenge to the FRA’s constitutional validity which went off the track undefended by the governments, resulting in the Supreme Court order on 13 February 2019 to evict over 10 lakh claimants whose claims were rejected. This has been put on hold for the time being. The second threat is the proposal of the central government to amend the Indian Forest Act, 1927. The amendments will confer draconian powers to the forest bureaucracy, increase its armed might and endanger forest rights further. In the light of the countrywide protests by Adivasis, this proposal has been withdrawn by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) on 15 November 2019.

And all this while, the MoEFCC has been quietly clearing out the inhabitants of the forests under the pretext of carrying out a humanitarian and great life-saving task of protecting them from the wild animals, euphemistically called “voluntary relocation,” unmindful of the existing laws such as the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 (amended in 2006), the FRA and the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. The relocation has been on since 2012 in Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary of Kerala without much public debate, but with huge enthusiasm by the bureaucracy and conservationists. Against this move of relocation, Adivasi organisations and individuals have filed complaints with the National Human Rights Commission and also with 12 officials in Kerala, including the chief minister, state tribal minister, and chief secretary. Here, an attempt has been made to look at this phenomenon critically.

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Updated On : 9th Dec, 2019

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