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

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The Situated 'Forest' State and the Alienation of Van Gujjars: Locating forms of accumulation through dispossession in forests of Uttarakhand

The Van Gujjars are a nomadic pastoral community who practice seasonal migration and rotational grazing between the forests of Terai Bhabhar and Siwalik regions in winter and alpine meadows (bugyals) in the upper reaches of the Western Himalayas in the summer. However, the inception of fortress conservation models and forest restoration policies have severely inhibited the ability of these pastoralists to reside, graze and migrate within these forests. The post-colonial state has designed myriad schemes to resettle these pastoralists, without necessarily addressing their volition to accept these ambivalent strategies of sedentarization on their lives and livelihoods. Nonetheless, legal instruments and court orders are routinely used by the Forest department to dispossess these pastoralists in the guise of forest conservation and wildlife protection. This article seeks to identify the numerous strategies adopted by the situated forest state to legitimise dispossession of Van Gujjars, either directly through routine eviction and threats of displacement or indirectly by providing handouts in the form of compensation and rehabilitation packages. The author argues that an analysis of the political economy of forest conservation and restoration becomes key to understand how pastoral lives and livelihoods are negotiating this onslaught of accumulation within forests that rests on displacing and settling them. Although the Forest Rights Act, 2006, engenders a form of agency amongst some Van Gujjars to assert and resist these strategies, the author argues that the politics embedded within its implementation allows the situated forest state to engender ‘proletarianized’ rationalities towards resettlement and land tenure amongst the Van Gujjars.

Forest Rights Act Enables State Control of Land and Denies Most Adivasis and Forest Dwellers Land Rights

Over a decade after the landmark Forest Rights Act, 2006 was enacted, a relatively small number of claimants have been able to access the rights it promises. The author identifies limitations built into the legislation and investigates the obstacles that have hampered the provision and recognition of forest rights in three districts of Himachal Pradesh.

Forest Rights Act in Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh

The emergence of the Forest Rights Act reasserted the vitality of the role people play in conservation and management of natural resources and carving out legal channels for recognition of their forest rights. But, in Himachal Pradesh, the FRA suffers at the hands of a bureaucracy that has buried it under the weight of colonial power structures. The conflicting narratives from Kinnaur are discussed, where instead of being recognised under the FRA, the tribals’ identity and forest dependence are being ripped away from them.

 

The Conflict in India’s Forests: Will State-driven Expropriation Continue?

State-driven forest management has essentially been about expropriation for powerful interests. What will this mean for the Forest Rights Act under the new government?

Forest Rights Act

The implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 has been opaque and there is serious lack of awareness about its provisions not only among the benefi ciaries but also among the officials in charge of implementing it. Given the complaints from either side, it is time the government reviewed the law and also looked at the objections raised when it was first tabled as a bill.

Contested Spaces, Democratic Rights

The Maharashtra government's village forest rules seek to overturn the rights regime established in the letter of the law by the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act and the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act 1996 in terms of both community rights, as well as the rights over minor forest produce. Moreover, the rules write away the future rights of the community over forests and their management and control over minor forest produce in perpetuity. These are also ultra vires of the rules regime agreed and enacted by an act of Parliament.

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