Staff Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Thousands of tribals and other forest dwellers gathered at Piparia in Hoshangabad district in Madhya Pradesh this past Sunday to protest against their proposed displacement from the Satpura National Park, Bori Wildlife Sanctuary and Panchmarhi Wildlife Sanctuary.

The protesting tribals, in defiance of restrictions imposed on them by the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department, publicly sold minor forest produce. The Forest Department has banned extraction of minor forest produce from these areas. The protest was organised by the Samajwadi Jan Parishad, Kisan Adivasi Sangathan and Shramik Adivasi Sangathan.

Recently the Central Government under the Project Tiger scheme, combined protected areas in the Satpura National Park, Bori Wildlife Sanctuary and Panchmarhi Wildlife Sanctuary to form the Satpura Tiger Reserve (STR). There are 75 villages in and more than 100 around the STR which are mostly inhabited by tribals.

Protestors sceptical

The protestors are sceptical of the STR authorities' plan to relocate 50 of 75 villages in the area as it is. Sunil, General Secretary of the Samajwadi Jan Parishad, said, "Recently a tribal village Dhain, from Bori Wildlife Sanctuary was relocated at a place where tribals of another village, Dobjhirna were already living. The government then forcibly evicted the Dobhjhirna villagers to allot the land to Dhain families. However, the land is still not fit for cultivation, and the villagers of Dhain are facing a crisis."

The tribals are also protesting the decision of STR authorities to ban fishing and draw-down cultivation in the Tawa Reservoir.