Mass evictions from tiger reserves: French TV

On one hand resettlement of tribal people was taken up by the Forest Department to conserve forests but on the other thousands of tourists are welcomed every year.-File Photo: K.R. Deepak  

A special undercover investigation by French TV channel Canal Plus has exposed the illegal eviction of thousands of tribal people from Kanha Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh in the name of conservation, while more than a hundred thousand tourists are welcomed in every year.

The investigation is sure to trigger debate over what is described as skewed conservation policy of displacing indigenous people but attracting hordes of tourists to stay in wildlife reserves.

A reporter of the TV channel visited families of the Baiga tribe who were evicted from Kanha- home of the “Jungle Book”- in 2014, and found that their lives were devastated after being forced from their homes against their will. The tribes people have been struggling to survive after being scattered in surrounding villages, according to a note released by Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights on Wednesday.

Sukhdev, a Baiga man, was killed after his village was evicted from Kanha in 2014, the report says. His body was found after he attempted to buy land for his family. In an interview to Survival International, in 2012, Sukhdev had said: “We won’t find another place like this. How will we set up home there? How will we raise our children? We need our fields and homes … Won’t we die?” (filmed in 2012)

Sukhdev’s brother told Canal Plus: “We were one of the last families to resist. But the people from the reserve [Forest department] forced us to leave. They told us they’d take care of us for three years, but they didn’t do a thing. Even when my brother was killed, no one came to help us.”

Studies have found that tigers thrive in areas inhabited by people, the report says. And while the Baiga tribe people have lived alongside the tiger for generations and regard the animal as their “little brother,” Kanha’s mass tourism has been called “incompatible and detrimental” to conserving the species by conservation experts.

The French TV crew gained access to a confidential official report which lists the systematic resettlement of 22,000 people from tiger reserves across the region. Under Indian law, tribal peoples’ consent is required before such evictions, but they are often harassed into leaving.

Survival International’s Director Stephen Corry said, “So-called ‘conservation’ continues to destroy tribal people as it has for generations. They’ve never threatened the tigers, who would do better if the tribes remained and the tourists stopped. Tribal peoples are generally better conservationists anyway than industrial-sized NGOs like World Wide Fund for Nature which stand by in silence while the parks forcibly evict people like Sukhdev and his family. It’s time these evictions are stopped and this scandal exposed.”

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Printable version | Sep 28, 2021 1:17:28 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/mass-evictions-from-tiger-reserves-french-tv/article7454461.ece

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