Tribals’ eviction: Congress, BJP tell CMs to file review pleas

Fearing a threat: Dongria Kondh tribals in Kalahandi district of Odisha
Special CorrespondentFebruary 25, 2019 23:35 IST
Updated: November 28, 2021 09:18 IST

Amit Shah, Rahul write to States; RSS outfit demands ordinance

The presidents of the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Rahul Gandhi and Amit Shah, have directed the Chief Ministers of the States ruled by their parties to file a review petition in the Supreme Court over its ruling ordering the eviction of tribals unable to provide sufficient proof of claim to forest land. Mr. Gandhi on Monday said he had written to the Chief Ministers of the Congress-ruled States to seek a review of the order that asked the States to ensure eviction of families whose claims to living in forest land were rejected.

Later in the day, Mr. Shah announced on Twitter that he had spoken to all Chief Ministers of the BJP-ruled States to file review petitions.

Mr. Gandhi said in a Facebook post: “For lakhs of tribals and forest dwellers, ‘

jal, jangal and zameen ’ (water, forests and land) is a part of their right to life…I have written to the Chief Ministers of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Punjab and Puducherry and the Deputy Chief Minister of Karnataka, and urged them to file a review petition or take other appropriate steps.”

The RSS-affiliated organisation for tribals, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, passed a hard-hitting resolution at its meeting, demanding that the Union government either come out with an ordinance or file a review petition.

Mr. Gandhi also stated, “MoTA [the Ministry of Tribal Affairs] had pointed out that forest staff often raised ‘frivolous’ objections leading to rejection. In this backdrop, eviction based on rejected claims alone, without a proper review and appeal process, violates the due process of law.”

Mr. Shah said he had spoken to the Chief Ministers of the BJP-ruled States over “the situation arising out of the Supreme Court’s order...”

The States, he said, would soon be filing review petitions and “care will be taken to safeguard the rights of our tribals, and prevent [their] eviction.”

“The BJP remains committed to the upliftment of our tribal brothers and sisters and we will do everything to protect their rights. I would also urge them to not fall into the trap of rumours from the usual suspects,” he said.

‘Ensure stay order’

The RSS-affiliated organisation for tribals, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, said: “The Central government should either bring out an ordinance or it should file a review petition to ensure a stay order is secured against action on those whose claims have been rejected, and later they can think of a permanent solution.”

Its resolution said the court order only “added to the injustice done to tribals in the last few decades.”

“An NGO working on wildlife in 2009 raised a challenge about the Constitutional validity of the Forest Rights Act before the Supreme Court. It was later joined by a group of retired forest officials known to be against the law from the beginning,” said the resolution.

It further cited media reports that government lawyers, “sat quietly in the last three hearings of the case before the Supreme Court and in the last hearing on February 13th they were not even present.”