Finally, J&K tribal population to get their due

September 15, 2021 12:00 am | Updated 06:14 am IST - SRINAGAR

Implementation of Forest Rights Act is expected to elevate socio-economic status of tribes

J&K Lt. Governor Manoj Sinha handing over the Forest Rights document to a beneficiary in Srinagar on Monday.PTI-

J&K Lt. Governor Manoj Sinha handing over the Forest Rights document to a beneficiary in Srinagar on Monday.PTI-

After a long delay, the Jammu and Kashmir government has decided to implement the Forest Rights Act, 2006, which will elevate the socio-economic status of a sizeable section of the 14 lakh population of tribals and nomadic communities, including Gujjar-Bakerwals and Gaddi-Sippis in the Union Territory.

“After a wait of more than 14 years, due rights have been conferred upon the tribal community by implementing the Forest Rights Act, 2006, keeping in mind the basic spirit of social equality and harmony as guided by the Constitution of our country and Parliament,” J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha said on Monday.

Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, Administrative Secretary, Tribal Affairs Department, described the move as one “that will be written in golden words by the generations to come”.

“It will help in ensuring a dignified life to the tribal population. Tribal people have close ties with forests and sadly there was no legal framework. The move will address the prolonged suffering of tribal people and also ensure forest conservation,” he stated.

Cases of eviction

In the past few years, there were growing cases of eviction of tribals from forest land in parts of the Kashmir Valley and Jammu region. The government termed them “illegal encroachers” but the regional parties accused the Forest Department of acting above the law in these cases.

According to the Forum for Human Rights in J&K, headed by former Supreme Court judge Justice Madan B. Lokur and former J&K interlocutor Radha Kumar, the Union Territory saw the arbitrary demolition of Gujjar and Bakerwal houses during a forest reclamation drive in contravention of the Forest Rights Act of 2006.

In the latest drive in Shopian on August 3, around 30 FIRs were lodged against encroachers, and seven booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA) in south Kashmir.

However, Mr. Sinha has said the implementation of the Act will empower the tribal community by restoring to them the rights for a better life, while fulfilling the primary needs of water, food, home and livelihood.

Javaid Rahi, a tribal rights activist, termed the J&K government’s move a “historic occasion”.

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