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NHRC moved in alleged land-grabbing case

By CORRESPONDENT

SILCHAR, March 31 � The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken up the alleged case of land-grabbing and diversion of Patharia reserve forest land, pushing around 300 families of forest dwellers into a state of starvation and homelessness. The human rights watchdog of the nation has registered a case (No. 99/3/10/2012) in this connection on a complaint filed by the Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) after it conducted a fact-finding study.

The BHRPC also wrote to other authorities including the Prime Minister, Assam Chief Minister, Union Forests and Environment Minister and others. It informed the authorities that around 300 families of traditional forest dwellers in and around Patharia forest reserve in Karimganj district have been deprived of their sources of livelihood and are now living under the threat of imminent eviction from their dwelling houses by some businessmen, allegedly in connivance with local politician and State Minister for Cooperation and Border Areas Development Siddeque Ahmed.

The persons accused have allegedly grabbed land measuring approximately 130 hectares (330 acres) reportedly for rubber plantation in Pecharpar, Satkorgul, Mokkergul, Bhitorgul and other villages where the forest dweller families have been living for generations. The forest dwellers were allegedly asked to vacate the areas soon and threatened with dire consequences if they failed to do so.

The BHRPC found that it was prima facie a case of diversion of forest land for non-forest commercial purpose as well as criminal trespassing and illegal possession of land.

The Silchar-based rights group contended that the activities are in violation of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 as interpreted and applied by the Supreme Court of India in orders passed in the TN Godavarman Thirumuilpad vs Union of India and Others (WP (C) No. 202 of 1995). The BHRPC further contended that the people who have been living in and holding the forest land for generations are �other traditional forest dwellers� within the meaning of Clause (O) of Section 2 of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (known as Forest Rights Act) and they are entitled to all the rights enumerated under Sub-section (1) of Section 3 of the FRA including the right to hold and live in the forest land under individual or common occupation for habitation or for self-cultivation for livelihood.

It is also alleged that the criminal activities against the villagers constitute violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed in Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India and human rights enshrined in many international human rights instruments to which India is a state party.

The BHRPC demanded of the authorities to stop immediate felling of trees and destruction of vegetables and other crops grown by the villagers, take urgent action to restore possession of the land to the villagers, provide the villagers with adequate monetary compensation for loss of property and mental agony caused by the destruction of forest, vegetables and crops grown by them, dispossession of land and threat of danger to life and limb, provide adequate security to the victims and witnesses, conduct a fair and objective inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation, particularly into the alleged involvement of the minister, recognise the rights of the traditional forest dwellers under the FRA, 2006 who have been living for generations, settle the khas land possessed by the villagers for generations and who are otherwise landless as per government policy and take all other actions and measures necessary to ensure full enjoyment of the right to life with dignity under adequate standards of living by the villagers.

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NHRC moved in alleged land-grabbing case

SILCHAR, March 31 � The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken up the alleged case of land-grabbing and diversion of Patharia reserve forest land, pushing around 300 families of forest dwellers into a state of starvation and homelessness. The human rights watchdog of the nation has registered a case (No. 99/3/10/2012) in this connection on a complaint filed by the Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) after it conducted a fact-finding study.

The BHRPC also wrote to other authorities including the Prime Minister, Assam Chief Minister, Union Forests and Environment Minister and others. It informed the authorities that around 300 families of traditional forest dwellers in and around Patharia forest reserve in Karimganj district have been deprived of their sources of livelihood and are now living under the threat of imminent eviction from their dwelling houses by some businessmen, allegedly in connivance with local politician and State Minister for Cooperation and Border Areas Development Siddeque Ahmed.

The persons accused have allegedly grabbed land measuring approximately 130 hectares (330 acres) reportedly for rubber plantation in Pecharpar, Satkorgul, Mokkergul, Bhitorgul and other villages where the forest dweller families have been living for generations. The forest dwellers were allegedly asked to vacate the areas soon and threatened with dire consequences if they failed to do so.

The BHRPC found that it was prima facie a case of diversion of forest land for non-forest commercial purpose as well as criminal trespassing and illegal possession of land.

The Silchar-based rights group contended that the activities are in violation of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 as interpreted and applied by the Supreme Court of India in orders passed in the TN Godavarman Thirumuilpad vs Union of India and Others (WP (C) No. 202 of 1995). The BHRPC further contended that the people who have been living in and holding the forest land for generations are �other traditional forest dwellers� within the meaning of Clause (O) of Section 2 of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (known as Forest Rights Act) and they are entitled to all the rights enumerated under Sub-section (1) of Section 3 of the FRA including the right to hold and live in the forest land under individual or common occupation for habitation or for self-cultivation for livelihood.

It is also alleged that the criminal activities against the villagers constitute violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed in Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India and human rights enshrined in many international human rights instruments to which India is a state party.

The BHRPC demanded of the authorities to stop immediate felling of trees and destruction of vegetables and other crops grown by the villagers, take urgent action to restore possession of the land to the villagers, provide the villagers with adequate monetary compensation for loss of property and mental agony caused by the destruction of forest, vegetables and crops grown by them, dispossession of land and threat of danger to life and limb, provide adequate security to the victims and witnesses, conduct a fair and objective inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation, particularly into the alleged involvement of the minister, recognise the rights of the traditional forest dwellers under the FRA, 2006 who have been living for generations, settle the khas land possessed by the villagers for generations and who are otherwise landless as per government policy and take all other actions and measures necessary to ensure full enjoyment of the right to life with dignity under adequate standards of living by the villagers.