Following SC Order, 2.26 Lakh Tribal Families Face Eviction — Madhya Pradesh

According to affidavits filed by the states in the Supreme Court about 11,72,931 land ownership claims have been made

According to affidavits filed by the states in the Supreme Court about 11,72,931 land ownership claims have been made

India's 100 million tribespeople are, in the words of a historian, its invisible and marginal minority.

In the last 30 years, the government has diverted 5,400 square miles of forest land, the size of CT, for industrial projects - many of which were opposed by the indigenous people. The ruling is the latest flash point in the competing interests of industry, wildlife conservationists and forest communities.

Bhubaneswar: Around 1.2 lakh tribals living in forest areas in the state are facing the threat of being evicted from their homestead and denied of their rights on forest produce after the recent Supreme Court order pertaining to the matter. The top court has acted on information provided by 17 states. The state rejected as many as 2,53,742 claims under different categories - which comes to around 59 per cent - in total.

They say that even if the law now remains in place, rejection of claims should lead to automatic eviction of tribal families by the state authorities.

The petitioners demanded the eviction of those, whose claims are rejected under the law. Environmental journalist Nitin Sethi calls this the "largest mass scale, legally sanctioned eviction of tribals in independent India". Gandhi said "in order to preempt large-scale evictions" it would be "expedient to file a review petition" and "take any other action" as deemed fit by the chief minister.

It added that after the enactment of the FRA, around 72,000 sq km of forest land had been converted to individual and community ownership.

'Forced evictions are explicitly prohibited under worldwide human rights law, ' he said.

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It is learnt that district-level committees that examined the claims made by STs under the ROFR Act decided those who are eligible and who are not.

The final country-wide numbers of forced evictions are likely to rise substantially as other states are forced to comply with the court orders.

The court said that the state governments would "ensure that where the rejection orders have been passed, eviction will be carried out on or before the next date of hearing".

Such fears are not unfounded.

It came as a petition accused the millions of people of encroaching illegally on protected areas and threatening wildlife through agriculture and forest clearance. Villages were set on fire, houses demolished, crops damaged and people killed in police shootings. It also noted that thousands of claims for land rights under the law - the Forest Rights Act - get "wrongly rejected".

He said: "What they don't realise is that, barring two, all of India's rivers are forest-dependent". Over the years they lost their homes and lands to dams, mines, and factories. The Odisha government has, however, told the Supreme Court that the rejected claims are being reviewed.

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