SRINAGAR: Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement has said that evicting forest dwellers from their ancestral land is an open violation of Forest Rights Act (FRA-2006) as the said law gives legal protection to forest dwellers like Gujjars, Bakarwals, Chopans and even Kashmiri or Dogri people living in the forest area for more than 75 years.
In a statement Chairman RTI Movement Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat said that for last several weeks Forest Department officials are issuing eviction notices under section 79-A of Forest Act 1927 to people living in the vicinity of forests in many villages of J&K particularly in Nagbal Yusmarg, Darwan , Kanidajan, Jabad Branwar , Raiyar , Arizal and many other areas of Pahalgam and Kathua. Under FRA 2006 people living near forests have some rights on the forest land provided they don’t make its commercial use.
“The people residing in forest areas are mentally frustrated after getting eviction notices from respective Forest Range offices as they have been living in these respective areas for ages and Forest Rights Act 2006 (FRA 2006) gives them legal protection. The FRA 2006 was not extended to J&K post article 370 abrogation and recently the Chief Secretary in a meeting with top officials assured that said law would be extended to UT of J&K soon. If the Govt has plans to extend this law to J&K , why is the Govt harassing the forest dwellers ? The Government must instead focus on deforestation & loot of forest wealth. I appeal Lt Governor Manoj Sinha and Chief Secretary B V R Subramanium to intervene” said Dr Raja Muzaffar
Under FRA 2006 members of the Scheduled Tribes (ST) and other forest dwellers in the forests have the right over forest land for habitation or self-cultivation or livelihood. The Act also allows the use of forest land for developing government facilities, including schools, minor water bodies, and hospitals, on the recommendation of local Panchayat through the Deh Majlis or Gram Sabha.
“FRA 2006 gives the right to ownership to land farmed by tribals or forest dwellers subject to a maximum of 4 hectares. Ownership is only for land that is actually being cultivated by the concerned family and no new lands will be granted” Muzaffar added.