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uttarakhand: Uttarakhand forest tribe feels let down by parties | India News – Times of India


DEHRADUN: Van Gujjars, the pastoral community of Uttarakhand which has been living in its forests for ages, are a disillusioned lot before the elections since they claim that they are remembered only at the time of polls, while their rights are not protected by any political party.
The community has just around 60,000 members left, according to “Van Panchayat Sangharsh Morcha of Uttarakhand”, an organisation that works with the forest dwellers. None of the van panchayats in Uttarakhand are registered under the Forest Rights Act (FRA), which would give the Van Gujjars the legal right to live in forests and use its resources.
In the absence of such rights, Van Gujjars are shunted out of their ‘deras’ (settlements) every now and then. NGOs working with them say that false resettlement certificates, which would enable authorities to displace families, are rampant.
“We were asked to move our dera and cattle twice, once from Narendra Nagar to make way for the Char Dham all-weather road and then for the Char Dham rail project in Rishikesh. We want the FRA to be implemented so that this torture doesn’t affect the next generation,” said Judi Bhadana, a 22-year-old Van Gujjar who is now looking for another forest to move where he can reside with eight other Van Gujjar families.
Arjun Kasana, a social activist and legal representative of Uttarakhand’s Van Gujjars, said that false resettlement certificates can be easily used to evict Van Gujjars overnight. “When queried, authorities say these certificates were mistakenly issued as they were not aware of FRA rules. A latest case in point is central Terai, where Van Gujjar families were asked to leave without notice to make way for some road construction work,” Kasana said.
Meer Hamza, a member of the tribe who works to sensitise other Van Gujjars about their rights, said that “it is important to note that our community is involved in conserving green cover with utmost diligence.”
According to Van Panchayat Sangharsh Morcha of Uttarakhand, 4,000 van panchayats are registered and active and 8,000 are just on paper, so there are around 12,000 van panchayats. “All of them need to be brought under the FRA. Van Gujjars, living on fringes of jungles, could get economic gains and even be able to sell handmade products,” said Tarun Joshi, the state coordinator of the organisation.





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