Eviction of Forest Dwellers RTI Movement holds protest in Budgam

Srinagar, Nov 26 (KNS):Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement held a protest in Budgam today against the steps being taken by Govt to evict forest dwellers from their ancestral land in many areas of J&K particularly in Jabbad Branwar , Nagbal Yusmarg , Kanidajan , Darwan in Charar e Sharief and several other areas of district Budgam.

In a statement issued to KNS reads, Chairman RTI Movement Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat who lead the protest outside Deputy Commissioner office Budgam along with dozens of affected people from upper reaches of Chadoora tehsil said that action by Forest department was 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 areas for more than 75 years. He said that the RTI Movement has already taken up the issue with the Government and Commissioner Secretary Forest & Environment assured that the Forest Department will not harass the traditional forest dwellers. Inspite of her assurances the notices are continuously send to villagers.

“ When we see on the ground 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 Jabbad , Zildara , Batwodder , Kutbal, Darwan , Kanidajan and many other villages in Budgam. Under FRA 2006 people living near forests have some rights on the forest land provided they don't make its commercial use. Forest officials must instead take action against illegal encroachers who have made hotels and big apple orchards on forest land. The poor 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 extended to J&K post article 370 abrogation but is not being put into practice and recently the Chief Secretary in a meeting with top officials assured that said law would be implemented in 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

Protestors were raising slogans Ye Janagal Hamaraun Hain Inki Hifazat Hum Karaingey , DC Budgam Hosh mai aaw , DFO Budgam hosh mai aaw.

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.  

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