We can’t compromise historical position of Adivasi in the name of a historical act like FRA (Forest Right Act) . Bhabhoot Singh Korku was first one to be hanged in 1861 at Jabalpur jail and thereafter his forest was confiscated by the British only to be made into a first reserved forest of India – ‘Bori’.
All of the Adivasi population was induced to move – after 67 years of independence – there is no way the FRA can get those Adivasis, now again residing ‘Bori’, gets their rights back. Not even that, their fishing rights over the Tawa reservoir has been lost.
FRA position as on 31 July 2014: 3,319 community forest rights have been distributed over 6,93,982.93 (5,34,549.95 individual and 1,59,432.98 community) acres of forest land.
The total forest land area is 169462399 acres, so these figures confirm the fact that the community has not got rights over more than just .0009% of the forest land. These figures speak volume: it tells that, despite so much hue and cry by many of us that its revolutionary enactment, the practicality of the matter reveals that in last 8 years adivasi community has not got community rights over even 1% of the forest land, and this way it would take many generation for the community to get their actual historical rights!
Actually, when we say that the FRA has been brought in to undo historical injustice, then the first thing should have been to unearth the old records and history; locked in record rooms and archives, gathering dust, and to be burnt down or shredded by the regime.
But, we never bothered to know what that historical injustice has been and in haste went to record community rights! Government doing something to satisfy its population to quell unrest, is a common practice, but claiming that to be undoing a colonial unjustice is something which need to be cautious about.
But the crux of the issue is whether it is PESA or FRA, none of the law can do much in isolation; we may reap in some benefit to the community that is okay, but in this we can’t comprise historic battle of Adivasi – 200 years old, having been fought for their rights over the forest.,
The community have been fighting their battle – in pre independence era – without us, and they never compromised, though they suffered a lot, in post independent ear the fight is led by us the middle class activists and we believe more in getting some benefit to the community and don’t understand an essence of adivasi’s two century old struggle.
I am sorry, here I am not raising an issue of adivasi and non adivasi activists, but I am reflecting on myself that being non adivasi many a times I couldn’t understand what adivasis actually want? Do they want rights over some patch of land just to survive or they want, essentially, freedom to move and feel of belonging to the forest territory; and that is possible only under territorial rights.
What FRA is doing is worse then what native Americans have faced at the hands of white settlers; giving Adivasi not even 1% of their land area back.
By: Anurag Modi
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