Sunday, November 8, 2009

Gujjars seek PM’s help to get Forest Rights Act in J&K

Seeking intervention of Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh over the issue of extending “Forest Rights Act 2006” to Jammu and Kashmir, the Gujjars of the State today demanded the identical and similar rights on Forests, constitutionally been made available to other scheduled tribe communities in Indian states. In a detailed ten pages letter addressed to PM, the Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation-a premier organization of Gujjars has stated that in J&K more than 95% of “nomadic Gujjars” are landless, shelter less and deserves dwelling rights on forest lands which they are using as traditional inhabitants since centuries together. Giving details, Dr. Javaid Rahi, national secretary of Tribal Foundation said “we wrote to PM that the equitable growth of country and state can not be achieved without guaranteeing the legitimate rights to hitherto marginalized and isolated sections of our society mainly the Gujjars of the state which constitute more than 85% of the total tribal population J&K”. “Its urgently needed to empower the nomadic community with the means to determine their own destiny, their livelihood, their own security and above all their dignity and self respect and all these can be achieved only by way of giving them the forest rights in J&K, Dr. Javaid Rahi added." To give benefits to Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, the Forest legislation was passed by Indian Parliament on December 18, 2006 and was subsequently implemented in all the major States of India except Jammu and Kashmir. Due to the presence article 370 this Act can not be extend directly to J&K without a legislation, the letter reads. The letter further urged the Prime Minister to intervene and direct J&K to issue a SRO immediately in this regard so as to provide rights on forests to dwelling communities over the land and other resources, denied to them over decades. The letter further reads that with the extension of Forest Rights Act to Jammu and Kashmir state it will have a multiple , forereaching and positive impact on states economy and will defiantly redress the "historical injustice" committed against Gujjars- the major dwellers and conservators of forests. The letter further said we the Gujjars have been protecting forests against mafias, land grabbers but as per laws available, till date protection of forests by any community is illegal here in Jammu and Kashmir which is unjust ,bizarre and against tribal rights. The letter further reads that “systematic exploitation and social and economic abuse” of the tribal Gujjars must be end and mobilize their energy towards controlling and protecting natural resources of State including forests. The letter reads forests are the home of lakhs of nomadic Gujjars in J&K and they are to be declared as a forest protector by settling them properly and lawfully. The letter further said that Dogra rulers of the State had granted the Gujjars Forest Rights but later with the establishment of Forest department after 50s the same was snatched by the successive governments and we are just demanding the restoration only our rights on Forests.