Why the Supreme Court Verdict on Forest Rights Act Might Spell Disaster for Lakhs of Adivasis

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Why the Supreme Court Verdict on Forest Rights Act Might Spell Disaster for Lakhs of Adivasis

Illustration: Arati Gujar

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esterday, the Supreme Court released a written order of a damaging verdict that it quietly pronounced a week ago. The order called for the eviction of nearly 1 million adivasi and other tribal families who have been residing in forestlands across 16 Indian states for decades.

Reacting on a PIL filed by Wildlife First, a NGO that contested the validity of the Forest Rights Act, a three-judge member, comprising Justices Navin Sinha, Indrani Banerjee, and Arun Mishra, directed state governments to evict forest-dwellers, whose claims over the lands have been rejected. The time period given to the states, that include Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala among others, is until July 27, even though the process of reviewing or verification of ownership is still pending in a handful of states. And as per the affidavits filed by the remaining states, the total number of rejected ownership claims from these 16 states add up to “11,72,931 tribal and other forest-dwelling households” – a number that is bound to increase in the coming months. A number that should force the government to sit up and take notice.

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