A delegation of Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information (RTI) Movement on Tuesday visited the affected villages of Batwodder Bonen in Doodh Ganga Forest range of Budgam district after the government issued eviction notices to the traditional forest dwellers. Appealing Lt Governor Manoj Sinha and Chief Secretary B V R Subramanium to intervene, the RTI movement said, “Under FRA 2006 people living near forests have rights on the forest land provided they didn’t make its commercial use and have been living in the area for more than 75 years.”
The government asked them to evict from the land that was allotted to them under the “Grow More Food program” by the Government of J-K more than 70 years back.
The Movement, lead by Dr. Raja Muzaffar Bhat, said that in a statement that for the 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 Batwodder Bonen, Jabad Branwar, Kutbal, Tamun, Leddan, Nagbal, Kandajan and many other areas of Budgam district and some other districts of J-K.
“The people residing in forest areas are mentally frustrated after getting eviction notices issued by the Forest Department as they have been living in these respective areas for ages and Forest Rights Act 2006 (FRA 2006) gives them legal protection,” said Dr. Bhat. “The FRA 2006 has been extended to J&K post article 370 abrogation but not being implemented. Recently the Chief Secretary in a meeting with top officials assured that said law would be implemented in the UT of J-K soon but on the other hand eviction notices are being issued? In Bat Wodder Bonen villages alone more than 25 families are directed to evict around 70 kanals of land which is a non-forest area for the last 115 years as per land revenue records, but nobody is ready to listen to the facts.”
“Under Forest Rights Act 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,” Dr. Bhat said. “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. He said Limitation Act 1963 also gives local dwellers right to cultivate and possess the land said as Govt hasn’t issued any notice to people in past 30 years or more.”