(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
April 27, 2008
Ensure Immediate Implementation Of The Forest Rights Act
Resolution Adopted at the XIX Congress on April 1, 2008
THIS XIX Congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) expresses its concern at the concerted effort by anti-tribal lobbies to sabotage the implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 (Act No. 2 of 2007) through recourse to at least five similar petitions presented before different courts. Shockingly, the court in Tamilnadu has granted a stay on the implementation of some clauses of the Act.
The Act itself is a significant outcome of the militant struggles waged by tribal people against the historical injustices perpetrated on them since the British colonial period and continued even after 60 years of independence. The CPI(M) has played a critical role at every stage of the struggle for the Act: in the deliberations of the Joint Select Committee of parliament, by means of interventions to ensure that the Committee’s recommendations were included in the Act, and to ensure the notification of Rules that deliberately were being delayed. Owing to the intervention of the CPI(M), significant changes were made in the original Bill. These include:
changing the cut-off date from 1980 to December 2005, the date the Bill was tabled in parliament;
including other traditional forest dwelling communities in the ambit of the Act (though the period of time to establish their status as such communities should be reduced from the present requirement of 75 years);
the inclusion of rights to minor forest produce; and
increasing the ceiling on land holdings covered by the Act from 2 to 4 hectares.
Anti-tribal lobbies tried everything to sabotage the Act. The Rules were sought to be delayed to enable evictions from wild-life habitats. Now, having failed at every stage of the democratic process, these lobbies are trying to sabotage the Act by means of the judiciary.
The XIX Congress of the CPI(M) condemns such anti-democratic and anti-tribal moves. This is once again an example of the judicial processes being utilised by vested interests to thwart a necessary social justice measure. The Congress appeals to the courts not to entertain such misleading petitions.
The Congress calls on the central government to take appropriate coordinated legal measures in each state to defend the Act. The central government should consider inclusion of the Act under the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution to protect tribal interests.
In the meanwhile it is necessary to step up the struggle for immediate implementation of the Act. The state governments must establish the mandated committees at different levels without delay. Gram Sabhas, which are recognised as the authority to initiate the process for determining the nature and extent of individual or community forest rights, must urgently be convened. Most importantly, the beneficiaries of the Act must know of their rights and the procedures by which to make their claims. All evictions must be immediately stopped and those made after December 2005 must be reversed and land restored to the tribals.
The Congress calls on all Party units and democratic mass organisations to direct their strength and energy to mobilise Adivasis, other traditional forest dwellers and people of nomadic and primitive tribes to ensure the implementation of the Act and its Rules by planned and conscious interventions and struggles at every level and bring all democratic sections in their support.