India: Villagers protesting aganist their forced eviction severely injured
August 2, 2019, 12:31 am

Human Rights Defender:
1. Mr. Gokhriya Badole
2. Mr. Bhurala Achale
3. Mr. Rakesh Achale
4. Mr. Vakil
All of them are from Siwal village and members of Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan which is
working in Madhya Pradesh for the protection of Adivasi rights.

The Incident:
On July 9, 2019, a team comprising of the local police, revenue officials and forest officials of Burhanpur district of Madhya Pradesh arrived at Sivil village for eviction move. They destroyed the harvest of 60 hectares of forest land by a JCB machine, where the Adivasis
had cultivated paddies and other harvests. The Barela Adivasis live in the village, whose livelihood is based on the agriculture and forest produces. They have occupied the forest land and have been cultivating the land for years. They have also applied for entitlements of
the land under the Forest Rights Act 2006. They have submitted the proof of their occupancy with their claim forms but their claims are still in pending. The eviction team, however, without considering their pending claims, destroyed the harvest and dug pits on the land for
establishing fencing pillars. When, the Adivasis saw the eviction move, they protested against it and in retaliation, the team opened fire on them and as a result, four villagers were severely injured.

The villagers claim that the forest ranger, Mr. Rajesh Randhava opened fire on them and Mr. Shukla, the SDO was leading the eviction team. After the police firing, the eviction team left the village. The villagers went to the local police station for filing FIR against the eviction team but after a long struggle an FIR was filed against unnamed perpetrators and since the villagers knew some of the officers by name they recorded it in the FIR. The eviction team also filed a counter FIR against 26 villagers under Sections 353, 147, 148, 149, 332 and 472 of the Indian Penal Code alleging them of rioting, attacking and not allowing the government officials to perform their duties.

The act of the eviction team is a gross violation of the section 4(5) of the Forest Rights Act 2006, which categorially states that no member of a forest dwelling Scheduled Tribe or other traditional forest dweller shall be evicted or removed from forest land under his occupation till the recognition and verification procedure is complete. It is also the violation of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees the right to life with dignity to everyone.

In the present case, pending the applications for entitlements of the land under the Forest Rights Act 2006 of the vulnerable adivasis and forest dwellers, the action of the state forces mowing down 60 hectares of forest produce without any proper notice or following the
process of natural justice tantamount to arbitrariness and harassment of the adivasis and forest dwellers to incite public disorder. More so, filing of counter cases with the charges of rioting and attacking government officials is just a move not only to intimidate, harass and
repress human rights defenders advocating for the rights of the minorities but also to discourage defenders protecting land and forest rights of indigenous communities from the corporate cronies of the ruling communities. In this backdrop once again it is safe to assume
that an effort is being to malign people’s movements by clubbing all genuine protests as orchestrated by naxals and Maoists.

The action of the state forces violates right to freedom of assembly and association which is guaranteed by the Indian Constitution and international human rights law. Slapping of false charges against the said human rights defenders are part of a pattern of harassment and repression of human rights work in India and is in a bid to break the spirit of the protestors.

Source: HRD Alert India