In Rajasthan, Forest Rights Act was wantonly flouted to reject Adivasis' claims to their land -Nihar Gokhale
They were told to furnish non-existent records, their claims were illegally decided by forest guards, they were not informed of rejections or allowed to appeal.
Breaking the law isn’t something one is usually proud of. But for Devi Lal, a resident of a forest village in southern Rajasthan, a court summons for encroaching on forest land in 2002 is a prized possession.
A quiet, tall man dressed in a dhoti, kurta and a colourful turban, the 64-year-old from the indigenous Bhil community proudly showed off the terse order – neatly laminated and stored in a bag – that demanded his presence before a forest official’s court, where he would stand trial.
Since the Forest Rights Act was introduced in 2006, these summons became evidence that Devi Lal had lived on the land in question before that, and became vital evidence to support his claim under the Act.
Nearly three years after he and 60 others in the villages of Rawatbhata block applied for land titles, the applications were rejected in 2015. They do not know why; they were never informed of the rejection, a violation of the Forest Rights Act, which says that decisions to reject or modify claims have to be communicated to the claimant in person so that they have the opportunity to appeal the rejection within 60 days.
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