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On pointing towards the luxurious resorts Dheerwati is a member of the Baiga tribe, who is worried about on seeing her patch of land dry.
Dheerwati says “those resort people have their eyes fixed on our fields”. The officials entice us to move.The forest is full of tribal people residing and earning a living from the resources present here. We don’t have any documents of our lands to present as a proof so we cannot do anything. says Dheerwati a resident of Village Khatiya of Mandla district in Madhya Pradesh.
Her village, situated in the safeguard zone of Kanha National Park, is amongst the first human settlements outside the core zone of the reserve forest.
Dheerwati lives with her husband and six children. Her house has baked Kavelu roof , a newly constructed toilet and it also has electric connection.
“We require some of the forest produce like bamboo to make a living. They don’t allow us in the forests. We can’t do anything to support ourselves,” says her husband.
We are even beaten if caught inside the forest stated one of the tribal.
From an annual 2,000 tourists in 1980s to 1,50,000 at present, the resort business in these zone of the forests has flourish the most, but at a cost to every tribal in some way. Many tribespersons could be seen begging for their pictures to be taken by the tourists.
Powerful people, including some reputed wildlife influential own a resort around Kahna and other national parks across India.
Tribals living in these zones say they are forced to move out of their homes by forcefully choosing government relocation packages. i.e “land against land” or rs 10 lakh per adult. Officials however deny this statement.
No village from buffer zone is to be shifted. If they leave willingly they will avail benefit of packages said J.S Chauhan Field Director of Kanha National Park.
As the tribes have been living here for the past many years it’s their legal right to live here with some restrictions, as assured to them in the Forest Rights Act (FRA). However, norms are seldom followed during eviction.
Most of the families were moved without any legal notice.FRA extends an opportunity to the tribal to either continue living in the core zone or move willingly. But no one was given a choice of their own and many were forced to sign the papers, Sophie Grig from Survival International, told IANS.
“An official told us to sign a letter of consent quickly. He said that we would get money or that we would go to another village. They were determined to destroy our village,” a tribal from a relocated village, called Jholar, said in a letter to Madhya Pradesh Human Rights Commission.
Over 1,400 families from nine villages of the Baiga and Gond tribes were moved from the core forest area between 2010 to 2015. Lakhand Merabi, declared, “Irrespective of what happens to us, we will stay here.” Another tribal said but he had to leave.
A village named Kariwah was moved this year. The number of people who have moved somewhere else remains unknown. Some families preferred relocating for the sake of better education for their children. While many tribal families didn’t like leaving,
“These forests are like my home, and love to show people around,” Ramkali, whose village in Mukki zone of Kanha was shifted few years back.
However, the issue of ‘social security’ – a new concept for those relocated — continues to haunt.
Such cases are however not limited to Kanha alone, there are many more people similar to Kanha meeting the same fate.