Global non-profits appeal to India to prevent forced evictions of forest dwellers

Such evictions would violate India's obligations on human rights and biodiversity, they said

By DTE Staff
Published: Monday 22 April 2019

Photo: Getty ImagesA number of international non-profits on April 22, 2019, appealed to India, its states, Supreme Court and to the United Nations to prevent the forced evictions of millions of forest dwellers, stating that such evictions would violate India's obligations on human rights and biodiversity.

“Forced eviction of millions of forest dwellers would be a gross violation of human rights,” the joint statement by the non-profits read. “Even more so, as evictions are not proven as being required by law in strict compliance with India's international obligations and would discriminate against tribals who are less than nine per cent of India's population but are about 40 per cent of those evicted for India development,” it added.

The Supreme Court of India, the statement noted, has ordered Indian states to evict millions of forest dwellers after July 10, 2019, if their claims on their forest rights are rejected under the Forest Rights Act (FRA).

“The FRA however does not enact that such rejections can be used as a ground to justify or to carry out forced eviction. No communities can be legally evicted without their free informed consent even from the "critical wildlife habitats" and certainly not from other areas,” it said.

In India and also globally, forests in which communities live with their customary tenures have survived better, than in areas which the state has registered for more commercial use, which displaces the communities and the biodiversity they sustain as their livelihood source.

“In order to save biodiverse forests and respect human rights compliant to its obligations, India has to thus protect forest communities with customary tenures from forced evictions,” the statement read.

It said that because the process of verifying claims of forest dwellers to forest land has hardly started in many areas and forest dwellers have not been even informed how they could duly claim many of their forest rights, the eviction "would amount to penalising them for the failure of the state machinery to inform them of their rights".

The non-profits who issued the statement included Friends of the Earth International, World Rainforest Movement, Global Forest Coalition, GAIA Foundation and many other environmental organisations around the world.

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