in the second week of April, 200-odd Van Gujjar families were stranded in Uttarakhand after the state forest
department barred them from entering their summer homes. The Van Gujjars move to Uttarakhand's Govind National Park in summers and then
move to Uttar Pradesh's Shivalik forests in winters.
But this year, Uttarakhand's forest department refused to grant them permits, saying that they come from Uttar Pradesh and can't use the state's forest resources. The denial of permits comes close on the heels Uttarakhand's chief conservator of forests, Srikant Chandola's statement that allowing Van Gujjars into the sanctuary contravenes the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. Chandola claims the Gujjars in Uttarakhand have lodged a complaint against those from Uttar Pradesh. "Under the Forest Rights Act of 2007, it is illegal to deny nomadic tribes access to their traditional grazing lands without ascertaining their rights. If they have proof of traditional use of land then it's a strong case against the forest department," says Madhu Sarin, an activist. When contacted, Chandola said, "Last year we told Van Gujjars that they won't be issued permits from 2008 onwards." A final decision was awaited, he said.
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