Forest Department in Jharkhand (India) brutally represses forest dwellers - Alert issued by Jharkhand Save the Forest Movement

Forest Department in Jharkhand (India) brutally represses forest dwellers - Alert issued by Jharkhand Save the Forest Movement

The predator is out again


The cruel claws of the Forest Department that devastated other states of the tribal central India have now started unleashing terror in Jharkhand as well. The state action against the so called 'encroachers' of forest land assumed a diabolic dimension when the forest department goons along with the timber mafias of the district of Garhwa attacked the villagers of Kumba Khurd, PS. Nagar Untari consisting of the Uraos (Schedule Tribe), Agarias (De-schedule tribe now Backward Caste) and Bhuinas (Schedule Caste in Jharkhand but Schedule Tribe in Orissa) in the broad daylight. On the 8th June at about 11.00 AM they set 140 hutments on fire and bate up the people mercilessly. The mother of a three month old baby kept crying and praying to let her save the baby who was sleeping inside the hutment but she was silenced by a forest department rough who hit her had by a stick on her chest. The baby was burnt alive. The mother is now in hospital struggling for survival. The carnage left many badly injured.  And all this has happened after the circulation of an order by the Ministry of Environment and Forest, Central Government on the 12th of May 2005, that asked all the state governments not to evict any forest dwellers till the Forest Rights Bill is finalized and enacted (copy enclosed). The cause of this heinous crime was the victims' opposition to felling of trees in the forest by the timber contractors. The victims are mostly landless and depend largely on the Non-timber forest produces for their livelihood.The Forest Department of Jharkhand lodged an FIR accusing the 50 persons of the hamlet (tola) Deonagri, village Kumba Khurd, of felling trees in the forest and construction of hutments in the forest land. They were further accused of stealing timber costing Rs.1 lack and 80 thousand from the forest. They allegedly ceased timber worth Rs.44 thousand out of which the fuel wood costed Rs.4 thousand and 46 logs costed Rs.40 thousand. Rs.80 thousand was charged as compensation. In yet another case 17 persons were booked under sections 147, 149, 341, 323, 353 and 307 under the Indian Penal Code. Ironically all these cases were related to the crime committed by the Forest Department officials.

Justice denied

This added further suffering to the people; 8 of the 17 accused were denied bail in the session court and they are still languishing in the jail. However, the real culprits are moving scot-free. The victims also lodged a named FIR under which cases were lodged against 23 forest officials and local timber mafias. So far only 2 local persons have been arrested.   

People’s initiatives

After the passage of about a month the suffering people could contact Kaimur Mukti Morcha and through them the Jharkhand Jangal Bachao Adolan and BIRSA. Necessary arrangements were made for filing a bail petition in the High Court of Jharkhand. On the 19th a very successful press conference was held.

BIRSA has decided to support the decision of the said peoples’ organizations to send a fact finding team on the 6th of August and to stage a demonstration before the Forest Department headquarters in Ranchi and submit a charter of demand to the Governor of Jharkhand on the same day. People from the forest areas will come to the take part in the demonstration from allover the state in solidarity.

The main demands are as follows.

1. Immediate arrest of the Forest Department employees engaged in the crime and charges of murder, attempt to murder and arson be lodged ageist them,

2. All other people involved in the offence should also be booked on the same ground,

3. Release of the arrested villagers unconditionally,

4. Rehabilitation of the affected villagers and

5. Cash compensation to the sufferers.

The report of the fact finding team would be submitted to the National Human Rights Commission and the State Women's Rights Commission.