Bharatiya Janata Party national President Amit Shah on Monday said he has asked chief ministers of all BJP-ruled states affected by a Supreme Court order directing states to evict families of Adivasis and other forest-dwellers to file a review petition.
The order came after the top court heard petitions challenging the validity of the Forest Rights Act on February 13. The petitioners had demanded that those whose claims over traditional forestlands are rejected under the new law should be evicted.
Shah said his party prioritises the Adivasis. “The BJP remains committed to the upliftment of our tribal brothers and sisters and we will do everything to protect their rights,” he tweeted. “I would also urge them against falling in the trap of rumours set by the usual suspects.”
On February 23, Congress President Rahul Gandhi had asked the chief ministers of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh to file a review petition against the Supreme Court order.
The Congress chief had said eviction based on rejected claims over forest land alone and without a proper review and appeal process violated the due process of law. “For millions of adivasis and other forest dwellers ‘Jal, Jangal and Zameen’ is integral to their Right to Life guaranteed by our Constitution,” Gandhi had said. “It is time for us to work towards deepening the promise of India for everyone.”
The Parliament had passed the Forest Rights Act in 2006. The law gave back to traditional forest dwellers their rights to access, manage and govern forest lands and resources within village boundaries, which had been controlled by the forest department since colonial times. The law makes the gram sabha the statutory body for managing forestlands, and protecting them. It provides that no activity should be carried out in these forests until individual and community claims over them have been settled.
On February 14, Gandhi claimed the Bharatiya Janata Party was a “silent spectator” when the Act was being challenged in the Supreme Court. “It is indicating its intentions to drive out lakhs of tribals and poor farmers from the forests,” he had alleged.