Kinnaur tribals lop trees to state their claim over forests



Shimla: A strong people’s movement seems to be sweeping forests in Himachal Pradesh as tribals have been reorganizing themselves to fight for their right to use natural resources in their respective area of habitation. Recently, hundreds of armed tribals, mainly women, entered forests in the Demarcated Protected Forests (DPF) area in Kinnaur district under the banner of Himachal Kisan Sabha, an affiliate of the All India Kisan Sabha, to defy government ban on using forest wood. They lopped the branches of trees, used as fodder and firewood, as a token of protest claiming that it is an age-old right of indigenous people.

They claimed that under the guise and garb of a HP High Court order, which had stayed the TD (timber distribution) rights, the government has virtually converted forests into a fortress of their fiefdom where a complete moratorium has been announced on all existing and previous rights of tribals and the local people.

The Himachal Kisan Sabha had initiated a massive campaign in the Nichar block of Kinnaur district to take up the issue and now the movement is spreading out.  Initially, the campaign was led under the focal slogan of implementing the Forest Tribal Act in a concrete form without any dilution. HKS held a massive campaign of nearly 45 days in which more than 26 villages of the Nichar block were covered. More than 5,000 leaflets and 2,000 posters were printed. A mass meeting was held on February 16 and again on March 18 at Bhawanagar, which was followed by a clarion call to enter the forestswith arms to lop the trees on March 19.

‘No timber for local people, but 10,000 trees for JP’

Convener of HKS Tikender Singh Panwar claimed that the Jaypee Group of Industries, constructing a 1,000 MW hydel project in Kinnaur district, for which the transmission would be laid through the Nichar forests. “This is indeed heartening and silly that the
government on the one hand is not allowing the people to have their legitimate rights in the forests and on the other hand more than 10,000 trees of prime quality would be cut for the laying of the transmission,” he said.

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