Thailand-based apex organization, Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP), which networks with indigenous people’s movements across Asia, has come up with a strongly worded statement in support of the “forced eviction” of Gond people in Madhya Pradesh, making expansion of the Panna Tiger Reserve as the pretext. Text of the statement:
Government authorities in India must intervene immediately to stop forced evictions of indigenous Gonds for expansion of Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, AIPP urged in a letter to them.
More than 200 Gond tribals in Umaravan village are facing serious threat of forced evictions from their houses and lands after local police and forest officials descended in the village on Saturday and threatened to evict them forcefully if they do not vacate willfully in the next few days. The Gond people in the village have long survived by living off their land and forests.
The Panna District Collector had served the Gonds legal notice to evict from in February with offer of cash compensation. When they objected to the notice, they were coerced to give consent without written or accurate information for their resettlement and livelihood alternatives. They have not accepted the compensation amounts forcefully deposited in their bank accounts. Many of them have received title deeds to their lands while others were awaiting decisions in village council process of land titling that was ongoing.
The Gonds are one of the largest tribal communities in central India. They have been guardians of the forests for generations. Ongoing efforts for acquisition of their lands to expand the Tiger Reserve is blatant violation of their rights over their lands, forests and livelihoods as Scheduled Tribes under the Forests Rights Act of India and as indigenous peoples under international laws.
The Gonds and their advocate organizations/individuals have filed a written petition at the State High Court demanding acquisition of Gond lands and expansion of the Tiger Reserve be halted and their rights be protect as per Forest Rights Act and other national laws of India. Hearing on the case is scheduled for 28 September. They have sent urgent appeal to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs for immediate intervention.
AIPP, in its letter, urged the Ministry to take necessary steps, without delay, to stop forced evictions of indigenous Gond people from their lands and protect their rights over their lands, territories and resources, in consultation with them.
Meanwhile, the Indigenous People’s Human Rights Defenders Network, Thailand, has begun an online petition to be sent to Minister for Tribal Affairs, Government of India, Jual Oram, to “stop forced evictions of Gond tribals in the name of ‘saving’ tigers”.
The petition says that “more than 200 Gond tribals in Madhya Pradesh State of Central India are facing serious threat of forced evictions from their houses and lands for expansion of Panna Tiger Reserve. Local police and forest officials descended in their village on Saturday (September 19) and threatened to evict them forcefully if they do not vacate willfully in the next few days. The Gond people in the Umaravan village have long survived by living off their land and forests.”
The petition asks people to “sign and share the petition to urge the Government of India to take necessary steps, without delay, to stop forced evictions of indigenous Gond people from their lands and protect their rights over their lands, territories and resources, in consultation with them.”
The online petition can be signed by clicking HERE