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Kandha tribe families confront serious food insecurity

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – HUNGER ALERT PROGRAMME

Hunger Alert Case: AHRC-HAC-006-2011

5 August 2011
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INDIA: Kandha tribe families confront serious food insecurity after the forest officials demolished their houses in Orissa

ISSUES: Right to land; right to food; rights of indigenous people; right to housing
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received the information from ANTODAYA, a human rights group working in the Kalahandi district of Orissa that in October 2010, forest department officials from Taljaring Beat demolished the houses of twelve families of the Kandha tribe who were living in Hardaguda village. The officials came all of sudden without any prior notice and demolished the houses. They also dragged the women out of the houses using abusive words against them. The officials said that the Kandha stayed in reserved forests, which is illegal. However, the Kandha’s ancestors had settled in the village early 1920s cultivating land and the families had to move to other villages to avoid attacks from wild animals at that time. In 2002, the families returned to their home village, seeking livelihood, but no public facilities and benefits have been provided for the families. After demolition, the families have been deprived of their right to food and houses addition to lack of health and education facilities. The local human rights groups help the families to reconstruct their houses and the administration pay attention to the families. Yet, the families have not obtained titles to the land in accordance with the Forest (rights) Act 2006. No action was taken against the forest officials who destroyed the Kandha’s property without proper due process violating the Kandha’s fundamental rights.

CASE NARRATIVE:

In October 2010, forest officials belonging to Taljaring beat of Junagarh block destroyed the houses of 12 Kandha tribal families who were living in Hardaguda Village, Bhawanipatna block, Kalahandi District, Orissa. Kandha tribes are traditionally engaged in hunting and collecting fruits and roots from the forest mainly depending on forest resources for food. Without any prior notice, the officials demolished the houses dragging out and verbally abusing the women. According to the officials, the Kandha families were illegally living in the reserved forest area. The Hardaguda village is located in the border of three villages -- Chancher, Taljaring, and Dedara. Kandha tribes were living on the bank of Sagada River without revenue status.

These 12 families have been living in the village for last 9 years since 2002. The ancestors had lived in Hardaguda in around 1922-23 doing agriculture, but all shifted to Gudang village of Chancher Gram Panchayat located in the same block as they were facing threats from the wild animals. However, 12 Kandha families came back to settle down in Hardaguda village in 2002 seeking food and livelihood. No administration has intervened into their settlement nor informed the families of their residential status until the forest officials came to destroy the houses without prior notice in October 2010, which is 8 years after the families’ settlement.

While the Kandha families were living in Hardaguda village since 2002, they had no proper road communication, electricity, and safe drinking water, public health, and education facilities as these needs were totally ignored by the administration. They were happy with their agriculture and forest produce but after demolition, the families face serious food insecurity.

Kandha’s critical living condition received media and civil society's attention in April 2011 including the District level Vigilance and Monitoring Committee for Scheduled Tribe & Scheduled Caste (prevention of Atrocities) Act. The District Collector of Kalahandi ordered the sub-Collector and the District Welfare Officer (DWO) to visit the village and submit a report before the Committee. The Collector also ordered the officers to find out ways to support the community for providing housing support first and then to rehabilitate them in a proper manner.

The local human rights group, ANTODAYA with the villagers met the District and Sessions Judge (Chairman of the District Legal Services Authority Kalahandi) on May 1. The Villagers asked the District Judge to lodge their complaint for legal assistance in the case. Subsequently on July 5, the sub-Collector and the DWO with the help of local human rights organization visited the village. The DWO advised the villagers to file the claim under Forest (Rights) Act 2006.

When the case was reported, the children who were separated from their families came to the village and started building their houses. Previously there were 12 families but now 22 families are staying in the village. At present, five more families living in neighboring villages Gudang and Supli have also started constructing their houses in Hardaguda where their ancestors had lived. However, till today, neither their claims on the land have been settled nor have they been provided any benefit from the government schemes, whereas the forest department does not take any responsibility for the Kandha tribe. No punishment or disciplinary action has been taken against those forest officials.

ADDITIONAL COMMENT:

This is not the only case of violence committed by forest officials. There is reportedly a list of incidents from all over India regarding the brutality of the forest official's behaviour against tribes. The forest officials always restrict tribes in living area and in collecting produce from the forest. On the contrary, the Supreme Court of India highlighted the historical injustice against tribes in 2011.

"The injustice done to the tribes of India is a shameful chapter in country's history. Woefully noting the sad state of adivasis (indigenous people in Sanskrit), the Court described as "original inhabitants of India". The Supreme Court in its decision in Jan 2011 (Kailas & others v. State of Maharashtra - AIR 2011 SC 598] declared that it is "time now to undo the historical injustice to them".

As far as the issue of reserved forest is concerned, according to the Indian Forest Act 1927, the forest department should conduct survey about all families living in forest areas. After survey, the department should provide lease of land to the people. In this case, forest department infringed the law. The forest department of Orissa has not conducted survey which is the gross violation of constitution of India and due to which tribal people living in the forests are deprived of their land rights and food security.

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 recognises the rights of forest-dwellers including tribes over the land that they have been cultivating or residing prior to December 2005, as also rights to use, manage, and protect forest resources. Similarly to Hardaguda village, the District Welfare officer advised to file the claims under Forest (rights) Act. However, the officer did not take more active steps for the families who are the victims of human rights violation committed by the forest officials -- the state.

The section 4(5) of Act states,

"Save as otherwise provided, no member of a forest dwelling Scheduled Tribe or other traditional forest dweller shall be evicted or removed from forest land under his occupation till the recognition and verification procedure is complete."

Section 7 of the Act states that those who are guilty of an offence under the Act shall be punished with the fine which may extend to Rs. 1,000.

The Saxena Committee report on the implementation of Forest right Act in Orissa explained that "the process has not proceeded beyond the initial stages, for various reasons", exposing the apathy of the Orissa government who are legally obliged to respect, protect and fulfill the rights of indigenous people as a state party of the international human rights laws. Given that the tribes are the most vulnerable social group where food insecurity and extreme poverty are concerned, the Orissa government, who has a higher number of tribes than any other state, continues to fail to realize the food security and equality of tribes.

The tribes are mostly dependent upon the forests for their food and livelihood. The forest officials who destroyed the houses violated article 10 of UN Declarations on the rights of Indigenous people which mentions that Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of return.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write a letter to the concerned government agencies to draw attention to the Kandha tribes affected by demolition. Please noted that the forest officials involved in the case should be punished in accordance with the domestic laws as well as the international human rights laws.

The AHRC is writing separately to the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, the Special Rapporteur on the right to food and the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, respectively.

To support this appeal please click here:

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SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear __________,

INDIA: Please ensure the land and food security of Kandha tribe and take legal action against the forest officials who violated law and human rights

Name of the affected: Kandha tribe families living in Hardaguda village
Place of incident: Hardaguda Village, Bhawanipatna block, Kalahandi District, Orissa, India
Date of incident: since October 2010

I am writing to you to express my deep concern regarding the forced eviction against indigenous people from their ancestors land by the forest officials Hardaguda village of Kalahandi Distirct of Orrisa.

I have learned that in October 2010, forest officials belonging to Taljaring beat of Junagarh block destroyed the houses of 12 Kandha tribal families who were living in Hardaguda Village, Bhawanipatna block, Kalahandi District, Orissa. I came to know that these Tribes are traditionally engaged in hunting and collecting fruits and roots from the forest mainly depending on forest resources for food. Without any prior notice, the officials demolished the houses dragging and verbally abusing women which is illegal.

According to the forest officials, the Kandha families were illegally living in the reserved forest area. But I am aware that according to the Forest Rights Act 2006 indigenous people have the rights to land.

I am informed that these 12 families have been living in the village for the last 9 years since 2002. The ancestors had lived in Hardaguda in around 1922-23 doing agriculture, but all shifted to Gudang village of Chancher Gram Panchayat located in the same block as they were facing threats from wild animals. However, 12 Kandha families came back to settle down in Hardaguda village in 2002 seeking food and livelihood. No administration has intervened into their settlement nor informed the families of their residential status until the forest officials came to destroy the houses without prior notice in October 2010, which is 8 years after the families’ settlement.

While the Kandha families were living in Hardaguda village since 2002, they had no proper road communication, electricity, and safe drinking water, public health, and education facilities as these needs were totally ignored by the administration. They were happy with their agriculture and forest produce but after demolition, the families face serious food insecurity.

I have learned that Kandha’s critical living conditions received media and civil society attention in April 2011 including the District level Vigilance and Monitoring Committee for Scheduled Tribe & Scheduled Caste (prevention of Atrocities) Act. The District Collector of Kalahandi ordered the sub-Collector and the District Welfare Officer (DWO) to visit the village and submit a report before the Committee. The Collector also ordered the officers to find out ways to support the community for providing housing support first and then to rehabilitate them in a proper manner.

The local human rights group, ANTODAYA with the villagers met the District and Sessions Judge (Chairman of the District Legal Services Authority Kalahandi) on May 1. The Villagers asked the District Judge to lodge their complaint for legal assistance in the case. Subsequently on July 5, the sub-Collector and the DWO with the help of local human rights organization visited the village. The DWO advised the villagers to file the claim under Forest (Rights) Act 2006.

In addition to this when the case was reported, the children who were separated from their families came to the village and started building their houses. Previously there were 12 families but now 22 families are staying in the village. At present, five more families living in neighboring villages Gudang and Supli have also started constructing their houses in Hardaguda where their ancestors had lived.

It has been brought to my attention that till today, neither their claims on the land have settled nor have they been provided any benefit from the government schemes whereas the forest department does not take any responsibility for Kandha tribe. No punishment or disciplinary action has been taken against those forest officials.

I have also learned that this is not the only case of violence committed by forest officials. There is reportedly a list of incidents from all over India regarding the brutality of forest official's behaviour against tribes. The forest officials always restrict tribes in living area and in collecting produce from the forest. On the contrary, the Supreme Court of India highlighted historical injustice against tribes in 2011.

As far as the issue of reserved forest is concerned I am aware that according to the Indian Forest Act 1927, the forest department should conduct survey about all families living in forest areas. After survey, the department should provide lease of land to the people. In this case, the forest department infringed the law. The forest department of Orissa has not conducted a survey which is the gross violation of constitution of India and due to which tribal people living in the forests are deprived of their land rights and food security.

This case reflects the atrocities done by the forest department on these indigenous people, given that the tribes are the most vulnerable social group in food insecurity and extreme poverty, the Orissa government, who has a higher number of tribes than other state, continue to fail to realize the food security and equality of tribes.

I am of the opinion that all the relevant government authorities should pay attention to the incident and conduct proper investigations so that the indigenous people can get their land rights under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act. Apart from this government should take action against the forest officials who destroyed the Kandha's lives.

I therefore, urge you to intervene into the case in order to ensure the human rights of Kandha families by

1. Conducting objective investigations about the area they currently live taking into account the fact that their ancestors had lived in the village,
2. Actively supporting the Kandha families to proceed with the land acquisition in accordance with the Forest (rights) Act as the forest department violated their rights and law,
3. Guaranteeing the revenue village to live according to the investigation and the application procedure over the land under the law,
4. Immediately providing the Kandha families with access to all basic facilities such as housing, safe drinking water, land for agriculture, public health facilities, and school for the children,
5. Taking legal action against the forest officials who destroyed houses and lives of the Kandha.

I look forward to your prompt response and action.

Sincerely yours,

PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Naveen Patnaik
Chief Minister
Naveen Nivas, Aerodrome Road
P.O.Bhubaneswar
751001 Orissa
INDIA
E-mail: cmo@ori.nic.in

2. Mr. B.K Patnaik
Chief Secretary, Panchayati Raj
Government of Orissa, Bhubaneswar
Orissa
INDIA
E-mail: csori@ori.nic.in

3. Sushil Kumar Lohani
Commissioner-cum-Director
Special Projects, Government of Orissa
Bhubaneswar, Orissa
INDIA
E-mail: lohanisk@yahoo.com

4. Dr. Aurobindo Behera
Principal Secretary
Department of Forest and Environment
Government of Orissa
Bhubaneswar, Orissa
INDIA
Fax: +91 674 239 5820
E-mail: fesec@ori.nic.in

5. Santosh Sarangi, IAS
Commissioner-cum-cum-Secretary
ST & SC development, minroites backward classes welfate department
Government of Orissa
Bhubaneswar, Orissa
INDIA
Fax: +91 674 2396806
E-mail: sarangi.santosh@gmail.com

6. V. Kishore Chandra Deo
Cabinet Minister
Ministry of Tribal affairs
64, Lodhi Estate,
New Delhi - 110 003
INDIA
Fax: 23356318
Email: vk.deo@sansad.nic.in

7. Arvind Kumar Chugh
Secretary
Ministry of Tribal affairs
Shastri Bhawan, Dr. Rajendra Prasad Road
New Delhi- 110001
INDIA
Fax: +91 11 23073160

7. Roopa Mishra
Collector
Collectorate
Kalahandi, Orissa
INDIA

8. Justice K.G. Balakrishnan
Chairperson
National Human Rights Commission
Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg
New Delhi 110001
INDIA
Fax + 91 11 2338 4863
E-mail: chairnhrc@nic.in

9. Dr. Rameshwar Oraon
Chairperson
National Commission for Scheduled Tribes
6th Floor, 'B' Wing, Room No. 601,
Loknayak Bhawan, Khan Market,
New Delhi-110003
INDIA
Fax: +91 11 24624628
E-mail: chairperson@ncst.nic.in

Thank you.

Right to Food Programme (foodjustice@ahrc.asia)
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)


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