National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers

DEMANDS PASSING OF FOREST BILL
RANCHI: The 2nd Annual Conference of the National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers (NFFPFW) commenced here with hundreds of delegates deliberating on diverse issues ranging from community control of forests, environmental politics and livelihood, privatisation of forests – role of International Financial Institutions and future of forest communities – challenges before the youth.

NFFPFW members from 16 states converged at Dr.Vinayan Nagar after the massive rally yesterday, when over 15000 marched to the Jharkhand Governors Residence and demanded the immediate passing of the Forest Bill 2005. Medha Patkar from the Narmada Bachao Andolan and Dr. Ram Dayal Munda, Former Vice Chancellor of Ranchi University addressed the public meeting amongst others.

'The challenge before our movement is formidable – it is to reverse existing legislation and bring in progressive policies that recognize the right of communities over forests, said NFFPFW Convenor Ashok Choudhry.

The Forum has identified the passing of the Forest Bill 2005 as one of the key milestones in achieving this aim. The Bill is in a draft stage and is expected to be tabled in the Parliament in the upcoming winter session. During a workshop deliberating on the nature of the Forest Rights Bill, delegates came up with innovative suggestions. For instance, it was suggested that land rights should belong to the community rather than to individuals, who could be coerced or lured into selling their land. The need for forest dwellers to organize to process and market forest produce was also stressed.

Another point on which delegates were unanimous was the need for the indigeneous people's perception of forests as a resource to be incorporated into the legislation.

'The forest department perceives the forest only as trees whereas we see it as an entire network of symbiotic livelihood systems, not just for humans but also for non-human life-forms,' asserted Suryamani, a grassroots tribal activist from the Jharkhand Jangal Bachao Andolan.

The Forum rejected the World Bank funded Community Forest Management (CFM) project in Madhya Pradesh. 'The World Bank project is part of a large strategy of handing over forests to big business for carbon trading and 'production' said Madhuri of the Jagrut Adivasi Dalit Sanghtan. The World Bank has been trying to push this project through mechanisms such as the tripartite stakeholder approach which has been rejected by the Sanghatan. 'Unfortunately the Government refuses to listen to peoples groups and is acting as an agent of big business, she added.

For more information contact: Mamata Dash – 09868259836, 09234304050, email – nffpfwconf06@gmail.com

COMMUNITY LEADERS TO TAKE CHARGE OF FOREST GOVERNANCE

RANCHI: The 2nd Annual Conference of the National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers concluded with a unanimous resolution to bring community leaders from various forest movements into the forefront of the national struggle for achieving community control over forests. NFFPFW sees this as an historic juncture for the forest movement in the country and recognized the importance of bringing women and youth into the decision making process.

Speaking on the importance of people-friendly legislation on forest issues, NFFPFW national convenor Ashok Choudhury said that while the immediate demand of the conference is the passing of the Forest Rights Bill 2005 as amended by the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC), the bill is only a first step in the direction of a more comprehensive legislation on the issue of forests which will involve restructuring of the entire forest policy with a focus on people rather than the state.

"It is of utmost importance to the movement to bring the traditionally disenfranchised forest communities into the mainstream of national politics, if we want to achieve our aim of a comprehensive legislation," said Choudhury, adding, " Community leaders must engage themselves beyond their local and regional areas of influence into the national arena, and the movement recognizes this as a long and challenging process."

Key strategic demands and campaigns identified by the conclave include:

· All negotiations on forest issues must be carried out between the government and the forest people. NFFPFW rejects any of intermediary mechanisms such as the World Bank supported Multi-stakeholder dialogue process that gives industry unwarranted access to forest resources.

· A moratorium on entry of International Financial Institutions such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and the Japanese Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) into the forestry sector through projects such as monoculture plantations in poplar and eucalyptus. The campaign against plantations would take on both on domestic and foreign companies.

· A focus on alternatives in community forest control. The Forum will consider evolving processes such as collective agriculture and people's forest produce cooperatives. Cultural expression was seen as crucial to building resistance and organizational strength.

· In the event of the stalling of the Forest Rights Bill 2005 in the forthcoming session of the Parliament, the NFFPFW proposes local actions against the Forest Department through dharnas and gheraos at local offices. Recapturing of land usurped from forest communities under various projects will also form part of the proposed actions.

The Forum also recognized that the fight for forests cannot be an isolated struggle of forest groups alone. The need for creating alliances and joint strategies with diverse groups such as the fisherfolk movement, landless peoples' movements, urban marginalized groups such as slum dwellers & artisans, Dalit & Adivasi movements, pasbandha(marginalized minority goups)), environmental groups, anti-mining groups and trade unions was emphasized. 'The process of alliance building and supporting local forest movements, which the NFFPFW had started in the central belt has now also been extended to states like Arunachal Pradesh in the North East, said Bamang Anthony of Arunachal Citizens' Right (ACR). Anthony was among several delegates in solidarity from across the country who attendend the 3-day meeting. There were representatives from various movements in Bangladesh, UK, Germany, Spain to provide their solidarity to the struggle.

'We strongly resist commodification of forests in any and every form', concluded Choudhury.

Campaign for survival and dignity: Open Letter to Wildlife Conservation Groups on Supreme Court Petition

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE BOMBAY NATURAL HISTORY SOCIETY, WILDLIFE PROTECTION
SOCIETY OF INDIA, WILDLIFE FIRST AND CONSERVATION ACTION TRUST

Dear Friends,

We are a federation of tribal and forest dwellers' mass organisations from eleven States across India. Many of you know us from the struggle around the forest rights Act, recently passed in the Parliament.

We are writing to you because we firmly believe that, in the long run, the struggle of forest dwellers for their rights and the fight for conservation cannot be separated. Without the forest, forest dwellers and tribals cannot survive; and without a common alliance against the mafias and industrial interests attacking our forests, conservation cannot succeed. We know from our experience of thousands of communities that are protecting their forests and wildlife against destruction, often in the face of brutal government repression. These communities would welcome your support.

It is in this context that we are writing to protest the position that you have recently adopted in the Supreme Court. We were informed of the arguments being used in your Court petition against the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Act, 2006 (the so-called "tiger amendment")[1]. They include:

· Claiming that *coexistence between human beings and wild animals "is a myth, based on utopian visions, deriving its sustenance on folklore*";

· Arguing that references to the rights of forest dwellers amounts to supporting encroachers;

· Implying that safeguards against arbitrary resettlement of local people (section 38V(5)) inherently violate the precautionary principle and "public trust" in protected areas;

· *Claiming that*, "*if co-existence was feasible, wild animals, ages ago, would have been domesticated just as horses, dogs and pigs*."

At the outset, we find it *very sad that prominent conservationists and the country's oldest environmental group *should use arguments which – particularly the last – *would not be worthy of anyone with a basic knowledge of either history or wildlife. ***

The petition goes on to ask that the Court strike down almost all references to the rights of forest dwellers in the amendment, as well as presumably establishing a legal precedent against the very notion of human – wildlife coexistence. *The net message of the petition is that the rights of local people are dispensable *(even where they are fundamental rights) *in the interests of the absolute power of forest and wildlife authorities, which is equated with conservation*.

We do not want to engage with the legal merits of your petition. There are indeed ambiguities in the amendment. But these ambiguities cannot be settled by sweeping arguments against people's rights. These arguments reek of elitism, ignorance and narrow-mindedness.

Estimates say that more than 4 million people live in this country's protected areas. The Tiger Task Force estimated that tiger reserves alone have more than 1500 villages inside them, and describes how tiger reserves have been declared without settling or respecting the rights of those living in these areas (violating even the existing provisions of the Wild Life (Protection) Act). "Selective interpretation of the law", it says, is leading to "huge conflicts" and "a war within," including extreme poverty and oppression. It is not an accident that India's forest dwellers are our poorest and most marginalised communities. It is for these reasons that this amendment makes some hesitant and ambiguous steps towards protecting forest dwellers' rights. *You may disagree with these positions, but you cannot dismiss them as irrelevant – unless millions of people's lives are also to be deemed irrelevant. ***

Meanwhile, *international law and conservation practices have moved far beyond the anti-democratic and anti-people positions that you adopt*. In fact, *the IUCN – the world's largest conservation organisation, of which two of you (BNHS and WPSI) are members – takes exactly the opposite position *to yours. The "Durban Accord" emerging from the IUCN World Parks Congress in 2003, where a BNHS representative was present, stated that "we urge commitment to the integral relationship of people with protected areas, fully incorporating the rights, interests and aspirations of both women and men, ... [and] to involve local communities, indigenous and mobile peoples in the creation, proclamation and management of protected areas." The Congress also made a specific recommendation that stated, *inter alia*, that "effective and sustainable conservation can be better achieved if the objectives of protected areas do not violate the rights of indigenous peoples living in and around them...successful implementation of conservation programmes can only be guaranteed on a long-term basis when there is consent for, and approval by, indigenous peoples among others..."

Nor is the IUCN the only body to take such positions. The Convention on Biological Diversity, which India has signed, also requires that the rights of indigenous and local communities be respected. It is now a settled principle of international law that protected areas must respect community rights.

Would you describe even the IUCN and the CBD as peddlers of myths and folklore? Does the BNHS wish to repudiate the World Parks Congress at which its own representative was present?

The reality is that the tiger amendment is the first wildlife law that explicitly tries to curb the autocratic power of the Forest and wildlife departments over the forest, its resources and people's lives. How this should be done can be a matter of debate and dialogue. *Attacking the entire notion of people's rights, however, is irresponsible, dangerous and harmful not only to forest dwellers but to conservation itself.*

For in the long run, the longer that conservationists place their faith in an authoritarian system of forest conservation, the longer they try to tar all forest dwellers with the brush of being criminals, so much weaker will conservation itself become. Conservation cannot survive without the support of ordinary people. If you truly believe in either forest rights or forest conservation, we would request you to withdraw your petition, open a dialogue on the issues that you raise and be willing to consider a democratic approach to conservation in which both wildlife and people's rights are given importance.

*If your approach, however, is to condemn all forest dwellers and tribals to decades more of repression under draconian laws and authoritarian "conservation", then you are neither friends of conservation nor friends of forest peoples. *We hope you would choose the former.

Sincerely,

On behalf of the Convening Collective
* ***
*Bharat Jan Andolan, National Front for Tribal Self Rule, Jangal Adhikar Sangharsh Samiti (Mah), Adivasi Mahasabha (Guj), Adivasi Jangal Janjeevan Andolan (D&NH), Jangal Jameen Jan Andolan (Raj), National Forum of Forest Peoples and Forest Workers, Madhya Pradesh Van Adhikar Abhiyan (MP), Jan Shakti Sanghatan (Chat), Peoples Alliance for Livelihood Rights, Chattisgarh Mukti Morcha, Orissa Jan Sangharsh Morcha, Campaign for Survival & Dignity (Ori), Orissa Adivasi Manch, Orissa Jan Adhikar Morcha, Adivasi Aikya Vedike (AP), Budakattu Krishikara Sangha (Kar), Campaign for Survival and Dignity – TN, Bharat Jan Andolan (Jhar).*

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[1] <#1104fae39af448be__ftnref1> WP 514/2006, *Bombay Natural History Society and Ors. vs. Union of India and Ors. *

*CAMPAIGN FOR SURVIVAL AND DIGNITY** *

National Convenor: Pradip Prabhu, 3, Yezdeh Behram, Kati, Malyan, Dahanu Rd. 401602.

Delhi Contact: SRUTI, Q-1 Hauz Khas Enclave, New Delhi 110 016.
Ph:9968293978, 26569023. forestcampaign@gmail.com

Forest Rights Act

The official version of the Forest Rights Act can be found here:

http://rajyasabha.nic.in/bills-ls-rs/2006/158-F_2006.pdf

Women Forest Rights Action Committee

19 March 2011
Announcement of formation of
"Women Forest Rights Action Committee"

Action Committee on women Forest Rights has been formed in Dumka, Jharkhand after a two days vibrant consultation on women and FRA in Dumka, Jharkhand involving women leaders of 7 states. This initiative has come on the wake of Women’s day celebration going on in entire month in various areas. These states are Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh , Uttarakhand and Arunachal . The women leaders participated from various organization such as, Adivasi Mahila Mahasangh, Chattisgarh, Kaimur Mahila mazdoor kisan sangarsh Samiti, Sonbhadra, UP, Tharu adivasi mahila kisan manch, Lakhimpur khiri, UP, Kaimur Mukti Morcha, Bihar, Adivas Kalyan Parishad, Dumka, Jharkhand, Ekta Parishad, Deoghar, Jharkhand, Torang Trust { women in network}( WIN), Ranchi, Van Gram Bhoo Adhikar Manch, Uttarakhand, and National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers, Kaimur, Uttarakhand, UP and Bihar, Jharkhand State Commission for Women. There were around 100 participant in two days consultation. The women leaders from these states were strongly feeling that on the issue of forest rights a strong women action committee should be formed in order to accelerate the process of implementation of FRA particularly on women’s control and management over community forest rights and MFP. The leaders from all these states equated the new legislation FRA as legislation of recognizing the women rights on community forest resource as well the individual forest rights. Hence it was felt that it is very important, that women should come in the forefront and take the lead in implementing the community rights across the country. The leaders discussed in detail why the State is not interested in implementing this Act and what action were needed to ensure the rights of women and the forest people on the forest. The role of Forest Department was also analyzed critically and there was a strong voice from the consultation that the FD should be replaced by the Community forest governance led by women across the 7.5 million hectare forest land.
The women community leaders strongly voiced that “forest” means “women”, it is primarily the women only who are more close to nature and they are the primary producers and protectors of the forest. In the forest areas it is women only who spend 90% of time in forest in collection of NTFP and fuel wood. It is for the first time that Forest Rights Act 2006 has recognized women role in forest after independence and granted equal ownership rights of women in the community and the individual forest rights. So women leaders took a unanimous decision that women will start action on filing the community claims which is the fundamental to women forest rights and it is only women who can fight and take the control over these community rights with their collective strength. The action committee also took decision that it will initiate a process of formation of “women producers cooperative” on NTFP, this experiment will start from Jharkhand.

The Action Committee on women forest rights is in a preliminary form that will be widened by organizing yet another national level meeting very soon by inviting various women leaders from various people’s organization. In this national level meeting various women community leaders across the country will participate to make this action committee a very strong organ to file the claim on the community forest rights and take the initiative of forming women cooperatives on NTFP.
Various important decisions have been taken in this consultation that will be taken as campaign across the country in coming days. Some of the important decisions were making women aware of the FRA provisions, filing of community claims collectively by women in various places where people’s organization is strong. Forming women cooperatives to manage and control the minor forest produce and oust the Forest Department from forest.
This consultation was organized in the memory of Bharati Roy chowdhury, woman activist who hailed from UP and struggled hard for inclusion of women rights in the FRA during its formation. She passed away on January 18, 2011 after a long suffering from kidney failure.
It is to be remembered that Dumka is a land of militant resistance since 18th centaury. In 1766-77 Paharia revolt and in 1854-55 Santhal revolt took place against the imperial policies of the Britishers to protect their traditional rights over land forest and territory. The bloodbath of adivasi of Jharkhand and Dumka resulted into saving their land and forest. Two tribal women Phulo and Jhano were killed by Britishers. These two women were leader of santhal revolt. So women have taken oath to fight for their rights over forest.

The consultation was inaugurated by ex CM, Jharkhand, Babulal Marandi and MP, Kodarma. Main speakers were Jarjum Ete, Ex Chairperson Arunanchal Women Commission and member fo Indegenous Tribe Forum, and Ashok Chowdhury, Founder, National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers. The consultation was convened by Vasavi Kiro, Munni Hasda, Roma and Mamta Kujur.

The important leaders who took the resolution were, Munni Hasda, Berna Hembrom, Prashanti, Mamta Kujur, Hulsi devi, Rajkumari, Bandho devi, Shanta Bhatacharjee, Sarla, Beena Kujur, Jarjum Ete, Vasavi Kiro, Roma, Ganga Arya, Shardha devi.

Note: We will be sending the main outcomes of this consultation soon also we invite your suggestion.

--
NFFPFW (Kaimur) / Human Rights Law Centre
Purab Mohal, Near Sarita Printing Press, Munsifi Chauraha
Robertsganj,
District Sonbhadra 231216
Uttar Pradesh
Tel : 91-9415233583, 05444-222473
Email : romasnb@gmail.com
http://jansangarsh.blogspot.com