Awaiting Justice: Chhattisgarh’s tribal residents’ FRA rights under attack

The ancient tribe of Baiga has been residing in Chhattisgarh’s jungles since times unknown treating the Earth as their mother, and nature as their Gods. The earliest written records of the tribes’ existence in Central India, was recorded in 1867, by a Captain Thompson.

Ever since Chhattisgarh was carved out of Madhya Pradesh in 2001, the 100 families of Baiga tribe in the village of Khuriya Pathari have been laying claim to their residential land. Under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) this land rightfully belongs to them as the law decrees that forest-dwellers have the complete right to hold and live in the forest lands that they use for habitation, self-cultivation and livelihood.

However, sixteen years hence, the tribe still awaits the legal document, known as patta, from The State Tribal Welfare Department. Due to the absence of any legal proof, the tribe is subjected to intimidation by the forest officials, disrupting their livelihoods. 

“Who is checking the status of land distribution? They should have an evaluation of the occupants of the land. There is no supervision regarding whom and where has the land been transferred under the FRA,” Khoduram Gouda tells Deena Ganvir, our community correspondent from Chhattisgarh.

While their tribe in Madhya Pradesh’s Dindori district have gained the right to their habitat, the Baigas of Chhattisgarh are still struggling to assert their right on the land that they have occupied from times unknown. Primarily farmers, the Baigas survive on agriculture and forest produce for livelihood, prayer and medicine. 

“These lands are very important for us sister. If it is taken away, we will have no means of survival,” Milapsingh Goud tells Deena. Perhaps, Milapsingh fears that without documentation, his land will be taken away by the authorities, leaving him and his family to work as one of those millions of wage labourers in India, who have no shelter and no food for survival. 

The Baigas consider themselves to be servants of the earth and the king of the forests. The peace-loving tribe is known for its’ respect for nature, employing sustainable agricultural practices and for their knowledge of medicinal herbs. The Baiga tribe is also categorised under the Particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG). This classification was created by the Government of India with the purpose of enabling improvement in the conditions of certain communities with, particularly low development indices.

However, since 2000, at least 25 villages home to 726 Baiga families have been evicted from forest reserves and also in some cases, to make way for mining projects in Chhattisgarh. Video Volunteers has recorded various visual testimonies of the Baiga tribe where they describe the various ways the Forest officials have harassed and evicted them in many cases.

We request the readers to stand up to protect the Baiga tribe’s right. Their sustainable methods of living are an inspiration that we can not afford to loose. Call up S B Gupta, the Forest Department Ranger on +91-8720034967 and demand that the Baigas get their legal documents for the land that is rightfully theirs.

Community correspondent Deena Ganwer reports from Chhattisgarh for Video Volunteers.

This video was made by a Video Volunteers Community Correspondent. Community Correspondents come from marginalised communities in India and produce videos on unreported stories. These stories are ’news by those who live it.’ they give the hyperlocal context to global human rights and development challenges. See more such videos at www.videovolunteers.org. Take action for a more just global media by sharing their videos and joining in their call for change. we could hyperlink to some VV pages, like our take action page.