Chhattisgarh has one of the highest population of tribals in the country. Among them, a lot of tribals dwell on forest land and earn and live off the produce of forests. Farming on forest land has been their traditional occupation for generations. Some of the tribals from Chhattisgarh's Raigarh district interviewed by Video Volunteers community correspondent Rajesh Gupta say that their great grandfathers tilled the land and built their huts on the forest land. So they have always belonged here.
However, a new Forest Act (2006) by the state government denies more than 60 tribal families of Kharra village in Chhattisgarh's Raigarh district the lease or ownership of the land that they have cultivated for generations. The authorities say the tribals do not have valid papers proving their land lease before 2005. Many tribals in this belt of Chhattisgarh say that they have limited access to education and do not understand the intricacies of legal documents. Others say that their forefathers might have had genuine papers of the land lease but do not know where the papers are now. The tribal villagers of Kharra have appealed to the local authorities including the local panchayat, the Sub-Divisional Magistrate and the Revenue Officer. However, their appeal hasn't led to any favourable conclusions.
Rajesh Gupta, community correspondent from Video Volunteers says that he will help the villagers to organise a gram sabha (local village meeting) and send a petition to the state governor appealing him for justice.
The villagers, whenever they raise their voices, were always pushed down and shooed away, the local police started harassing them, sometimes even arresting them on flimsy issues.
They have been demanding a railway line for passengers for the last 50 years. The Bastar Chambers of Commerce and Industries are also a part of this agitation, together with various local organisations and citizens.