Forest Dept usurps land from farmers in Gaunaha, Bihar

Vanahava Parsa is a tiny village in Gaunaha, Bihar. The people of Vanahava are traditionally a forest dwelling community, and several generations have been residing on this land for several decades. Many are farmers, and maintain a harmonious existence with the forest as they are dependent on forest produce for survival.

Over the last few years however, the Forest Department has been claiming this land as their own – the villagers would find the department taking measurements and before they knew it, the department had erected pillars across different areas of agricultural land, marking out areas for acquisition. This has usually led to the department then extorting money from the villagers, to remove the pillars at a later date! When the same happened again in the land of four farmers, the villagers took the receipts from the Forest Department and submitted an application to the Zonal office as well as the District Collector. However, when there was no response from either department, over 12,000 members of the Bhartiya Tharu Kalyan Mahasangh gathered and tore down the Forest Department’s pillars from their fields. The reaction was immediate – the Forest Department filed an FIR against 13 people from the region.

Across India’s forest areas, people are fighting for their right to live in peace in the forests they call and love as their own. They are denied their democracy, their livelihood, and their dignity. The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006, is one instrument in that struggle and must be upheld. In Vanahava, the Forest Department illegally installed pillars in farms and fields despite the clear articulation of the Forest Rights Act 2006, under section 3(1), which says that anyone who has been living or farming on forest land from before 13 December 2005 cannot be evicted and can claim up to 4 hectares, as long as they are cultivating the land themselves for a livelihood (section 3(1) (a) and 4(6)).

 

Tanju echoes the community’s demand of returning all illegally acquired land back to the farmers and all the false charges against them must be dropped. Please call the Circle Officer on +91 9431 826 712 and support the Tharu community.

 

Tanju Devi reports from Gaunaha, Bihar for InidaUnheard

This video was made by a Video Volunteers Community Correspondent Tanju Devi. 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.

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