Waiting for Their Rights, Refugees in Their Own Land

Despite the passing of the Forest Rights Act 2006, over 200 families are fighting for their settlements to be recognized as 'villages' by the authorities.  They have been living in the region for over 35 years. Other than small farms cleared within the region, their lives are mostly reliant on the forests around them for sustenance.  Without  recognition, these settlements have no access to basic amenities like schools and hospitals. There will never be electricity, water or roads. They will be left vulnerable to displacement and left unmoored, refugees in their own land. Community Correspondent Xavier Hamsay requests you to watch his eloquent video on the settlement in the the forests in District West Singhbum, Jharkhand and call the District Collector K. Srinivasan on +919274710699 and demand that he personally expedites the process to recognize Jatebera and the surrounding settlements and help the people gain access to their dignity and rights. Read the article below as Xavier talks to IndiaUnheard about the issue in detail:- "The settlements were a direct result of the movement to form 'Jharkhand' as a separate state. Earlier the land was under the jurisdiction of the forest department of Bihar who had badly mismanaged the forest and its resources. The trees were being wantonly chopped off and environment destroyed." "There was a growing realization among the people that if the situation had to change they would have to step up themselves. Other than the movement for Jharkhand, we had also heard of the 'Koel Karo' people's movement in which our adivasi (tribal) brothers and sisters were struggling for their land and forest rights. There was a movement in the region to protect the dwindling resources in which my late father was also a participant. It was to save and guard the forests that the nearby tribal communities moved into the region and set up settlements." "The forest has flourished since then. When they first came you could stand at a point in the middle of the jungle and you had a line of sight going down quite a distance. Now the jungle is so dense you wouldn't know what is ten paces in front on you. You may say that the community are not the original inhabitants of the region but it was they who saved and tended the forest. They have lived there for most of their lives. They have farmed and raised their families there. They belong to the land and are as much a part of the forests as the trees, animals and birds." "We (the tribals) are simple people. Sometimes when the authorities want to drive us away from our forests, they say that we are depleting the resources. It is a false allegation. Come, visit our houses. You will not see a single table or chair or other furniture. We do not live or even think that way.  We only use as much wood as we require. And we clear a little land for our small farms. We respect the forests and know that we are a part of it. Our survival depends on it." "Life is difficult in these villages. If the children have to go to primary school they have to travel over five kilometers on foot. The closest hospital is 12 kilometers away. Without legal recognition of our rights, the people will never have access to government schemes and programs. The people will be bereft of any development. They may be uprooted and displaced at any time. They will become an isolated population.  Without legal recognition, they will be forgotten." Call to Action: Xavier requests the viewers of my video to support the tribal families of the Jatebara village and surrounding region in their fight for their land and rights. Please call the District Collector of West Singhbum, Mr. K. Srinivasan on +919274710699 and demand 1) that the communities be recognized as villages. 2) that the legal papers which lease the land to their rightful owners be issued at once.

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