#WildWomenInterviews with Janaki Lenin: Episode 12
Madhu Sarin works on rural development, community management of natural resources, and women’s empowerment. She was one of the campaigners for the Forest Rights Act or as it’s formally known, The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act. It was passed in 2006 and was notified in 2007. Officials acted on a May 2002 order to evict “encroachers” from forests. Madhu recounts the case in Madhya Pradesh of a woman in labour being dragged out of her hut as an example of the brutality of the dispossessions.
In fact, by declaring ‘forests’ in areas under Schedule V of the Indian Constitution, which grants special rights and protections to communities, the Ministry of Environment and Forests had transgressed the law. Several groups from various states came together under an informal umbrella organisation, Campaign for Survival and Dignity, to draft the act that would grant legal rights to forest-dwelling communities.
At first, the group thought only of adivasi communities as the beneficiaries, but when a controversy over who is a tribal person erupted, it expanded the ambit of the act to cover ‘traditional forest dwellers’.
Since the group drafting the law was certain that the Ministry of Environment and Forests would not grant rights to people, it opted for the Ministry of Tribal Affairs as the nodal agency to guide the implementation.
Madhu says, people who want to voluntarily move out of forest lands can be resettled. But they cannot be forced out of their ancestral lands against their will. Where their lives and livelihoods are tied to forests, they take the effort to conserve them such as the Soligas in Biligiri Rangaswamy Tiger Reserve in Karnataka and Niyamgiri in Orissa.
Madhu has much more to say about the antecedents of the FRA. Do watch.
Thanks to Karthik Rajagopal of Tryangle http://www.tryangle.in/ for help with editing the video.
Watch more #WildWomenInterviews here: