SHILLONG: The Meghalaya Peoples’ Human Rights Council (MPHRC) has strongly opposed the draft amendments to the Indian Forest Act (IFA) 1927 which was finalized by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC). “This regressive draft amendment will create a catastrophe not only for the tribals and other traditional forest dwellers; but also for the development of the nation as well as the adverse negative impacts on climate for which the Meghalaya Government should also raise its strong opposition,” chairman of the MPHRC, Dino DG Dympep said. The MPHRC said that IFA draft amendments are like a whimsical ride of a colonial forester that sought to play down with many extremely repressive measures which is incongruous and if adopted, would result in further violation to the rights of tribal communities and their future generations.
According to the MPHRC, the theme that runs throughout the draft amendments is to equate tribals with other communities in relation to their rights over the forests; the redefinition of the word ‘community’ is to deny the special status of tribals in relation to forests which is highly abhorrent.
“The Forest Act 1927 was the instrument through which the British colonial established government ownership over forests and declared tribal communities to be encroachers thus giving legal sanction to the burden of historical injustices against tribal communities. The 91 clauses in the draft amendments which is now being proposed, includes entirely new sections that go even beyond what the British dared to do, by militarising forest conservation. The draft amendments criminalise every aspect of tribal life giving untrammeled powers to the forest bureaucracy to arrest without warrant and use arms to implement the law” said MPHRC.
It may be mentioned here that in March 2019, the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) had proposed amendments to the over 90-year-old Indian Forest Act 1927 (IFA) and of which a letter was sent to all states seeking their opinions. In the letter, it was mentioned that states should have stakeholders’ consultation and the report should be sent in 90 days by 7 June 2019.
On 16 July 2019 the Meghalaya Government had made an announcement that the consultative process on the draft amendments to the Indian Forest Act (IFA) 1927 is already underway. MPHRC urges the Government to seriously undertake the consultative process in a more transparent manner for examination of the present draft. The state government should ensure that there is a transparent and inclusive participation of all stakeholders, including independent experts in the State.