New Delhi, May 26 (EFE).- Tribal people, who authorities say relocated voluntarily for a tiger reserve in India, were “forcibly evicted,” a report published on Thursday said.
Jenu Kuruba, a honey-gathering indigenous tribe of India, have been accusing the authorities of evicting them from the forest area that has been their home for generations.
But the government has claimed that the members of the indigenous tribe relocated voluntarily from what is now the Nagarhole Tiger Reserve in the southern Indian state of Karnataka in 1999.
The authorities dismissed their claims for land rights under a 2006 federal law.
India’s forest department carries out eviction drives, but the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) supports them.
The WCS insists that the “voluntary relocations” were a “win-win” for the tribes living in constant fear of wildlife in the forest.
However, an investigation based on interviews with Jenu Kuruba people by Indigenous rights group Survival International found that they never wanted to leave but were “threatened and harassed into doing so.”
The authorities said the forest department destroyed their crops, forcing them out of their dwelling.
The Nagarhole Tiger Reserve was formed in 1983 from the ancestral land of the Jenu Kuruba and other tribes. It is now one of the most popular tiger safari destinations in India.
The Indigenous people are now demanding to go back to their villages, which are now inside the reserve.
“Government promises made for the relocation were not kept. Many Jenu Kuruba are struggling to survive at the relocation centers and most did not even get the three acres of land they were promised,” said the report.
The investigation found that the evictions deprived them of their rights to worship their deities since the forest department blocked them from going back to their ancestral areas.
“Let us go back. We do not need anything from you. We all can live on our own inside the forest as we have been doing for generations. Tigers and elephants do not attack us as they are our own family,” the report quoted tribesman Ganguamma as saying.
He was evicted in 2018.
Another Jenu Kuruba man, JD Jeyappa, told the investigators that they grew up inside the forests and shared the land with wild animals.
“Neither are we afraid of them nor do they destroy our crops. It is these forest department people we are afraid of and it is they who destroy our crops.”
Basava Raju, an elderly Jenu Kuruba man who “resettled” 100 km from the reserve in 2014, said the new homes were the “camps to kill us, kill our roots in the forest, kill our culture and kill our sacred deities.”
Senior research officer at Survival International claimed the report exposed “the reality of fortress conservation” that has destroyed the lives of Indigenous peoples across Africa and Asia in the “colonial model of conservation.”
“The Jenu Kuruba have been illegally evicted and forced to live desperate lives in resettlement camps. They are even denied their constitutional rights to practice their religion.” EFE