SILCHAR: The UPA government'sScheduled Tribe and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act has left tribals dejected. The Act could see the light of the day only after hectic political interventions and bureaucratic twists only to add to the woes of the tribal groups, it seems. In fact, the rules take away key elements like detailing out rights and duties of forest-dwellers, which would have helped the communities and the government in enforcing the Act meaningfully.
The Act and the rules in the form they have come are observed more in breach than in compliance. Tribals, the traditional forest-dwellers today are faced with the serious problem of aggression by elements or forces who are mercilessly destroying forests with impunity, telling upon their paan-bagans, threatening their very existence. Isolated and cocooned in the forested areas, the tribals feel insecure and unsafe since their repeated pleas with the forest department authorities have failed to yield any result.
The headmen and residents of the hamlets across Bhuvan Hills and ranges as well as down Borail foothills, which include Kalakhal part-II, Krishnapur, Nagakhal, Tezpuri Punji, Megnathal, Maruacherra, Naraincherra and Sonapur Punji are feeling the heat of this wanton destruction of forest and plunder of its resources. Who are these elements or forces? Bhuvan Hills is a centre of pilgrimage for the Hindus in general and Rongmei Nagas who worship in the temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and Vishnu.
The headmen who are scared to be identified narrated before this scribe in identical tale of rampant felling of tress, uprooting of bamboo plantations and forcibly taking possession of forest lands for cultivation of crops for commercial exploitation. Neslie Khasia said Bhuvan Hills once lush green and deep forested is fast losing its greenery with disastrous consequences on ecology, biodiversity and avian varied life.
Strategically located on the borders of Mizoram and Manipur in the north-east of Cachar, the low-lying areas of Bhuvan Hills are slipping away into the hands of outsiders and even persons of doubtful citizens. Luna Reang pointed out, so desperate have become these elements that they are putting the hills on fire to make room for their businesses.
These are being carried out in direct collusion with unscrupulous forest department staff. A range officer and a beat officer have been identified by them who along with outsiders enter the punjis and create troubles for the tribal settlements in order to disturb them. Lyngdoh Sebastian said those who dare to complain are implicated in false cases. The involvement of forest staff has come out explicitly from their narration.
The allegations of tribals need serious attention since these centres are supposed to be the protector of forest, its wealth and the traditional-dwellers. They said in unison, political protection gives these miscreants all the strength to make bonhomie to destroy forest and make bountry out of it.
Megnathal hamlets is comparatively peaceful as the tribals have resisted the infiltration of outsiders. In Naraincherra, the affected tribals mustered enough courage to stand against the miscreants. The problem is that the miscreants in most cases are well-organised and flex muscle power to terrorise the hamlet people. Sadly enough, the forest department looks the other way, perhaps, due to political intervention. The role of NGOs who masquerade themselves as naturalists are concerned more about symposia, seminars and flower shows than any serious attempt to save nature from depredations.