Magazine article New Internationalist

Forest Furore: Authorities and Indigenous People at Odds over National Parks [Rajaji National Park and the Van Guijars]

Magazine article New Internationalist

Forest Furore: Authorities and Indigenous People at Odds over National Parks [Rajaji National Park and the Van Guijars]

Article excerpt

PARK RANGERS are pitched against nomadic people at the Rajaji National Park (RNP) in India. The Van Gujjars are a nomadic pastoral people inhabiting RNP and other forest stretches over an area of 80,000 hectares across western Uttar Pradesh and the Shivalik ranges. They are now involved in an ongoing struggle to retain access to the area which is being closed off by park authorities.

Recently Van Gujjars held a protest meeting at the town of Mohand to express their opposition to 'oppressive methods' adopted by RNP authorities to force them to move into a claustrophobic resettlement colony built at Pathri, a marshy stretch of land without any vegetation. Saini Bibi, a Van Gujjar women fighting for their future, reveals that RNP authorities are forcing people to sign papers saying they are leaving the forest of their own free will.

One Van Gujjar elder pointed out that they are prevented from grazing cattle in the area and are insulted and beaten up by RNP authorities for no reason. Another Van Gujjar chief denied the allegation by the park authorities that the community is responsible for environmental damage. He blamed corrupt forest officials in league with the loggers for starting forest fires. Talib Pradhan, a Van Gujjar elder, says: 'We cannot bring any harm to the forest because our work is looking after the buffaloes and trees. …

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