India: Forestry Officials Burn Tribals` Homes

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India: Forestry Officials Burn Tribals` Homes
By: Dherindra Panda, Civil Society Forum on Human Rights
15 April 2012
 

The Forest Department (the Government of Odisha in India) burnt down houses of 18 Paudi Bhuinya families. Identified as a primitive tribal group (PTG) in Bonai Forest division of Sundargarh district, these poor and vulnerable families had to be forcefully driven out of their houses to see their houses and household articles burning into on 15th April 12, Sunday at 1 PM. This incident happened at Kiri, a small revenue village under Mahulpada GP of Lahunipada block of Sundargarh district. It happened when the people were taking rest under scorching summer in mid-day, the department officials put fire in their houses and there was no escape from this fire. Although there is no causality in this, people have lost all their belongings including PDS rice, which is the main source of their life.

The Scheduled Tribe groups who were identified as more isolated from the wider community and who maintain a distinctive cultural identity have been categorised as “Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups” (PTGs) (previously known as Primitive Tribal Groups) by the Government of India.

The criteria for such designation are:

(i) pre-agricultural level of technology;

(ii) very low level of literacy; and

(iii) declining or stagnant population.

Paudi Bhuinya people (a PTG) consider themselves as the king of the soil and always prefer to live in the forest. Kiri village is situated at a distance 67km from Block Headquarters and 237km from District Headquarters, almost at the border to Keonjhar District. They do usually change the location of their habitation every 5–8 years. This year, in the month of January, they constructed their new houses near Derula village in the forest land.

If the Forest Department considers it an illegal action, its officers should have followed legal proceedings. Instead the Department officials burnt their houses, make them homeless and dispossesseed. The household materials lost include their utensils, subsidised rice, job cards, mats, books and children’s school clothing, voter ID card and all their belongings.

Now, they are leaving under trees without food. Urgent response from human rights institutions and humanitarian organisations is sought by Civil Society Forum on Human Rights (CSFHR), Odisha.

The names of heads of families whose houses were burnt:

1-Gouranga Dehury

2- Jhalu Dehury

3- Bhajan Dehury

4 Balaram Pradhan

5- Kunthu Giri

6- Kandra Dehury

7- Babu Pradhan

8- Indra Pradhan

9- Panu Dehury

10- Patu Naik

11- Benta Dehury

12-Jatra Naik

13- Hari Naik

14- Akula Naik

15- Kamanu Dehury

16- Purna Dehury

17-Dharani Dehury

18- Bhika Pradhan

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