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Year after abrogation of Art 370, Forest Rights Act awaits implementation in J&K

Have to first provide training to officials, say authoritiesSuhail Khan

Srinagar September 15: A year has passed since abrogation of Article 370, the Forest Rights Act is yet to be implemented in Jammu and Kashmir. On December 18, 2006, parliament passed Forest Right Act- 2006 whereby the Schedule Tribe and other traditional forest dwellers were entitled to have rights on forest land and other resources. The Act could not be implemented as Jammu and Kashmir had Article 370 owing to which central laws were not being directly implemented in the erstwhile state. Tribal and forest dwellers have been demanding extension of the Act to J&K so that they too can enjoy “rights” on the forest land. State President J&K Gujjar Bakerwal Youth Conference Zahid Parvaz Chowdhary said the BJP government has made fake promises with people of J&K. “Nothing has been done to implement Forest Rights Act in Jammu and Kashmir, which is already in place across the country. Gujjars are being evicted from forest land in Jammu. Gujjars are being deliberately targeted as they are Muslims,” Chowdhary told news agency Kashmir Indepth News Service. He said there are 20 lakh Gujjars residing in J&K. Under this Act, forest dwellers can cultivate land to a maximum of four hectares and have rights on the minor forest produce. Former PDP legislator, Qamar Hussain, had moved a bill to the Assembly, seeking implementation of the Forest Right Act. However, the BJP had opposed the bill. Director Tribal Affairs, Mohammad Saleem Malik said the Forest Rights Act has been applicable to Jammu and Kashmir but has not been implemented. “The centre has told three departments, Forest, Revenue and Tribal Affairs Department to provide training before implementing the Act in J&K which has not happened. Things also got delayed because of COVID-19. Once the officials are provided training, this law will be implemented,” Malik told news agency KINS. Last month, a team of forest department officials launched a major anti-encroachment drive and tried to demolish the house of Mohammad Akhter at Rakh Jurog village in Jammu. Gujjars however resisted the demolishing drive sparking tension. In May last year, many people were injured during an anti encroachment drive at the Mandal area of Jammu.(KINS)

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