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Centre not to implement Forest Rights Act in JK

Srinagar, Sep 28: It is official; Forests Rights Act will not be implemented in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir for now.

Despite demands from the tribal community, Centre has not included Forests Rights Act in the laws that will be implemented in J&K when it will formally become UT on November 1.

At least 106 central laws will come into effect in J&K from November 1. However Forests Rights Act does not figure in the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019.

Forest Right Act has been implemented across the country except J&K after Parliament passed the law in 2006. 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.

“There are 25 lakh tribals living in Jammu and Kashmir. We are facing discrimination as Forest Rights Act has not been extended to J&K. It is very unfortunate that Forest Rights Act is not being implemented despite Jammu and Kashmir officially becoming union territory from November 1,” said Chowdhary Anwar, chairman, Gujjar-Bakarwal Conference.

Anwar held successive state governments responsible for not implementing the Forest Rights Act in Jammu and Kashmir.

On December 18, 2006, parliament passed Forest Right Act- 2006 whereby the ST and other traditional forest dwellers were entitled to have rights on forest land and other resources.

Under this Act, forest dwellers can cultivate land to a maximum of four hectares and have rights on the minor forest produce.

In February this year, former PDP legislator, Qamar Hussain, had moved a bill to the Assembly, seeking implementation of the Forest Right Act in the state.

However, the BJP had opposed the bill. The then Forest Minister Lal Singh, who was then part of the BJP, opposed the move saying that Forest Right Act cannot be implemented without the consent of the state Legislature, because J&K enjoys special status under the Indian constitution.

Earlier Jammu and Kashmir had its own constitution given the special status of the state under Article 370. Except matters related to defence, external affairs and communications, all central legislations and laws would be implemented in Jammu and Kashmir only with the concurrence of the state legislature.