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In a first, BJP invokes special statues; opposes extension of Central Act to JK

Srinagar, Feb 07: Ruling Bhartiya Janta Party has opposed the extension of Centre’s Forest Right Act to JK, citing state’s special status under the constitution of India.

This is for the first time when the BJP is against the implementation of the Centre’s law in Jammu and Kashmir that has been demanding abrogation of Article 370, which gives special status to the state.

 

The Forest (tribal) Right Act has been implemented across India except JK after the Parliament passed the law in 2006.

The tribal and forest dwellers have been demanding extension of the Act to JK so that they too can enjoy “rights” on forest land.

Senior BJP leader, who is state Forest Minister, Chowdhary Lal Singh, said that Forest Right Act cannot be implemented without the consent of the state Legislature, because JK enjoys special status under the Indian constitution.

“We will not allow this Act to be implemented in the state. The implementation of the Act will vanish the state’s forests,” Singh claimed.

Asked that the Act has been implemented across the country, he replied, “They (states) regret today. It could not be implemented in JK due to its special status.”

PDP legislator, Qamar Hussain, has moved a bill to the Assembly, seeking implementation of the Act in the state. However, the Forest Minister said that he would oppose the bill.

“I will not accept the bill to be passed moved by the legislator,” he added.

While PDP Minister Chowdhary Zulfikar, said that bill should be passed so that Forest Right Act, 2006 is implemented in the state.

“The tribal in JK should also get benefit and be protected under the Act,” Zulfikar said.

Fighting for their rights, the members of different tribal communities have been raising the issue at different forms. They are pleading that the government should follow the other state’s model to settle nomads especially to rehabilitate the nomadic Gujjars-Bakarwals’ who they claim are the main forest dweller community of the state.

Zahid Parvaz Chowdhary, who is part of Gujjar Bakarwal Youth Conference, said that only JK has been excluded from implementation of the Act.

“On critical laws-GST, Forest Conservation Act, SARFEASI Act, BJP had no reservations but they are only opposing the Forest Right Act,” Chowdhary said.

He said that tribal were living in forests since 1947. “The forest dwellers of JK are being denied their rights by not implementation of the Act,” he added.

On 18th December 2006, the Indian parliament passed Forest (tribal) Right Act- 2006 whereby the ST and other traditional forest dwellers were equipped with the rights on forest land and other resources.

This Act gives rights to forest dwellers to cultivate land to a maximum of four hectares and use rights to minor forest produce.

Recently, the government said that department has retrieved 148339.40 kanal against 290126.82 kanal encroached forest land in Jammu division.

“Similarly the department retrieved 8,553.60 kanal of 11,3852.78 kanal encroached forest land in Kashmir division,” Forest Minister has said.

However, the Gujjars have been accusing the government for “selective” eviction and claimed that they were being “deliberately” targeted in Jammu region. “We face immense problems in Jammu region,” Chowdhary said.