Jenu Kurubas are a particularly vulnerable tribal group in Karnataka, and are the original residents of the forest regions of the Western Ghats and also other places of South India. They have been living in the forest areas of Kodagu District for more than 50 years and all their socio-cultural and economic activities are solely dependent on this forest. They live in their Hadi’s (settlements) in the deep forests of Kodagu but are unable to benefit from any of the government schemes and programmes which are meant for them.
Two years ago, 12 families decided to settle on the forest land near villages to access basic education for their children. They built their huts and started living near Titthalli and Diddahalli in Virajpet taluk of Kodagu district. 13 more families joined them later. The families began cultivating the land and depending on it for their sustenance.
Since then, they have been facing atrocities and are subjected to harassment, evictions etc. on the pretext of being encroachers in their own homes. There are confrontations between the police and the tribal communities almost every day. Their individual and community rights to stay on their forest land have been repeatedly violated. The police and the forest officials have branded them as encroachers. The state is using its powers to dispossess them of their forest land. They receive threats from the police; their huts have been razed and burnt many a times. The police slap false charges on the people from the community and arrest them, but the tribal community has always resisted these violations of their rights in a non-violent way.
On the 26th of August 2013, police arrested 6 men from this community and booked fake charges of poaching of animals, felling of trees, timber smuggling etc. against them, but were released on bail later because of pressure from the locals and other organisations.
The above example gives us a glimpse of to what extent the Forest Rights Act has been implemented in the state of Karnataka. The centre had enacted this Act in 2006 to ensure community rights on forest land as well as the individual rights over land. There have been discrepancies in implementing this ACT. Hence, the members of Budakattu Krishikara Sangha have decided to go on an indefinite fast in front of Titimathi Panchayat of Virajapet Taluk of Kodagu district from 30th August 2013 until their demands are fulfilled.
Their demands are:
• Immediately withdraw all false charges of poaching of animals, felling of trees, timber smuggling etc. that are slapped against 6 men from the Jenu Kuruba community. These cases were falsely slapped on them to sabotage their democratic and peaceful demand for justice.
• Issue land titles to Jenu Kuruba community as mentioned under the Forest Rights Act,2006. The ACT guarantees community rights and individual rights on forest lands they have been inhabiting and depending on, for centuries.
• Effective implementation of The Forest Rights Act of 2006, across the state of Karnataka.
Despite being denied land that rightfully belongs to them, they are further harassed by these false cases.
We request you all to sign this petition and express your solidarity to Jenu Kuruba community, so that their community and individual rights over forest land and right to a life with dignity are protected.