21th May 2012, Mandla
The first stop of the Yatra was at Ghughari area of Mandla district where a public hearing was held by the Ekta Parishad. Shri Dharmdas Baga of Village Nevsatola said that 26 tribal families of the village submitted their claims in February 2009 but so far none of the claimants from 7 villages in this area had got his claim accepted. He insisted that now the tribals needed no assurance but actual right on occupied land. Mohanlal of village Guriya said that on one side trees were being cut on large-scale by forest officials, while there was no sensitivity towards families living on forest produce, on the other. He told that the Forest Rights Act was a serious attempt by the government to do away with historic injustice done to tribals, so now, initiative should be taken within a time frame to rehabilitate all landless and homeless in order to avoid second round of injustice. Jairam Bairagi of village Sajpani said that out of 108 families who had made claims under the Forest Rights Act,only 64 families had got their claims settled while no information had come regarding the acceptance or rejection of their claims in the case of remaining 44 families. He said that Panka, Ahir and other traditional forestdwellers had not got their claims settled. Dayaram of Kunti village said that an attempt was made by forest officials to remove 38 families from their occoupied land in the year 2009, by making their cultivation grazed and destroyed. He said that there was strong reaction among people against the administrative attempt of removing the families from their occupied land in place of rehabilitating them on this land. Gendalal Sariam of village Banswahi said that no process had started to provide forest rights to any of the forest villages of that area so far. Gita Bai of Mohgaon said that 26 families were cultivating their occupied land for last 30 years but not a single settlement had been done so far by the administration. Activist of Ekta Parishad, Shobha Behan said that in cases of claims of Forest Rights, no clear letter of rejection is given to the claimants in writing. Plantation was being done forceably by the forest officials on the lands occupied by the tribals. She said that one biggest problem was that of physical verification of land claims. This was mainly because of boundary dispute between forest and revenue departments, so the claims of those areas were not being accepted at all. Next stop of the Yatra was at Sijhaura village where it was welcomed by Prayas Shiksha Samiti. Senior social worker, Anita Pawar said that considering the limited population of Baigas, they were declared as National Human but unfortunately they were facing destruction in this region in the name of preserving national animal. She stressed that before any intervention in the area, the important guidelines of tribal self-governance should be referred and
implemented. She felt confidently that with mass support, a comprehensive National Land Reform law would emerge to improve the livelihoods and respect of millions of landless.