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Home > Know Your Rights > Rights of Forest Dwellers (tribals)
FAQ's | | Legal Frameworks


Q1.  Who are forest dwellers?

A1.  Forest dwellers are people who have resided in forests since many years and their livelihood depends on the forest produce. They are mainly the tribal people and recognized as Scheduled Tribes by the Constitution of India. Forests provide them sustenance in the form of forest produce, water, grazing, hunting and shifting cultivation. Forests are home to these forest dwelling communities for centuries.


Q2.  What is meant by the rights of forest dwellers?

A2.  Rights of forest dwellers are the rights given to them over forest land. The forest dwellers have cultivated and lived on forest land for centuries, but in order to conserve the forests, they were driven out from their home. The rights seeks to give them back their rightful share over the forests as these communities have always lived in harmony with nature and protected the forests from destruction.


Q3.  Why were forest dwelling communities forced to leave forests?

A3.  India’s forest dwelling communities were forced to live away from the forests owing to forest laws like Indian Forest Act, 1927 and Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, which were made to conserve the forests by limiting human interference with nature. These laws empower the government to declare any area to be a reserved forest, protected forest or a protected area like a national park, wildlife sanctuary, tiger reserve or community conservation area. Under these laws, the rights of people living in the area are mostly taken by giving them compensation or rehabilitating them at the outskirts of the forests.


Q4.  How can the rights of forest dwelling communities and their claim over forest land be secured?

A4.  To secure the rights of the forest dwellers and to correct the injustice done to them, the government of India enacted the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA). The Act seeks to strengthen economic and social security of tribes and other forest dwellers and tries to facilitate their political empowerment by giving them a basis to participate in various processes so that they have more say as citizens of this country. The act aims at giving back traditional rights of forest dwellers and maintaining ecological balance of the forest areas.


Q5.  What are the rights given to forest dwellers under the FRA?

A5.  Some of the rights given to forest dwellers are:

  1. Right to hold and live in the forest land under the individual or common occupation for habitation or for self-cultivation for livelihood.
  2. Community rights such as nistar followed by tribal communities.
  3. Right of ownership, access to collect, use, and dispose of minor forest produce( includes all non-timber forest produce of plant origin) which has been traditionally collected within or outside village boundaries.
  4. Other community rights of uses or entitlements such as fish and other products of water bodies, gazing and traditional seasonal resource access of nomadic or pastoralist communities.
  5. Rights including community tenures of habitat and habitation for primitive tribal groups and pre-agriculture communities.
  6. Rights for conversion of Pattas or leases or grants issued by any local authority or any State Govt. on forest lands to titles.
  7. Rights of settlement and conversion of all forest villages, old habitation, un-surveyed villages and other villages in forest, whether recorded, notified or not into revenue villages.
  8. Right to protect, regenerate or conserve or manage any community forest resource which they have been traditionally protecting and conserving for sustainable use.
  9. Rights which are recognized under any State law or which are accepted as rights of tribals under any traditional or customary law of the concerned tribes of any State.
  10. Right of access to biodiversity and community right to intellectual property and traditional knowledge related to biodiversity and cultural diversity.
  11. Any other traditional right customarily enjoyed by the forest odwelling Scheduled Tribes or other traditional forest dwellers.


Q6.  Is there any condition on availing these rights?

A6.  Yes, the Act puts certain eligibility criteria to be met before being entitled to get the rights as forest dwellers. The rights are available only to those who primarily reside in forests and depend on forests and forest land for livelihood. A person claiming rights under the Act must belong to a scheduled tribe in that area or he must have been residing in the forest for past 75 years.


Q7.  Who recognizes the rights of the forest dwellers? What is the procedure for such recognition?

A7.  The Gram Sabha, or village assembly, will initially pass a resolution recommending which lands belong to whom. This resolution is then screened and approved at the level of the sub-division (or taluka) and subsequently at the district level. The screening committees consist of three government officials - Forest, Revenue and Tribal Welfare departments and three elected members of the local body at that level. These committees also hear appeals  if any tribal has a grievance.



·  The Supreme Court of India has held on various occasions that the tribals have a definite right over the forests and any sort of forest diversion or eviction should have their informed consent.

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