JUNGLE BACCHAO ANDOLAN
Published by: JYOTI PANIGRAHI
The Jungle Bachao Andolan took form in the early eighties when the government planned to switch the natural sal forest of Singhbhum District, Bihar, with commercial teak plantations. But, long before the Jungle Bachao Andolan of what in the present day is Jharkhand, this region had seen rebellion, success, and defeat in the Adivasi’s struggle to live and work in their own forests. The Jungle Andolan of Singhbum district for land, forest, and water was the fight for right over and share of the socio-economic facets of the Jharkhand Movement. The movement has emphasized the gap between the Forest Department’s aims and the people’s especially tribals of Bihar. Many environmentalists consider this movement as ‘Greed Game Political Populism’. Although it was started in Bihar, the movement was spread across to other states like Odisha and Jharkhand too.
The historical background of the Jharkhand Jungle Bachao Andolan Movement is the natural attachment of people with the land, forest, and water and that every aspect of their life is connected to it. The simple and innocent tribal by nature are trapped in by so-called mainstream civilized communities. Whenever one has attempted to take them out from their devotional centers, they have never been reconciled.
Over the years, the Adivasi’s have increasingly been deprived of forest resources and agricultural land. Under British colonial rule, Indian forest policy bestowed all forest lands in the State. Independent India inherited this forest policy and the State declared all forest land as public land in India. Only in exceptional cases, where the common property rights over forest land of indigenous or other local people recognized. As an exception, 446 Munda villages of Jharkhand were recognized under the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act of 1908 in which their collective ownership over land and forest is recognized and protected. The Act resulted in a massive rebellion from 1895 to 1900 under the leadership of Birsa Munda.
In subsequent decades, most of the Khunkatti villages however lost their status, and that today only 156 officially recognized Khunkatti villages remain. While land rights have received some protection by affirming “tribal areas” as “partially excluded”4, forest management was decisively in the hand of the colonial forest department. Independent India continued with the same system by approving the perpetuation of the Indian Forest Act 1927.
The Indian government’s Forest Department rules as a feudal lord over the remaining forests whose mandate includes the management and conservation of forests have ignored the fact that the Adivasi depend on forests and forest resources for their livelihoods and establishing a licensing system for non-timer forest products. This not only resulted in continuous harassment of indigenous villagers cutting wood and harvesting other forest products for their survival but above all in the virtual destruction of most of the forests under the control of the Forest Department.
With their rights to their forests being denied, indigenous communities and a protest movement called the Jungal Katai Andolan was launched as early as 1978 in Jharkhand, against the destruction of forests in the Kolhan-Singhbhum area, mostly inhabited by the Ho indigenous communities which have mobilized and have come together in a state-wide movement which is challenging the feudal rule of the Forest Department on all fronts and is slowly but steadily regaining control over forest. The protests continued strongly in Munda and Ho inhabited regions of Ranchi and West Singhbhum Districts until the emergence of the Jharkhand Jungle Bachao Andolan (JJBA - Jharkhand Save the Forest Movement) in 2000.
Jharkhand Jungle Bachao Andolan (JJBA)
JJBA emerged out of an initiative to launch a campaign through which indigenous peoples are asserting their rights and identities for the restoration of forest rights of the Adivasis in Jharkhand. JJBA is run through a joint campaign between Bindrai Institute for Research Study and Action (BIRSA) with support from the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA).
The movement not only has a very clear vision (forest rights) but has also advanced a simple strategy to achieve it. This strategy is called Community Forest Governance.
JJBA has developed a Community Forest Governance Strategy that rests on “four pillars”:
1. The traditional village council (Gram Sabha)
2. The Forest Protection Committee
3. The women’s cooperatives
4. The youth forum (Bal Akhra)
Even though the approach is termed Community Forest Governance, the four “pillars” are representing a holistic community-based self-governance system combining the traditional self-governance institution of the village council (Gram Sabha) with three new institutions.
The Forest Protection Committee is strengthening a specific aspect of traditional self-governance i.e., forest management and conservation, while the women's cooperatives and youth forums empower two important groups in the community which create a space to organize themselves by mobilizing them for active engagement in village affairs and the JJBA, and by strengthening them economically, without relying on the traditional village council.
The activities and functioning of JJBA followed 4 stages:
· Conceptual stage - The conceptual stage supported the organization to plan on the most effective interventions for upholding the forest and natural resource rights of Adivasi communities.
· Creation of committees - In 2000, JJBA was started under the supervision of BIRSA, and under the same project, the formation of new Forest Protection Committees has been promoted and the communities agreed to launch the JJBA as a grass-roots movement for restoration of forest rights for the indigenous peoples, providing them with a common platform for sharing experiences and coordinating their activities. Currently, it has about 5,000 registered members in 45 blocks in 12 of the 22 districts of the State.
· Training and capacity building - While the JJBA activists and communities draw on their age-old traditional knowledge in protecting and managing their forests, they are also keen on learning new skills to become more effective and be able to meet new challenges, therefore, BIRSA, has supported JJBA since the very beginning, by making contact with critical-minded foresters supportive to community-based forest conservation.
· Community mobilization - JJBA is also engaged in various mobilization and advocacy activities. They held protest marches and demonstrations against the Department of Forests, the Government of the State of Jharkhand, and private corporations that were encroaching on Adivasi forest lands.
Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act in December 2006
· A major shift in India’s forest policy was witnessed with the passing of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act in December 2006.
· It has also been called the Forest Rights Act (FRA), the Tribal Rights Act, the Tribal Bill, and the Tribal Land Act.
· This Act in itself was a positive step in the recognition of the Adivasi's forest land rights and their role in forest protection.
· The Act gives Adivasi and other forest-dwelling communities limited ownership rights to agricultural land, rights to access and use grazing grounds and water bodies, and the right of ownership and access to minor non-timber forest products.
The Act as passed in 2006 have the following provisions:
Ø Section 3(1) - The Types of rights are broadly discussed in section 3(1) of the Act that can be summed up as:
o Title rights - i.e. ownership - to land that is being farmed by tribals or forest dwellers as of 13 December 2005, subject to a maximum of 4 hectares; ownership is only for land that is actually being cultivated by the concerned family as on that date, meaning that no new lands are granted.
o Use rights - to minor forest produce (also including ownership), to grazing areas, to pastoralist routes, etc.
o Relief and development rights - rehabilitation in case of illegal eviction or forced displacement; and to basic amenities, subject to restrictions for forest protection.
o Forest management rights - to protect forests and wildlife.
Ø Section 2(c) - The Eligibility criteria to qualify as Forest Dwelling Scheduled Tribe (FDST) and be eligible for recognition of rights under FRA, is discussed under Section 2(c) of the Act.
Ø Section 6(1) - The Process of Recognition of Rights is addressed under the said section. It states that the gram sabha, or village assembly, will initially pass a resolution recommending whose rights to which resources should be recognized (i.e. which lands belong to whom, how much land was under the cultivation of each person as of 13 Dec 2005, etc).
India has seen an accelerated rate of deforestation since its independence in 1947. Adivasi in Jharkhand and beyond suffer more from the effects of deforestation because more than half of the communities' livelihoods depend on forest resources. The ‘open access forest’ management regime which was inherited from the colonial era gives local communities theoretical access to forests. However, in reality, the communities had little or no control over the management of forest resources. It deprived them of forest resources that form an important part of their livelihoods and, most significantly, a part of their identity.
Before the launch of JJBA, there was no organized platform for enforcing forest land rights of indigenous peoples in Jharkhand but with time JJBA’s persistent mobilization led to the realization of ‘people-owned forests’ in the state of Jharkhand.
JJBA made elaborations on the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006) which recognizes the role of forest-dwelling communities in the co-management of forests whose resources they use for their traditional livelihood. Finally, the most significant achievement of JJBA is the community's increased awareness of their cultural heritage. In a nutshell, we can conclude that JJBA has come to realize that it needs to remain vigilant, to maintain and even step up the burden on the government if the Forest Rights Act is to be implemented properly in Jharkhand state and beyond.
· Erni, C. (2011). Community Forest Governance : The Jharkhand Save the Forest Movement in India. International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs. Retrieved from https://www.iccaconsortium.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/example-jharkhand-save-the-forest-india-emi-2011-en.pdf
· Poffenberger, M. (1996). Grassroots Forest Protection: Eastern Indian Experiences. Asia Forest Network.
· Security, C. f. (2005). Political Economy of Hunger in Adivasi. A Survey Research on Hunger in Adivasi Areas of Rajasthan & Jharkhand.
 Anju Ann Mathew, “Jungle Bachao Andolan- environmental movements in India's history,” https://yourstory.com/socialstory/2020/07/powerful-environmental-movements-india-chipko-narmada  Poffenberger, Mark op.cit., p.2  Section 3(1), Forest Rights Act, 2006.  Ibid.  Section 3(2), Forest Rights Act, 2006.  Section 3(1) & 5, Forest Rights Act, 2006.  Sections 6(2) - 6(6), Forest Rights Act, 2006.