Opening a National Park is a nice thing, nobody could doubt this. It is good for nature, wildlife has a protected area where it can live without being disturbed and people find a natural spot there where they can recover on the weekend. But if the build-up of a National Park is accompanied by compulsory displacement of the tribals living in that area, it becomes a much less ‘nice’ thing. Yet, this is what happened 1980 when the Indian authorities opened the Madhav National Park.
The land on which the Madav National Park was established, provided livelihoods for about 25 Sahariya tribes. They lived in a village named Lohra Kahr. This is a village, that doesn’t exist anymore as everything belonging of the tribals such as their houses, their land, their fields was incorporated into the National Park. Although the villagers presented their entitlement documents, they were displaced from one day to the next as the Forest Department simply did not recognize their deeds. Although, displacement is not the appropriate term for what happened. The authorities failed to provide them other land on which they could settle. So in fact, the tribals were chased away and forced to live as nomads moving from one place to another.
They settled in Karoundhi, a village not too far from the land they had called their home. But as they lost all their agriculture land, men had to go to other villages and into stone quarrying to find work. The women were prohibited to collect firewood, as this wood now belonged to the Park. If they still did so, for in a way or the other they had to cook their meals, and were caught, they had to pay ransom according to the size of their bundle to the corrupt officials of the forest department.
Ekta Parishad has been helping these villagers for many years and they have also raised their problems in many different forums. Before the Madhya Pradesh State Assembly elections in 2003, the applications of these tibals were given to the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh at Gandhi Bhawan, Bhopal. In 2007, the file was taken to Delhi and presented to the Central Government. In February 2010, the Conservator of Forest for Madhav National Park was also made aware of these applications. Since Ekta Parishad has not yet resolved this issue, it continues to advocate for their proper resettlement.
Support in information collection K.L.Vishwakarma
Shri Ram Prakash Sharma Dated: 6th August 2010
(Note: All documents are available with the applicants)