TrNEW DELHI: The BJP and the Congress have asked all states ruled by them to file review petitions against a February 13 Supreme Court order, directing 21 states to evict around 11.08 lakh forest dwellers — mainly tribals — whose claim to forest land had been rejected. The parties also asked the states to apprise them of the action taken.
The order came on a PIL challenging the validity of the Forest Rights Act passed in 2006 by the Parliament to give back forest dwellers their right to access, manage and govern forests within the village boundaries. The order has set off a storm in the context of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections with all mainline political parties trying to stem the move.
BJP chief Amit Shah said in a tweet that he had spoken to chief ministers of all 17 BJP-ruled states to get the review petition ready, even as Congress chief Rahul Gandhi directed administrations in Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Puducherry and Rajasthan to challenge the order.
The alacrity with which the two main parties have reacted, underlined the political urgency in states such as Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and the rest, where tribal votes have been a major factor in Assembly and general elections.
“The states will soon file review petitions and care will be taken to safeguard the rights of our tribals and prevent eviction,” said Shah.
In states such as Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, the SC order has led to protests within parties. “The government is committed to defending interest of the people living in tribal areas,” Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das said even as opposition parties, such as Sibu Soren-led JMM, hit the streets claiming the government is trying to evict indigenous people.
Several tribal movements over the issues have hit Jharkhand in recent years. Congress moved fast to quell trouble in Chhattisgarh. In Madhya Pradesh, the tribal vote aggregation in its support saw the Congress best BJP with wafer-thin margins in several constituencies.
The Congress' act of returning unutilised tribal lands earlier taken over by the governments is the key to its approach to win the LS polls in such states.
“I have written to our CM and deputy CM in Karnataka to file a review petition and take other appropriate steps,” Gandhi said, saying “the recent SC order demands intervention”.