NEW DELHI: In order to raise awareness on how the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act can help advance forest rights among the marginalised, Vasundhara - an advocacy group and Legal Resource Centre - a resource centre has come out with a handbook for grassroots workers.
In 2016, there were significant amendments which were made to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1986.
While the law has been primarily used for the Dalit movement, it has not been used in court significantly to report atrocities against tribals, according to the organisations.
“This was an opportunity to look at how the Atrocities Act can be used to advance forest rights and to not at it through the eyes of a lawyer but through the eyes of activists and how the activists use it. So we also tried to simplify it,” Shomona Khanna, Supreme Court advocate.
The handbook gives an overview of aggravated offences, the meanings of the key terms in the provisions, offences by public servants, process maps and procedures on how to go about with the legal process, the gaps in the process, the extent of power that the gram sabhas can exercise, and a list of frequently asked questions that can serve as a toolkit for workers to address a range of concerns on FRA.
The handbook aims to equip human rights activists in upholding the rights of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes communities. It would be a ready reckoner for activists which provides a roadmap for them.
Wrongfully dispossessing members of an SC or ST from land or premises or interference with the enjoyment of their forest rights, wrongful occupation or cultivation or transferring to himself, of any land owned, allotted, notified to any SC or ST, forcing or causing to leave their houses, villages or other place of residence are atrocities specific to forest dwellers and tribals in the SC/ST (PoA) Act.
The combined use of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 and the SC/ST PoA Act can help advance forest rights of the marginalised, the handbook said. It would enable community members in legal interventions and accessing justice.