Shillong: Meghalaya Peoples Human Rights Council (MPHRC) a human rights-based organization in Meghalaya has termed the proposed Indian Forest Bill (to be amended the Indian Forest Act or IFA, 1927) as “a tool of state abuse, oppression and discrimination” for a small state like Meghalaya.
The draft bill introduces a new provision to allow forest bureaucracy to use fire arms, for prevention of offence under the Act or under the Wildlife Act, with certain offences being non-bailable. “This would significantly increase the policing and discretionary powers of Forest-officers against the tribal communities in the state” said MPHRC Chairman Dino D.G. Dympep.
This Draft amendments also sanction the forest officials to shoot people without any liability, with the same legal protection in line with the Draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958 applicable in “disturbed areas” to the armed forces. “It will restore higher management powers and provide veto powers to the forest bureaucracy which may lead to grave serious human rights violations such as extra judicial killings and disappearances if adopted” said MPHRC.
“The draft also further explains that the immunity is being given “to prevent the forest offence” and would be in addition to the immunity grated under section 197 of the CrPC to certain kind of public servants. The Act will also allegedly permit an arrest without a warrant where entering a forest would allegedly constitute a forest offence with the accused being detained on suspicious grounds” said MPHRC.
“The draft states that the government could take away the rights of the tribal communities and other forest dwellers if the government feels it is not in line with conservation of the proposed reserved forest. The central government will also over rule the state government if there is a contradiction on how the authorities believe the forests should be utilized” said MPHRC.
Blaming the Indian Forest (Amendment) Bill, 2019 as anti-tribals, the draft Amendments in its present form is nothing but it is against the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of India and it infringe on the basic human rights and collective rights of the tribal communities, who depend on forest products. “The state government must take serious measures to ensure that the current 123-page document draft is completely withdrawn in its current form” said MPHRC.