Surat: ‘Evicted from land’, tribals demand action against forest officer

The tribal community of Zariamba village in Tapi district submitted a memorandum to Tapi district collector H K Vadhvaniya demanding strict action against Forest Range officer Ripal Chaudhury and his team for allegedly driving out 17 tribal families from their field and home.

The community also said that Chaudhury’s actions drove a tribal man to die by suicide.

The families claimed in the memorandum that they have been cultivating on the forest land for a long time. The land in question falls in the compartment area of 123, 124, 125 in Tapti range and was initially cultivated by 19 tribal families from Monipada village, who claimed they were allotted the plot after being evicted from the vicinity of Ukai dam a long time ago.

The Gujarat High Court had in 2013 passed an order for the regularisation of the land allotted to the 19 families which was challenged by the forest department and the court ultimately decided in the latter’s favour. The memorandum further adds that on September 3, Chaudhury along with 35 staffers came to the above compartments and drove them out.

The affected 17 tribal families made representations to BJP president of Tapi district Panchayat Suraj Vasava on September 5, requesting him to help them. One of the tribals Dashrat Vasava, a resident of Monipada village, who also helped the protesting tribals, died by suicide by consuming poison at his home.

Subhash Vasava told The Indian Express, “We have been driven out from the farming land by the forest officials. Even our small hut made from wooden logs was damaged by them. Our plea of getting the land regularised is pending with the High Court and we are waiting for the decision.”

Range forest officer of Tapti range, Ripal Chaudhary said, “On September 3, we came to know that some of the tribal have encroached on the forest land, so we went there with our staffers and have booked 17 tribals for trespassing and encroachment on forest land. We have registered offences against them.”

“We have now deployed our staffers to take care of land and further prevent any illegal encroachment, he added.

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