Getting information on forest land titles and compensation through the Right to Information Act – Maharashtra

Even though they are responsible for protecting the largest part of the global forest heritage […] a third of indigenous and community lands in 64 countries are under threat due to the lack of land tenure rights.

Pressenza Rio de Janerio in “Indigenous people are heading to CoP26: ‘There is no solution to the climate crisis, without us‘” (Down To Earth) | Forest dwellers in early India – myths and ecology in historical perspective by Romila Thapar >>

In a major victory, tribal people in Maharashtra’s Thane district have managed to get information on forest land titles through the Right to Information Act. They were demanding this information for months, with over a thousand of them going on a “RTI Satyagraha” in April [2013].

Finally, the State’s Chief Information Commissioner, Ratnakar Gaikwad, has issued an order insisting that information under the Forest Rights Act, 2006, be given out by government officials. Mr. Gaikwad has also asked for the 10 tribal petitioners to be compensated Rs. 2000 each.

Ever since the implementation of the Forest Rights Act, tribal people from the Jawhar and Vikramgad talukas of Thane district have allegedly received titles only for a small part of their land. Their repeated protests went unheard and the problem remained unsolved. […]

After the Revenue Department did not respond to their queries, 400 tribal people lodged an appeal. “The hearings with first appellate officer were nothing less than torture,” Bablya Tumbda of Vehelpada from Thane’s Vikramgad tehsiltold The Hindu. The officer questioned their motive for filing the RTI application, and quizzed them about their funding source and political connections. “He even called us fools for seeking information,” said Mr. Tumbda. The hearing was cancelled abruptly.

Activists then called the former Chief Information Commissioner, Shailesh Gandhi, who suggested the filing of a second appeal under the RTI Act.

Source: “Tribal people use RTI to access information on forest land titles” by Alok Deshpande, The Hindu, 28 August 2013
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Mahatma Gandhi on Civil Disobedience and Satyagraha

Truth (Satya) implies Love, and Firmness (Agraha) engenders and therefore serves as a synonym for force … that is to say, the Force which is born of Truth and Love or Non-violence.

[There] is a great and fundamental difference between passive resistance and Satyagraha. If, without understanding this, those who call themselves either passive resisters or Satyagrahis believe both to be one and the same thing, there would be injustice to both. […]

Passive resistance may be offered side by side with the use of arms. Satyagraha and brute force, being each a negation of the other, can never go together. Satyagraha may be offered to one’s nearest and dearest, passive resistance can never be offered to them, unless, of course, they have ceased to be near dear and become an object of hatred to us […] while in Satyagraha there is not the remotest idea of injuring the opponent. Satyagraha postulates the conquest of the adversary by suffering in one’s own person. [Nevertherless, Gandhi sometimes used the term ‘Passive Resistance’ when he was discussing Civil Disobedience or Satyagraha.]

Source: The Essential Gandhi: His Life, Work, and Ideas by Louis Fischer (ed.), New York: Vintage Books, 1983, pp. 87-88

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

The slogan today is no longer merely ‘Asia for the Asians’ or ‘Africa for the Africans’ but the unity of all the oppressed races of the earth.” – Mahatma Gandhi addressing two stalwarts of the struggle struggle in South Africa against apartheid), quoted by Vinay Lal in The Solidarity of Oppressed Peoples: A Tribute to E S Reddy, Anti-Apartheid Activist >>

“Tribals are subject to oppression and cruelty even after independence and still picked up by the investigating officers to cover up shoddy investigations.” – D.Y. Chandrachud (Chief Justice of India since 9 November 2022) quoted in “Members of De-Notified Tribes Picked Up to Cover Up Shoddy Investigations” | Learn more >>

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