Corbett National Park was established in 1935 under the name Hailey National Park and it was the first National Park to be established in Asia. The park has a big history of exploitation upon its natural resources and continuous conflict with the local communities. It has been reported that there have been many illegal mining activities taking place and many resorts in the buffer area of the tiger reserve have also encroached on forest land without due clearance .
There have also been several relocation processes from the tiger reserve. Since 1994, 4 villages have been displaced from the inside area, namely Laldangh, Kothiraw (300 families), Jhirna (70 families), and Dhara (50 families) [as per information collected by P.C. Joshi, an activist living in Ramnagar].
The forest area in and around Corbett is mostly inhabited by the Van Gujjar community, a pastoral nomadic ethnic group originally from Kashmir. They are one of the many tribes who live in deep dependence with the wildlife, and for whom the ‘transhumance’ (the practice of moving livestock from one grazing ground to another in a seasonal cycle) has been a way of life since centuries. In 2014 a number of 157 Van Gujjars families got relocated from Sona River Wildlife Sanctuary, and reallocated in Sabalgarh in an area of 160 hectares. A petition N. 168 of 2014 (PIL) has been filed by Sri Krishna on 12 May 2015 against the poor conditions of the relocated sites, questioning the position of the relocation in an Elephant Corridor zone. No drinking facilities, and no other basic services were provided.
Since the implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA), the people living within and around the area have started to mobilize asking for their forest rights to be recognized. However, the state of Uttarakhand has completely denied the rights to the community dwellers. This is also because the Uttarakhand state does not recognize them as Scheduled Tribes (ST), by making the process of claiming their rights under FRA (Forest Rights Act), even more hazardous. In general the process of getting claims accepted in protected areas has been more difficult because of the pressure of the conservationists.
In May 2015, officials from the Terai-East Forest division entered Tumadiya Khatta, a village situated in the buffer area of the south-eastern part of the tiger reserve and destroyed the huts and the forest crops of the dwellers, committed atrocities, and used physical violence, also against women . On 19 December 2016 a Uttarakhand High Court order declared that all the Van Gujjars living within 10 km around the Corbett area must be evicted (high court order numb. 54 OF 2016). The order came out in relation to the creation of the Eco Sensitive Zone (ESZ) around the Corbett area, stating that the Van Gujjar are considered a threat to wildlife and forest firings, hence needed to be rehabilitated immediately .
In August 2018, another High Court order stated that the 57 Gujjar families living in the Dhela range which lies in the buffer zone of the Corbett area needed to be evicted. However, the order was put on halt thanks to a petition filed by Tarun Joshi, a resident of Ramnagar and a leader of the Van Panchayat Sangarsh Morcha, who is fighting for the recognition of the forest rights in Corbett area, and supporting the struggle for recognition of the Van Gujjars. The halt arrived by the Supreme Court on 28 September 2018 . On the other side, the National Green Tribunal ordered the eviction of 800 ‘encroachers’ inhabiting the core area of the park, many of whom includes workers who stayed back after the completion of the Kalagarh reservoir in the southern area of the Sonanadi Wildlife Sanctuary. The court order was filed by the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and the petition started in 1999 .
Moreover, after issues related to Human-wildlife conflict, a village bordering the Corbett Tiger Reserve, Sunderkhal has been proposed to be relocated. The village has been identified as an area of high level conflict and is also part of an identified tiger corridor and therefore there have been constant talks between forest officials and the local villagers to vacate the area, with many wildlife organizations rooting for the same . However, development projects and forest clearance continues to be approved within the PA and in its eco-sensitive zone [8;9].