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Rajaji National Park and Tiger Reserve, Uttarakhand, India

Tha pastoralist Van Gujjars struggle for forest rights and for just rehabilitation measures. They follow Islam, have their own clans, practising transhumance.


Rajaji is a national park that encompasses the Shivaliks, near the foothills of the Himalayas. The Park was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1983, and later a tiger reserve on 15 April 2015. The area is mostly inhabited by the community of Van Gujjars, an indigenous pastoralist nomadic community originally from the Kashmiri area. According to a Times of India report, there are currently a number of 1.610 Van Gujjars families living within the Rajaji Tiger Reserve (RTR), while 1.593 families have been relocated in the last 15 years (Fanari, 2019).

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Rajaji National Park and Tiger Reserve, Uttarakhand, India
State or province:Uttarakhand
Location of conflict:Dehradun
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Biodiversity conservation conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Establishment of reserves/national parks
Specific commodities:Land
Ecosystem Services
Tourism services
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The Rajaji National Park spreads over 820 km2, in three districts of Uttarakhand: Haridwar, Dehradun and Pauri Garhwal. In 1983, three wildlife sanctuaries in the area namely, Chilla, Motichur and Rajaji sanctuaries were merged into one.

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Project area:107,517
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:1610
Start of the conflict:01/01/1985
Relevant government actors:Uttarakhand Forest Department
National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:All Indian Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP).
Van Gujjar Kalyan Samiti (BGKS).
Van Panchayat Sangharsh Morcha.
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Van Gujjar
Forms of mobilization:Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Other socio-economic impacts
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Specific impacts on women, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
Proposal and development of alternatives:The Van Gujjars communities are demanding the recognition of the forest rights under FRA, upon the inhabited forest land. As pastoralist and nomadic group the community is asking for the recognition of the right of 'grazing (both settled and transhumant) and traditional seasonal resource access of nomadic or pastoralist communities' as sec. 3(1) d of the FRA.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The High Court order continues to not recognize the rights of the Van Gujjars giving the order of eviction both from core and buffer area. This denies the rights recognized under Forest Rights Act (FRA).
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Wildlife Protection Act, 2006 Amendment
[click to view]

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act, 2006
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[2] Rakesh Agrawal. 'No Rights to Live in the Forest'. Economic and Political Weekly. Jan 4, 2014.
[click to view]

[1] The Times of India. 'To save Rajaji, Gujjars relocation must'. Author: Seema Sharma.
[click to view]

[3] The Pioneer. 'Van Gujjars in Chillawali range to be rehabilitated'. 28 Nov, 2013.
[click to view]

[4] The Pioneer. Rehabilitation of Van Gujjars: A major challenge for park authorities. April 25, 2016.
[click to view]

[5] Down to Earth. 'No more bribes, Gujjars tell foresters.' Author: Amit Mitra. Jul 4, 2015.
[click to view]

Uttarakhand government making intense efforts for relocation ..

[7] The Time of India. 'Uttarakhand government making intense efforts for relocation of Van Gujjars from Rajaji Tiger Reserve'. Author: Seema Sharma. Sept. 24, 2017.
[click to view]

[8] The Time of India. 'HC slams Uttarakhand government over rehabilitation of Van Gujjars in CTR'. Author: Vineet Upadhyay. Aug. 17, 2018.
[click to view]

[9] The Times of India. 'Shifting of Van Gujjars from Rajaji Reserve begins'. Author: Seema Sharma. Nov. 26, 2017.
[click to view]

[10] The heroic role of women in the van Gujjar struggle.
[click to view]

[11] Down to Earth, "Uttarakhand Van Gujjars allege forest officials assaulted women; probe underway". Author: Sushmita. June 30, 2020.
[click to view]

[12] नुक़्ता-ए-नज़र. "उत्तराखंड के वन गूजरों पर क्यूँ हमलावर है वन विभाग ?" Author: नुक्ता-ए-नजर . June 20, 2020.
[click to view]

[13] Sabrangindia "Uttarakhand: Van Gujjars injured, property destroyed in clash with forest officials" June 19, 2020.
[click to view]

The Times of India. 'Van Gujjars protest demanding forest rights'. Dec. 29, 2018.
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[11] Forest Rights: Van Gujjars assaulted in custody, NHRC complaint filed
[click to view]

A leader of the Van Gujjars speaks about the attack by the forest department towards the Van Gujjars community.
[click to view]

Other documents

(PIL) No.54 OF 2016 Uttarakhand High Court order in the matter of the Protection of Forest Environment from the Forest Fire, mentioning the need to rehabilitate the Van Gujjars as dangerous for the wildlife.
[click to view]

Other comments:We are thankful for the information shared by Tarun Joshi from Van Panchayat Sangharsh Morcha.
Meta information
Contributor:Eleonora Fanari, ICTA (UAB). [email protected]
Last update19/02/2019
Conflict ID:3994
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