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Forced Eviction from Nagarhole National Park, Karnataka, India


Description:

The Nagarhole National Park, also known as Rajiv Gandhi National Park, was originally constituted as a game sanctuary in 1955, and later declared a National Park in 1983. In 2007, the entire Nagarhole National Park was declared as a Critical Tiger Habitat (CTH), for a total area of 1515.59 sq. km. As per the MEE report 2014 in the CTH there are about 33 tribal settlements and 96 settlements in the periphery.  There are 3 major tribal groups residing under the limits of the park, the PVTG group of Jenukurubas and Bettakurubaa, Yerawas, Soligas, and the sub-caste of Yerawas i.e.the Panjeri Yeravas and Pani-Yeravas. 

The park has been a contested area since its inception, and the tribals living within its limits have a very long history of struggle. A high number of tribal people mostly belonging to Jenu Kuruba and Yerawa tribes were evicted from the park just after the implementation of the Wildlife Protection Act (WLPA), 1972, the first wildlife law that bans every activity within the park, denying the local communities access and use of their customary forest rights. 

The movement started in 1984 under the banner of Bubakattu Krishekara Sangha (BKS). The creation of the movement was supported by the Coorg Organization for Rural Development (CORD), an NGO working for the welfare of the tribal communities. BKS is a movement born to save the forest, the water and the land, and against the hegemony of the forest department. Indeed at that time lots of forest landscape was converted into timber and eucalyptus plantation mostly used for commercialization, and highly planted in the western ghats [10].

They strongly condemn the forceful and massive displacement of the Adivasi from their ancestral land, taking up issues related to saving the forest while recognizing the rights of its people. In the eighties, they successfully protested against the TAJ group which was building up a 5 star hotel in the middle of the core area of the Nagarhole National Park [3]. The project was stopped in 1996. This long protest was followed by the arrest of numerous Adivasi, hunger strikes and numerous protests against the project. BKS strongly and successfully opposed World Bank funding of 60 crores for the establishment of eco-development committees, accusing the World Bank of proposing the project without the involvement of the Adivasi community. All the eco-development committees were stopped in 1998[3]. 

According to a Report compiled in 2014, a number of 3,418 families were displaced between the 70s/80s [1]. Today, the majority of these tribal communities displaced continue to be landless labourers.  A new round of relocation started from 1999/2000, just after the park was declared a Tiger Reserve. From those years till 2010, a number of about 487 tribal families were ‘voluntarily’ moved out of the Park [2]. Initially, 280 families were relocated in Nagapura and Sollepura between 2000 and 2007, for a compensation of 1 lakh rupees and 5 acres of land [2]. 

However, the rehabilitation site was not conforming to the needs of the tribal villages and drinking water and other basic facilities are still not available. In 2010, under the NTCA sponsored scheme of 10 lakh rupees compensation, a number of 147 families agreed to relocate to the new site of Shettalli-Lakkapatna and Hebala, in Hunsur taluk. However, all these relocations have been coerced by the forest department together with conservationists lobby, such as the Wildlife Conservation Society, that directly funds the relocation plan in these areas (Interview with local people). 

This, in violation of the already implemented Forest Rights Act, 2006, that recognizes the rights of local communities to use, access and habit the forest areas. In response to the forced relocation, the tribals have been repeatedly fighting against the relocation drive and the numerous violations of human rights. Since 2009, the 54 villages inhabiting the tiger reserve have started constituting the Forest Rights Committee (FRC) to submit the forest rights claims demanding the legal recognition of their forest rights. In Kodagu district the mapping of the areas have been supported by the CORD organization however not a single community rights (CRs) have been distributed till date. In Mysore District, in the HD Cote Taluk, 14 CRs were distributed in 2010/11, however, in the official documents, a map sketched on the back of the land title shows an area that corresponds to about 2 km of extension around their settlement. This minimal recognition of land to access their traditional community rights denies the Adivasi from accessing forest resources necessary for their livelihood (info from fieldwork). However, the villagers asserted that although titles distributed they continue facing harassment by the forest department. The local community continues asserting their rights even without any legal recognition. 

Because of this political action, many tribals have been criminalized. Indeed as per The Hindu report between 2001 and 2011, a number of 192 cases against tribal people have been registered [4]. In 2015 it was seen that many people had settled in tents in fringe areas of Nagarhole and were considered an ‘encroachment threat’[4]. 

In 2016, the tribal forum asked for rehabilitation measures [5]. In May 2017, after the NTCA order rejecting the implementation of FRA within the Tiger Core Areas [9], the Jenu Kuruba protested before the District Collector demanding the withdrawal of the unconstitutional order. 

In December 2018, in a bid to draw the attention of the State government towards their long-pending demands, Adivasi of Mysuru district went into an indefinite dharna in Kakanakote forest of H.D. Kote taluk. As part of their demands, the agitating tribals asked for 12 hamlets to be declared as revenue villages; to give better education facilities for tribal children, and release funding to organize the self-help group  (SHG) for women [8]. In total there are 35 villages that come from Kakanakote to H D Kote. The 12 villages were never declared as revenue villages.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Forced Eviction from Nagarhole National Park, Karnataka, India
Country:India
State or province:Karnataka
Location of conflict:Mysore and Kodhaku
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
Biological resources
Tourism services
Timber
Eucalyptus

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The Nagarhole National Park, also known as Rajiv Gandhi National Park, is situated between the two districts: Mysore – HT Cote and Hunsur taluk - and Kodagu – Virajpeet Taluk-, in the state of Karnataka. It was originally constituted into a game sanctuary in the year 1955 covering an area of 130 sq.km, and subsequently was extended over an area of 643 sq km in 1983, in order to include the adjoining areas of Mysore district and thereby was declared as a National Park . At that time the core was about 192 sq km and the buffer was 451.39 sq km out of which 110 sq km were demarcated as the tourism zone.

The National Park includes 7 ranges, i.e. D.B. Kuppe, Antharasante, Veeranahosalli, Kalahaolla, Nagarhole, Metikuppe and Achanekowr. This park was declared the 37th Project Tiger Reserve in 1999, and it is part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. The Western Ghats Nilgiri Sub-Cluster of 6,000 km2 (2,300 sq mi), including all of Nagarhole National Park, is under consideration by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for selection as a World Heritage Site.

In 2007, the entire Nagarhole National Park was declared as a Critical Tiger Habitat, adjoined with the Bandipur National Park, which included a total area of 1515.59 sq. km. A buffer and a fringe area of the park was also declared, extending the entire park to 1205.76 Sq.Km., with a core of 643.35 sq km and a buffer of 562.41 sq. km.

Project area:120,500
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:23,000
Start of the conflict:01/01/1984
Relevant government actors:Karnataka Forest Department.
National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)
International and Finance InstitutionsThe World Bank (ESCAMP ,WB) from United States of America
Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) from United States of America
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Coorg Organization for Rural Development (CORD), https://www.siemenpuu.org/en/node/121.
Bubakattu Krishekara Sangha (BKS).
Nisarga Foundation

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
Social movements
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Jenu Kuruba; Yerawa.
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Development of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Refusal of compensation

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Food insecurity (crop damage)
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity)
Health ImpactsVisible: Malnutrition
Potential: Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in violence and crime, Militarization and increased police presence, Specific impacts on women, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures

Outcome

Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Criminalization of activists
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Migration/displacement
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
Development of alternatives:The tribals living in the area are fighting for the recognition of the Forest Rights Act to ensure the management of the natural resources in their forest areas. They are also asserting their rights and developing coffee plantation and other plantation in their area for their own development.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The clampdown of a very strong movement is resulting in a loss of hope by the tribals, which lastly have been deciding to leave their land and get the compensation package offered. However many are still resisting within the forest protected area.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Wildlife Protection Act, 2006 Amendment
http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/files/THE-20WILD-20LIFE.pdf

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act, 2006
http://extwprlegs1.fao.org/docs/pdf/ind77867.pdf

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

[1] Muzaffar Azadi (2014), Executive Summary of the Report “On the Tribal Issueof Rajiv Gandhi (Nagarhole) National Park. Report submitted to Honourable Court Committee on the Tribal Issues of Rajiv Gandhi National Park.

Ajay Desai. 2010. Report on the progress of Village Relocation Nagarahole and Mudumalai Tiger Reserves. For the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
http://www.wildlifefirst.info/pdfs/pa_ifa/4_FINAL_REPORT.pdf

Ananda Siddhartha 2013. Forest Governance and the Forest Rights Act in Nagarhole, South India. Pipal Tree
http://scienzepolitiche.unical.it/bacheca/archivio/materiale/1157/DIRITTO%20COMPARATO%20DEI%20BENI%20COMUNI/ECADIM-FOREST%20GOVERNANCE%20INDIA.pdf

Sanghamitra Mahanty (2002) NGOs, Agencies and Donors in Participatory Conservation: Tales from Nagarahole Author(s): Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 37, No. 36 (Sep. 7-13, 2002), pp. 3757-3765

[7] Tribal forum seeks rehabilitation measures in Karnataka State Budget. Author: R. Krishnna Kumar. Jan. 23, 2016.
https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/Tribal-forum-seeks-rehabilitation-measures-in-Karnataka-State-Budget/article14015789.ece

[2] The Hindu. Tribal relocation proves tricky, Author: K. Jeevan Chinnappa. Jan. 6, 2013
https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/tribal-relocation-proves-tricky/article4277189.ece

The Hindu. Concern over plan to rehabilitate tribal families displaced from Nagarahole. Author: R. Krishna Kumar.
https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/concern-over-plan-to-rehabilitate-tribal-families-displaced-from-nagarahole/article19596539.ece

[3] Equations, 1998, Recent Threats to Rajiv Gandhi National Park, in Nagarholem Karnataka, India: Taj Groups of Hotels and others.
https://www.equitabletourism.org/files/fileDocuments982_uid15.pdf

Frontline. Eviction Fear, in Frontline. Author: Vikhar Ahmed Sayeed. Feb 13, 2010.
https://frontline.thehindu.com/other/article30179369.ece

[6] Indian Express. Encroachment Threat Again at Nagarhole National Park. Meera Bhardwaj. June 3, 2015.
http://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/bengaluru/2015/jun/03/Encroachment-Threat-Again-at-Nagarhole-National-Park-750250.html

[8] The Hindu. 'Adivasis on Dharna in HD Kote, demanding rehabilitation'. Dec 11, 2018.
https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/adivasis-on-dharna-in-hd-kote-demanding-rehabilitation/article25720521.ece

[9] The Hidnu 'Order staying FRA in tiger reserves violates tribal rights: Brinda', April 13, 2017.
https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/order-staying-fra-in-tiger-reserves-violates-tribal-rights-brinda/article17994085.ece

[10] The Print "Study traces how the British ruined Western Ghats, one of India’s most unique ecosystems" Author: Sandhya Ramesh. Nov. 9, 2018.
https://theprint.in/science/study-traces-how-the-british-ruined-western-ghats-one-of-indias-most-unique-ecosystems/147041/

[4] The Hindu. ‘Trespassing’, collecting honey among charges against Nagarahole tribal people'. September 3, 2014. Author: Divya Gandhi.
https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/trespassing-collecting-honey-among-charges-against-nagarahole-tribal-people/article6376823.ece

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

The South Indian Adivasi Experience in the Nagar Hole National Park and the Muthanga Wild Life Sanctuary Speech at the Vth World Parks Congress, Durban September 2003.
http://www.forestpeoples.org/en/topics/rights-land-natural-resources/publication/2010/south-indian-adivasi-experience-nagar-hole-nat

Other comments:We are thankful for the information shared by Vijay Singh Ronald David of Coorg Organization for Rural Development (CORD), and Nanjundaiah of Nisarga Foundation.

Meta information

Contributor:Eleonora Fanari, ICTA (UAB).
Last update18/01/2019

Images

 

Nagarhole National Park

Banner at the entry of Nagarhole National Park. Credit: Eleonora Fanari

Articles on struggle and resistance

Subramani, a leader of the Bubakattu Krishekara Sangha (BKS), relocated in Hebala site, shows a book with all the articles about their struggle in the 80' and '90. Credit: Eleonora Fanari.

Nagapura II relocated place

A relocated families living in a 10msq in the Nagapura II relocated site. They have been left alone, without ensuring the sustainability of the community. Today the majority of the people work as labours in the coffee farm. Credit: Eleonora Fanari.