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Sariska Tiger Reserver and contentious relocation plan, Rajasthan, India


In 2005 the Sariska Tiger Reserve was declared having 'No tigers' which was gruesome news of the failure of project tiger after the expenditure of a huge exchequer throughout 50 years of conservation efforts; the authorities put the blame on the traditional forest-dwelling communities, framing them as helpers and associates of poachers.  The community is dominated by the Gujjars (approx. 86%), and other communities include Meena (7.6%), Meo (3.2%), Bawaria (1.7%) and others [1].

The enforcement of the tiger projects and the development of new environmental regulations were also partially due to this, which caused the set-up of new guidelines and the demarcation of ‘inviolate area’ for the breeding and viable population of tigers. In compliance with that, the Critical Tiger Habitat (CTH) was notified in Sariska TR on 28 December 2007, recognising a space of 881.1124 sq km.

In 2008 the NTCA drew a relocation plan to move around 750 villages located in the 28 Tiger Reserves in the country, that also included 29 villages located within the CTH area of the Sariska TR. All this happened when the Forest Rights Act (FRA) came into existence, which recognized the rights of the forest dwellers in their area, and determined rules for the establishment of inviolate zones and modification of rights for environmental purposes [1,2]

The forest dwellers of the Sariska TR immediately reacted and protested against the relocation plan, which was in violation both of the FRA rules and the Wildlife Amendment Act (2006) [2,3] ; the ‘voluntary relocation’ was indeed declared illegal, as carried on without the ‘prior informed consent’ of the Gram Sabha, which represents a precondition for the relocation to be legal. For the first phase of relocation were identified a number of 11 villages, vis. Kankwari, Haripura, Bhagani, Dabali, Deori, Kraska, Kundalka, Raikamala, Sukola, Umari and Lilunda. The first completely relocated village was Bhagani whose all 21 families were relocated to the new site at Bardod Roondh in 2008. Village Umri was shifted to Majupur reserved forest in 2011 and village Rotkyala was shifted in 2012-13. Relocation of Kankwari, Devri, Dabli, Sukola, Kraska and Haripura is in process. As per a Lokh Sabha question No 3405 on date 12/07/2019 a number of 650 families have been relocated from the core area. 

Since its inception in 1917-18, when the Sariska was declared as a reserved forest, it has been hard for the community to assert their forest rights, such as grazing, cultivation and use of forest resources. Things got worse after the legal denial of these rights under the Indian Forest Act, 1927 [5]. 

New and stronger tensions arise just after the relocation plan for the tiger reserve was publicly disclosed. Since 2008 the communities have been protesting against the relocation plan, both, because they had not agreed upon the compensation package being offered [7],  as well as because they do not consider their presence in the forest as harmful for the environment; on the contrary, the villagers think their presence prevents illegal activities like poaching or wood cutting by outsiders [9]. 

A case study on Sariska highlights different points of discordance between the two parties, such as the unequal distribution of tourism benefits and the lack of locals' involvement in tourism and development, etc. [1]. Moreover another report highlights how the government has failed to take into consideration the role of the neighbouring urban centres and peripheral villages that are more responsible for the degradation of the habitat as compared to these traditional forest dwellers [9]. Indeed, as reported by Torri (2011) when ‘sociopolitical, demographic and other pressures shorten the cycles land use and regeneration, traditional land management systems become unsustainable and produce a degradation of local biodiversity’. However this seems to not be taken into consideration by the Director of project tiger in Sariska administration which explicitly refers to the “displacement not only appropriate but also unavoidable”[10]. 

The resistance of the local communities against this form of conservation has been rising up during the last decade. On May 15th, 2012, just two months after the relocation of 350 people from the Umri village [2], hundreds of people blocked the main entrance of the Sariska tiger sanctuary. In March 2013, 2,500 villagers blocked again, for the third time, the main entrance of the Sariska tiger sanctuary impeding the entry of the tourists. At that time 50 mahanpanchayat gathered against the alleged cheating by the district administration. “We had called off the agitation in May last year when the district administration agreed on some of our demands including lifting ban on the registry of land, construction of a concrete road and earmarking a grazing area. But now they have backtracked on the promise citing the Supreme Court orders,” said Jaikishan Gujjar, a villager [4].

Again in a protest, a large number of villagers were sitting on Dharna between 21st and 27th of May 2018 against the non-implementation of FRA and various restrictions they have been facing. The protesters stressed the fact that the state government should give the right to panchayats to issue lease deeds of land in villages falling under Sariska where the ban of the Forest Rights Act 2006 was imposed. It was demanded that the state government should pay compensation to the villagers if their crop is damaged by wild animals [8,9]. Moreover, the villagers also alleged that the forest department is responsible for violence and many atrocities and that false criminal cases have been registered upon the locals causing serious damages to the youth involved. “We would intensify our protest if our demands are not met. The forest department is torturing villagers and registering false cases against them, as a result, the future of many youngsters will be ruined” commented Bhoopat Singh, one of the protesters [7].

While from one side the government continues to deny the forest rights to the locals, on the other side the locals continue to hold on refusing the relocation package imposed on them. Although the majority of villagers are against the relocation, a study revealed as well the will of some villages to move out because of the tough conditions inside Sariska TR. Indeed no school or health facilities are available in the area, not communication facilities and no other social services that for the forest department would be considered illegal as against the plan of relocation [1]. 

Basic Data

Name of conflict: Sariska Tiger Reserver and contentious relocation plan, Rajasthan, India
State or province:Rajasthan
Location of conflict:Alwar
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
Ecosystem Services

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The Sariska Tiger Reserve is situated in the Alwar district of Rajasthan state in India. After independence the 456 sq. km. of forest area in Sariska was declared as a wildlife Reserve on 7th November 1955 under the Rajasthan Wild Animals and Birds Protection Act, 1951. At that time no human settlement was displaced from the area. Later on the status of the area upgraded to Wildlife Sanctuary on 18 September, 1958 under the section 5 of the Wild Animals and Birds Protection act, 1951. The status of WLS was again ratified under section 66(4) of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. In 1978 the Sariska forest was notified as India’s 11th Tiger reserve encompassing a core area of 866 sq. km declared under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, 2006 amendment. Thereafter on 27th August 1982 400.14 sq. Km area of the reserve was notified as National Park under section 35 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

Throughout the years its limits have been expanded and on 28th December 2007 a size equal to 881.11 sq km was notified as a core area of the STR; while the buffer area of the Sariska Tiger Reserve covers 245.72 sqkm forest land and 86.50 sq km of revenue land, for a total of about 2584 sqkm. Traditionally the forest area is inhabited by 175 villages situated in the tiger reserve and more than 200 villages in the surrounding.

Project area:121,334.2
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:3,000
Start of the conflict:01/01/2008
Relevant government actors:National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)
Rajasthan Forest Department
International and Finance InstitutionsWorld Wildlife Fund (WWF) from Switzerland
International Finance Corporation (of World Bank) (IFC)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:KRAPAVIS (Krishi Avam Paristhitiki Vikas Sansthan)

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Landless peasants
Social movements
Gujjars, Meenas traditional groups
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Refusal of compensation


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Food insecurity (crop damage)
Potential: Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity)
Health ImpactsPotential: Malnutrition
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in violence and crime, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Other socio-economic impacts
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Land demarcation
Strengthening of participation
Development of alternatives:The locals are asking for the recognition of the Forest Rights Act (FRA), and the recognition of co-existence within the Forest Reserved area instead of a relocation package as measure to protect the environment.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The people continue to feel the pressure of relocation. Their demands for better compensation have not been heard yet, and protest continue to arise fro the Tiger Reserve.

Sources & Materials

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

Wildlife Protection Act (WLPA), Amendment 2006

The Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers (recognition of forest rights) Act, 2006

NTCA Guidelines for Relocation from Critical Tiger Habitat

The Indian Forest Act, 1927

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

[1] Viren Lobo (2016) 'Deliberate Deprivation of Forest Resource Rights and Forced Eviction of Indigenous Communities Violation of FRA, 2006 in Sariska Tiger Reserve, Alwar, Rajasthan', a Report by Institute for Ecology and Livelihood Action and Krishi Avam Paristhitiki Vikas Sansthan(KRAPAVIS)


[6] Purva Jain, Haroon Sajjad, 'Household dependency on forest resources in the Sariska Tiger Reserve (STR), India: Implications for management', Journal of Sustainable Forestry, 30 Nov. 2015

[10] Torri M. Costanza (2011) Conservation, Relocation and the Social Consequences of Conservation Policies in Protected Areas: Case Study of the Sariska Tiger Reserve, India. Conservation and Society, 9(1): 54-64, 2011.

Ghazala Shahabuddin et al., 2007. Creation of Inviolate Space: lives, livelihood and conflict in Sariska Tiger Reserve. Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 42, No. 20 (May 19-25, 2007), pp. 1855-1862'Inviolate_Space'_Lives_Livelihoods_and_Conflict_in_Sariska_Tiger_Reserve

[3] ZeeNews, 'Sariska villages protest relocation', May 16, 2012

[8] Times of India, 'No progress in relocation of villages in core, buffer areas of Sariska Tiger Reserve', Author: Rajendra Sharma, May 21, 2018

[7] Times of India 'Villagers intensify stir, stop tourists from entering Sariska Tiger Reserve', May 24. 2018

[4] Times of India, 'Sariska villages block tourist entry ', Author: Rajendra Sharma, March 1, 2013

[2] BBC (2012) 'India village in Rajasthan to relocate to protect tiger'.

[9] Times of India 'Rajasthan government mulls to hike compensation for shifting villages from tiger reserve' Author: Joychen Joseph, April 15, 2018

Other documents

Letter from Sariska forest dwellers to MoEF Letter to Jual Oram Tribal Minister on violations of the provisions of FRA in relation to forest dwellers of Sariska (10/05/2017).

Meta information

Contributor:Eleonora Fanari, ICTA (UAB)
Last update24/03/2019



Pastoralist communities of Sariska


Village Umari in Sariska

This village has now been relocated