The Government of Himachal Pradesh has started a campaign of demolishing houses of the landless and poor who reside in the forest Land - mostly common land of the villages which was given to the forest for planting trees. Forest department (FD) a tool of the colonial past and enslavement, has claimed its right over the people’s common land and behaves in the most dictatorial and fascist way to oppress, harass and even rape poor innocent farmers, who depend for their livelihoods on the forests, like grazing, fodder and fuel, and collection of herbs and tubers for food.
The people of Himachal have been demonstrating and opposing the Government’s decision since January 2013, but the Government has not relented. Activists of Lok Raj Sangathan have given a call to the people not to let the authorities demolish houses and those whose houses have been demolished to rebuild new hutments and not to vacate the plots. There has been a relay hunger strike for the last 10 days - starting from 30th March to 11th of April, and it has been decided to continue the relay hunger strike till the demolition of the houses is stopped. People are being organised under the Village Forest Rights Committee to defend their right of living in the forest area (generally a common Land). Village Committees have been built to oppose the repression and the policies of the Himachal Pradesh Government and the popular movement is picking up all over the state.
The Forest Department is involved with the forest mafia who sell timber and medicinal plants illegally, while the poor are being denied access to the forest. The Forest Department behaves like an armed gang of robbers.
The government campaign has been focused to demolish only small dwellings of the poor, while it has not touched the real encroachers who have built hotels and real estate business. It has handed over thousands of hectare of land to the projects and industrialists. This is being done under the pretext of the judgment of the High Court. The Government has been giving the excuse that it is helpless in the face of the High Court orders. The Government has failed to file a writ petition in High Court as it is the violation of the Forests Rights of the people, which clearly has provisions that no house may be demolished or residents evicted.
The Government has not asked the High Court to consider even this most important right of the people as it fears that its illegal transfer of the land to the projects will be hampered and the major source of corruption by the politicians in Himachal Pradesh will be dried up. People of Himachal Pradesh are the victims of the conspiracies of the multinationals and monopolies which with the support of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, are handing over the precious natural resources and ruining the environment. The big hydel projects are hampering the flow of the rivers through the mountains. This will affect the flow of rivers in Himachal and the rest of North India. The water being diverted to the big hydel projects is causing irreparable damage to the water bodies and resources. While the livelihoods of the people are being destroyed, the big monopolies are being offered subsidies and other incentives like lease of land for the lowest price in the country.