Barnawapara Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 1976, in the state of Chhattisgarh. It is inhabited by Kondhs, Saura and Binjhwar tribes among others. In 2010 the Chhattisgarh government planned to relocate the 25 villages coming under the sanctuary; three villages — Rampur, Latadadar and Nawapara —were marked for the first round. To provide housing, agricultural land and other basic amenities, Rs 10 lakh was to be spent on each family. The total amount needed for this was Rs 13.5 crore . Because the Sanctuary has not been notified as a Tiger Reserve, the economic resources available for the relocation activities have been taken both from the central government and from the CAMPA funds (Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority), a scheme which is supposed to be used for reforestation activities. To carry on the relocation, the forest department received Rs 5.40 crore from Central Assistance and Rs 29.83 crore from CAMPA fund (Information given by Minister of Forest in Chhattisgarh Assembly on 17th July 2013).
Till date, only the 3 mentioned villages have been relocated - Rampur, Latadadar and Nawapara, for a total of 374 families (Fanari, 2019). According to the Minister of Forest the beneficiary of the relocation project have received Rs 50.000 (700 $), as cash incentive, a house of 250 sqm, on a plot of 500 sqm, access to basic services like road, school, anganwadi (rural child care centre), community centre, electricity, public toilet and drinking water (info from State Assembly Report, 15th to 19th July 2013). However, as per the information shared in a fact-finding report of July 2018, basic necessities like water, livelihood cards, etc are not available to the villagers . Despite several applications submitted to the forest department, the villagers did not receive any assistance and they now wish to return to their native village in Rampur . As per the information shared by Devendra Bagel, a convener of Dalit Adivasi Manch, no written and informed consent was taken by the forest department for the relocation. “The families got rehabilitated without having a clear understanding of their forest rights under the Forest Rights Act, and no official meeting was held at the Gram Sabha level (committee of elders); hence the local people got pressurized to leave their place” argued Devendra Bagel in a meeting hold in Delhi on November 11, 2017. According to him the people who moved out were under unbearable pressure, as for instance the denied access to any natural resource, the denial of building up any roads, houses and any other basic public services which were important for the community.
In 2017, first in October and then in November, the 22 villages remaining within the Barnawapara sanctuary decided to oppose the relocation plan. A wave of protests overran the sanctuary. In a joint statement issued by the Dalit Adivasi Manch, the forest dwellers commented that community forest rights (CFR) haven’t been settled yet in these forest villages. “How can the forest department ask tribals to move out when they are seeking community forest rights. Their rights to continue their indigenous way of life should be first recognized” [4,5]. According to the information shared by Devendra Bagel from Dalit Adivasis Manch, the 22 villages inhabiting the WLS have submitted their claims on community forest resource rights (CFRs); however these rights have not yet been settled (info from FRA in PA meeting, November 2017, Delhi).
On 15 January 2018 the Forest Department officials entered the reoccupied Rampur village and physically assaulted members of tribal families, harassed women, and destroyed the devsthal (sacred site), with the aim to forcefully evict them. Due to incomplete relocation package and the infertile land given to them during the relocation process, around 10 families refused to relocate and therefore came back to Rampur village, they have been constantly pressured by the forest officials to move out. The police has been complicit with the Forest Department in preventing the submission of a First Information Report by the forest dwellers, against the atrocities and the forceful eviction carried on by the forest rangers. In contrast, one of the villagers, Rajkumar, was assaulted and arrested under a counter-first information report at the behest of one of the accused forest rangers . After this, the community members have been protesting for 10 days demanding the release of Rajkumar, and asking for action against the forest and police officials responsible for the committed atrocities .
Moreover, just at the fringe of the Barnawapara forest, a Vedanta gold mining project got proposed in 2016, which was threatening the life of the local communities living in this area. As for a 2017 Business Line report, the Vedanta mine, with an estimated reserve of 2,700 kg of gold metal, would have expanded to an area of 608 hectares [8.9]. Thanks to the local struggle of 24 villages around Sonakhan area, which would have been affected by the gold mining, the mining lease has for now been suspended. The local struggle has been supported by the state government, activists and environmentalists including the District forest Officers . (See less)