A question of rights

A question of rights on May 8, 1999, the Rural Litigation & Entitlement Kendra ( rlek ), a Dehradun-based non-governmental organisation ( ngo), moved an application with the National Human Rights Commission ( nhrc), saying that the Uttar Pradesh ( up ) government is not complying with nhrc 's orders which had directed the up government not to violate the human rights of Van Gujjars settled inside the proposed Rajaji National Park, Dehradun, up . Avdhesh Kaushal, chairperson, rlek, says: "We have requested the Commission to intervene on behalf of the hapless Van Gujjars and ask the state government to comply with the orders and also desist from illegally notifying this areas as a national park.'

The Commission had ordered forest officials not to coerce Van Gujjars to move out of their habitation until their rights were legally determined in accordance with law. However, rlek alleges that Sunil Kumar Dubey, director of the proposed park, has chosen to blatantly disregard the directions of the nhrc . He continues to pressurise and threaten the Van Gujjars and misinform the public about the court's order, says rlek .

The Kendra says that with a view to nullify the order of the Commission and to throw out nearly 1,390 Van Gujjars from the proposed park, the up government is contemplating making changes in the notification declaring the area as a National Park. The government is clearing the forest land, so that the Van Gujjars may be forcibly settled there.

According to nhrc 's order, Van Gujjars cannot be forced to leave their forest habitat by the proposed park authorities to settle outside. Moreover, the Commission had directed the forest authorities not to deny grazing rights to around 11,000 heads of cattle. The existing permits were granted for about 4,300 heads of cattle.

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