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Friday, March 22, 2013

Van gujjars demand ST status, Assembly seat

Dehradun, March 21
Van gujjars have sought an Assembly constituency reserved for the community in the state.

At a convention of van gujjars held at the Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra (RLEK), Dehradun, the van gujjars unanimously put forward their demand for reserving an Assembly seat for the community. They also sought the Scheduled Tribes status for the community even while accusing the state Forest Department of harassing them repeatedly.

“In the states of J&K and Himachal Pradesh, the van gujjars enjoy the status of the Scheduled Tribe, but in Uttarakhand instead of giving the ST status, the state government is harassing van gujjars. We demand that the process of declaring van gujjars as the Scheduled Tribe should be initiated immediately and like Jammu and Kashmir, a seat in the Assembly should also be reserved for our community,” said Mohammad Yusuf, a van gujjar residing in the Rajaji National Park.

Aklobibi, a woman representative of the tribe, said, “When our men die, forest officials harass women by saying that the land was given to your husband and now you have no claim on it. We face oppression at the most troubled time in our lives.”

Other speakers asked the Uttarakhand Government to fulfil its promises made in the election manifesto and follow the directions of the National Human Rights Commission treating them under the Scheduled Tribe and Other Forest Dwellers Act, 2006. They also demanded a check on the forcible eviction of those van gujjars who do not wish to leave the forest.

Presiding over the meeting, Padmashri Avdhash Kaushal, chairperson, RLEK said, "I have brought to the notice of Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna in the presence of Yashpal Arya, state president of the Congress that the government should immediately organize a function in Dehradun and redress the concerns of van gujjars".

He said the distribution of land pattas in the joint names of husband and wife to the van gujjars of Gaidikhatta, Pathri and Bibiwala must be done without delay.

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