NHRC seeks action taken report from Odisha regarding destruction of crops and burning down of tribal huts

Acting on a complaint received from Indigenous Rights Advocacy Centre (IRAC), the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked the District Magistrate and the Superintendent of Police of Nabarangpur district in Odisha to submit action taken report (ATR) regarding the destruction of crops and burning down of tribal huts by members of Vana Surakshya Samiti (forest protection committee). The authorities have been asked to submit ATR within four weeks.

On August 13, 2022, members of the Vana Surakshya Samiti (VSS) torched several huts and destroyed vast area of maize fields at Kapsabhata, Sariabhata and Laktipokhona villages under Burja Gram Panchayat under Umerkote Block in Nabarangpur district in order to evict the tribals who belong to the Kondh tribe. The tribals have been farming there for decades but they have been denied land titles under the Forest Right Act. The Vana Surakshya Samiti members who are engaged by the forest department accused the tribals of encroaching forest land.

In its complaint dated August 15, IRAC stated that since VSS members are engaged by the state government for the conservation and protection of forests, the State has a responsibility for human rights violations committed by them. IRAC sought the immediate intervention of the NHRC to direct the State government of Odisha to order a judicial inquiry into the incident; registration of FIR against accused VSS members under the relevant sections of the IPC and the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989; to provide suitable compensation to the affected tribal families whose maize plantations have been damaged/destroyed and houses burnt down; to provide housing under Prime Minister Awas Yojana to all affected tribal families whose houses have been burnt/destroyed; and to grant land patta under the Forest Rights Act to the affected Kondh tribal families without further delay.