Rights Of Van Gujjars:
The Uttarakhand High Court has reprimanded the State government for stopping some Van Gujjar families on the way to Govind Pashu Vihar National Park and said their right to life is being violated by the authorities.
- The Van Gujjars pursue seasonal migration from the Terai-Bhabar and Siwalik region of Uttarakhand to the higher bugyals in the Western Himalayas in summer and vice versa in winter.
- This phenomenon of transhumance pursued by the community is among the few climate-adaptive and resilience strategies that ensures their pastoral livelihood remains viable and sustainable.
- The Van Gujjars possess legitimate permits across their summer (Govind Pashu Vihar National Park) and winter homesteads.
- However, they are not permitted by authorities to enter the Park.
Rights of Pastoralists under Forests Rights Act 2006:
- It has ensured that even pastoralists possess rights to access grazing pastures in lieu of the Community Forest Resource right they are eligible for.
- Section 2 (a) prescribes for the rights of pastoral communities on customary common forest land within the traditional or customary boundaries of a village.
- It also prescribes the seasonal use of a landscape in the case of pastoral communities, including in unclassed forests, reserve forests, un-demarcated forests, deemed forests, protected forests, sanctuaries, and national parks.
High Court’s Order:
- Upholds the right of Van Gujjars to migrate to their summer homesteads in the bugyals (Himalayan alpine meadows) located within the Govind Pashu Vihar National Park.
- The court relied on Article 21 (Protection of Life and Personal Liberty) of the constitution.
About Van Gujjars:
- Van Gujjars are the forest-dwelling nomadic community inhabiting the foothills of the Himalayan States such as Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.
- Usually, they migrate to the bugyals (grasslands) located in the upper Himalayas with their buffaloes and return only at the end of monsoons to their makeshift huts, deras, in the foothills.
- They traditionally practice buffalo husbandry; a family owns up to 25 heads of buffaloes. They rely on buffaloes for milk, which gets them a good price in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh markets.