On July 3rd, 2008, the communities surrounding the Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary observed a bandh

from 6 am to 5 pm in protest against the illegal declaration of the sanctuary as a "critical tiger habitat" and the harassment and intimidation of the people of the area. They also condemned the role of organisations like BNHS and WWF-India. More than 1000 people sat on a one day hunger strike in Masanagudi, the town at
the entrance of the sanctuary.

The protesters raised the following issues:

1. Immediate cancellation of the "critical tiger habitat" notification, which was made in total violation of the Wild Life (Protection) Act and the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act;
2. A halt to all moves to declare the Mudumalai wildlife sanctuary as a tiger reserve in violation of the law and without any dialogue or consultation with the local communities;
3. Condemning the restrictions on collection of stones and housing material and the harassment of farmers in the area by the Forest Department;
4. Condemning the ban on collection of minor forest produce;
5. Condemning the ban on grazing and on collection of firewood;
6. Condemning the ban on vehicular traffic after 8 pm;
7. Condemning the bar on provision of basic amenities like electricity in the area;
8. Immediate implementation of the Forest Rights Act;
9. An immediate reply to the issues raised by the Masanagudi panchayat in its letter dated 19th March [see below], where it had specifically pointed out the violations of the Wild Life (Protection) Act and the Forest Rights Act;
10. Criminal prosecution of the officials responsible for violating the Forest RIghts Act and the Wild Life Act by issuing these illegal orders and illegally notifying the sanctuary as a critical tiger habitat.

The protesters also condemned the role of the Bombay Natural History Society and WWF-India. These groups claim to be "environmental organisations" but have not lifted a finger against the land mafia and corrupt forest officials, while instead spreading propaganda blaming local communities for forest destruction and filing court cases to deny the rights of forest communities.  These court cases should be withdrawn and such anti-people propaganda halted, failing which these organisations should leave the area.

If the demands are not met by July 15th, the people will blockade the roads in the area and undertake further actions to protest these violations of their fundamental rights.

By admin