The Kanha Tiger Reserve and National Park, extending to a total area of 2051.79 sq km including a critical tiger habitat (core) area of 917.43, represents one of the largest national park in the state of Madhya Pradesh, central India. It was notified as a National Park in 1955, and later acquired the status of Tiger reserve in 1973-74. Almost 80 per cent of the total human population living within and around the park is considered to be tribal and the majority belongs to the semi-nomadic tribe of Baiga and Gond, who have lived in this area since centuries.
At the time of being notified as a Tiger Reserve in the mid-seventies, a number of 24 villages (around 650 families) were displaced outside the boundaries of the TR. These villages were reportedly relocated voluntarily. However, it was later found out that there was a lot of discontent by the villagers who were indeed forcefully relocated outside their area .
After this first round of relocation, the new pressure started in 2010, just after the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) received the funding for relocation. About 450 families were evicted in June 2014. Also in this case, while the state government claims this move to be voluntary, many tribals have opposed it [2, 3]. Most people were unaware of their rights under the Forest Rights Act (FRA). According to a Reporter by French TV channel Canal Plus visiting the area in 2014, more than 22,000 people were evicted from Kanha with no support or backing . As per a Right to information Report filed on 11/12/2017 a number of 34 villages have been relocated, corresponding to a number of 1870 families.
According to a report of 2016 published in the Business Standard, tribals have not been allowed to enter the forest and were beaten if they were seen doing so . By now, according to the MEE Report 2014, there are only 3 villages living inside the core area, Linga, Jholar and Sukudi, which continue to resist and they are planned to be relocated (MEE, 2014).
The eviction drive has been condemned by many activists and environmentalists at the national and International level. Survival International, the international lead organization in the protection of indigenous rights have declared that ‘the so-called ‘conservationists continue to destroy the tribal people as it has for generations’. Moreover, an article on REDD-Monitor website has unveiled the scam of WWF, which has provided infrastructural support, training and equipment for staff in Kanha Tiger Reserve . A 2015 documentary produced by French TV channel Canal Plus includes an interview with Yash Shethia, Associate Director of WWF-India’s Species and Landscapes Programme about Kanha National Park. Shethia was asked whether he, as a representative of WWF, condemned the evictions. “I would not put it like that”, Shethia replied. “But we don’t encourage them.” WWF did not condemn the evictions .
Today the tribal evicted from the Kanha TR are seriously facing a troubled life and got impoverished. “I have been reduced to begging. I was evicted from the Kanha National Park and now I am trapped in a barren land; struggling under dire conditions,” laments a member of the tribe .
In March 2018, more than 300 indigenous Baiga people of Kanha National Park, united together with the evicted people from Achanakmar TR, came out to protest against the eviction move .
Another article in Microfinance Monitor also declared that Sukhdev, a Baiga man interviewed by Survival International declaring his position to not leave the forest, he was mysteriously killed in the forest .
According to a Kalpavriksh 2013 Report , the process of claiming forest rights have started before the new wave of relocation. The report mentions that 16 common forest resource rights have been claimed and recognized in the core of Kanha tiger reserve; and 131 claimed and recognized from the buffer. However there is no further information on it, and the process seems to be uncertain.