By Lobsang Wangyal
MCLEOD GANJ, India, 29 August 2012
As many as 210 Tibetan families will be evicted from their homes in McLeod Ganj by end of March next year, as a court has ruled that they have been encroaching on forest land.
A division bench of Himachal Pradesh High Court has issued directions for the eviction of encroachers on forest land. No appeals will be heard because it is outside the jurisdiction of the civil court.
The bench passed this order after a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed by Pawan Kumar, an Indian residing in Rewalsar (Tso Pema) wherein he alleged that Tibetan refugees had encroached on thousands of bighas (three bighas equal an acre) of forest land in Kullu, Mandi and Kangra districts, and other parts of the state.
He also charged that the state functionaries had allowed them to make use of the forest for other purposes without getting prior permission from the Central Government.
The eviction orders have been passed under the Himachal Pradesh Public Premises (Rent Recovery and Eviction) Act, 1971.
There are 1,090 cases of the encroachment on forest land. This was acknowledged (or “challaned”) in the court of District Forest Officer cum Collector under the aforesaid Act.
Eviction orders have been passed or already been decided in at least 1,058 cases.
The court further said in those cases where appeals had not been filed, eviction would be executed and possession would be taken over. In those cases where appeals had been filed the appellate authority should dispose of the appeals by 31 October 2012 at the latest.
The court directed the Principal Secretary, Forest, to deploy adequate staff at the Dharamshala division for the purpose of dealing with these cases. The court bench also directed revenue courts to dispose of the encroachment cases pending before them by 31 March 2013.
The court also said that as far as the 210 cases of encroachment of Tibetans are concerned, they shall be disposed of by 31 March 2013.
Tibetan Settlement Officer of Dharamshala Sonam Dorjee says that he has no information about who would be served notices. However, he feels that most of these cases would be on Tipa road and Bhagsu road.
There are about 90,000 Tibetan refugees living in India; the majority of them are in 21 agricultural settlements scattered in different states. In Kangra district, there are 16,000 Tibetans, of which about 5,000 live in McLeod Ganj.
According to a source most of the Tibetans live in McLeod Ganj on land leased by the state government.
McLeod Ganj became the home of the Dalai Lama and many Tibetans in 1960 after they were exiled from their Tibetan homeland in 1959. The Dalai Lama was first accommodated in Mussoorie.