Public Meeting at Kumirmari

Public Meeting at Kumirmari

Sushovan Dhar

The Sundarban Banadhikar Sangram Committee(SBSC) had been formed last October to initiate the work of organising the forest and forest-dependent people in the Sunderbans.

A unit of SBSC was formed in Kumirmari island of the Sunderbans in January 2011. The frist public meeting of SBSC was held at Kumirmari island on Wednesday, February 2, 2011. The meeting was addressed by Sushovan Dhar, Pratip Nag, Ashok Mondal, Rabindranath Mondal and the Panchayat Pradhan of Kumirmari Parimal Gayen. The was presided by the President of the Kumirmari unit of SBSC Paritosh Mondal.

The speakers highlighted in details and with references the plight of the community and the associated perils of their livelihood due to the oppression of the Forest Department. According to estimates, a vast number of people especially those living on the fringes of the forest depend upon the forests for their lives and livelihood. They collect firewood, honey and beeswax and a huge population are fisher-folks and shrimp farmers. Today, the area provides a livelihood at some seasons of the year for an estimated 300,000 people. Local people are also dependent on the forests and waterways for firewood, charcoal, timber for boats and furniture, poles for house-posts and rafters, nypa palm thatch for roofing, grass for matting reeds for fencing, fish, crabs and shrimps taken for food.

There is a regular harrasment from the forest department without settling peoples' rights under Forest Rights Act 2006(FRA). The Act clearly establishes (a) Community Rights or rights over common property resources of the communities in addition to their individual rights (b) Rights in and over disputed land (c) Right to protect, regenerate or conserve or manage any community forest resource which the communities have been traditionally protecting and conserving for sustainable use (d) Right to intellectual property and traditional knowledge related to biodiversity and cultural diversity (e) Rights of displaced communities, etc.

The meeting concluded with a pledge to intensify the community struggle for the establishment of traditional rights as guranteed under FRA.

View images of the meeting at Kumirmari