Fighting disinformation about villagers’ rights to forest land
Sundarsing Rabha is a 35-year-old activist, local community leader and a forest-dweller who has been fighting for the rights of the Rabha tribe for over 15 years.
The Rabha tribe has been credited with conserving the forests in Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri and parts of Darjeeling since the mid-19th century.
As he walks the mud pathways from one forest village to another, Sundarsing explains how the Rabha communities have protected the forests from poachers and illegal loggers. After the passage of the Forest Rights Act in 2006, the Rabha tribe has been petitioning for their rights to forest land, but their claims have repeatedly been rejected.
Sundarsing believes that disinformation spread by groups with a vested interest in the forest has thwarted the tribe’s efforts, and made it difficult for forest-dwellers, many who have not completed a basic education, to reclaim land rights under the Act. Some of the disinformation has caused divisions between people of different villages who were earlier united in their efforts.