Indian court orders 1 million to vacate forest land

NEW DELHI — India's top court has ordered more than a dozen states to evict nearly 1 million people from forest land as they have their failed to prove ownership claims.

Most people belong to marginalized tribal communities who consider these areas as their homes.

The Supreme Court order was released on Feb. 20. The case is based on petitions filed by some wildlife conservation groups and others calling for the evictions.

The court says the eviction must be carried out within five months.

Ministry of Tribal Affairs Secretary Deepak Khandekar said about 1.9 million claims have been upheld by state governments.

The Times of India newspaper reported the ministry will soon meet with officials from 16 of 29 Indian states to discuss how to deal with the eviction issue.

Jitendra Vir Sharma, director of forestry and biodiversity at New Delhi-based Energy and Resources Institute, said "some of the claimants whose rights have been rejected, have evidence, but could not produce due to lack of knowledge."

Sharma called for independent verification and those individuals whose rights have been deprived should get another chance to file claims.

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