India: forest-dwelling communities in the crosshairs

How has a law on the protection of wildlife enabled the authorities to criminalise the lives of the communities living in the forests?

< image © Valentin Lombardi.

In 1972, the Wildlife Protection Act was established to protect wildlife in India. It has led, however, to the criminalisation of an already marginalised part of the population: the forest-dwelling communities.
The Criminal Justice and Police Accountability (CPA) Project is a litigation, research and capacity-building initiative whose main aim is to end the disproportionate targeting of marginalised communities by the criminal justice system. The CPA project recently conducted research to understand the extent and nature of disproportionate targeting of communities ​in ​Madhya Pradesh​ (Central India)​ by the Forest Department under the WPA. This research has led to the publication of a report that highlights how criminalisation is being used to violate the rights of indigenous communities.

Nikita Sonavane and Sanjana Meshram are part of the CPA Project and contributed to this research. Prison Insider asked them three questions.

— This interview is part of the series Caught in the spiral.

The WPA is used to criminalise the rights of communities, even though these rights are recognised by the law.

Once an individual has been arrested, the costs for continuing legal proceedings are excessive.

One of our aims is to change perceptions and dominant narratives.