Gokul Ekka is an Adivasi – he has a government-issued certificate to prove it. His family has been living in and using forest land in the village of Ghoghar, Odisha, for generations.
Under the Forest Rights Act of 2006, Ekka is entitled to a legal title and other rights over the land that he has been using. But when he tried to claim these rights, the government rejected his application, miscategorising him as an Other Traditional Forest Dweller, and claiming (erroneously, Ekka says) that he didn't meet the criteria for that group.
Ekka's case is far from unique. Odisha rejected around 80,000 such applications between March 2020 and July 2021, a time when India was battered by the pandemic.
Ishan Kukreti visited Odisha to find that many of these cases – including hundreds in Barbil tehsil, a major iron-ore mining region – were rejected on erroneous grounds, or in violation of procedure laid down by the law. In some cases, claimants had received no communication from the government for years, but had had to watch as mines took over their land. On the ground, it appeared, the Forest Rights Act gave them no rights at all.
You can read the story here.