CPI(M) Politburo member Brinda Karat has written to Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, accusing the Centre of playing down the "repressive" measures proposed in the amendments to the Indian Forest Act, 1927.
The Indian Forest Act, 1927 was the instrument through which the British colonialists established government ownership over forests and declared tribal communities to be encroachers, giving legal sanction to the burden of historical injustices against tribal communities, she said.
"You have sought to play down the extremely repressive measures proposed in the Act and have entirely ignored the bulldozing of the rights of tribal communities in particular," Karat said.
She said the amendments criminalise every aspect of tribal life, giving "untrammeled powers" to the forest bureaucracy to arrest without warrant and use arms to implement the law.
"The 91 clauses in the amendments now proposed, including entirely new sections, go even beyond what the British dared to do, by militarising forest conservation," she said.
Highlighting some of the issues with the proposed amendment, Karat said the inclusion of the chief of Army staff as a member in the proposed National Forestry Board presumes that the Chief of Indian Army now has the time to discuss how to "protect" forests not borders.