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DtE: Van Gujjars will be homeless next summer

Down to Earth, May 31, 2007

in the first week of May, 200-odd Van Gujjar families started moving towards their summer homes in Uttarkashi district, Uttarakhand. They had been stranded around Vikasnagar near Dehradun before a response to a right to information application revealed that Uttaranchal’s forest department had rescinded an earlier decision to bar Van Gujjars from entering their summer homes in the state. It’s a temporary respite though. Uttaranchal’s forest department has made it clear that it will not allow Van Gujjars to enter the state’s forest next year.

Van Gujjars are traditional migrants, practising transhumance—moving up with their livestock herds into the higher reaches of the Himalaya during summers and coming down to the Shivalik in Uttar Pradesh in winters. Their summer home falls in the Govind National Park (gnp) in Uttarkashi district—the temporary permission allows them to enter the adjacent Govind Wildlife Sanctuary (gws). G S Pandey, director of Rajaji National Park, who also has charge of gnp, says: “This year we are giving permission to these families who come from Uttar Pradesh to go to gws. This will not be so next year.” [more]