In another signal of India's growing awareness of the legal rights of its indigenous tribes, members of Karnataka's Soliga tribe were on Wednesday restored their rights to ancestral lands that were taken away from them with the creation of a tiger reserve in 1974.
According to Survival International, an NGO that works on behalf of indigenous tribes around the world, the Soliga tribe regained the right to collect, use and sell forest produce from within the Rangaswami Temple Sanctuary reserve in Karnataka's Biligirirangan Hills.
Under India's Forest Rights Act, the Soliga will now have legal rights to use and protect as much as 60 percent of the reserve, including parts of the core area, the NGO said.
Already, the Soligas are working on a plan to manage the tiger reserve jointly with the Karnataka state authorities, using their traditional knowledge.
Across the country, forest officials routinely blame local villagers for tiger deaths and other conservation problems, though most independent observers say that India's endangered species most often fall prey to well organized poaching cartels with international connections -- not farmers worried about their livestock.
Meanwhile, as Reuters reported last year, India's tribal peoples continue to be robbed of their land rights despite the passage of the Forest Rights Act in 2008. The article cited the ministry of tribal affairs' 2009/10 annual report as saying that only about 25 percent of the 2.6 million claims made for recognition of land rights have been awarded title deeds.