The Burden of History and the Mirage of Permanent Boundaries

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"In the summer of 1999, approximately 750 sq. km. of territory in the Western Himalayas, in the district of Kullu in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, was declared closed to local populations and notified as the Great Himalayan National Park. Following the procedure laid down in the Indian Wild Life (Protection) Act, the rights of any claimants to the resources inside the Park were extinguished; out of the more than 15,000 users, a small compensation was ordered for those whose names appeared in the records that were consulted to determine legitimate users. Curiously, this legitimacy was derived from records dating to 1897, from the first forest settlement in the region that determined and codified the nature and extent of rights in all of these forests. Following the notification and the extinguishing of rights, local populations immediately organised themselves to lobby their political representatives for redressal. Through a combination of claims to a moral economy and electoral arithmetic, local residents were successful in securing access to the legally denied resources inside the Park, circumventing the restrictions and threats posed by the Forest Department and the law. This result resonates with a similar effort in the 1880s, when the Forest Department attempted to reserve large tracts of forest in the same region and was frustrated in similar fashion."
parks, forests, community