Goa’s Velip tribal people are battling the Forest Department for the right to use their ancestral lands. The Forest Department has claimed Velip land as a wildlife sanctuary. But the Velip people have used the land, which they see as sacred, for as long as living memory.
Locals claim the Forest Department has named the area as a wildlife sanctuary so it can move the tribal people out and eventually hand the land over to rich mining companies. There are robust deposits of valuable minerals in the area. Mining companies operating in Goa are highly interested in expanding their operations. Many claim the Forest Department hands over protected lands in exchange for large sums of money.
The Forest Department is in the process of removing Velip rights to use the land. They have issued restrictions on Velip people’s movements, built 3-metre stone fences around the area and dug deep trenches along the Velip’s footpaths to prevent them from crossing into the area.
Velips depend on the land to cultivate cashews—a primary source of income for the tribe. Without access to these harvests, the Velips will be robbed of their ability to support their families as they have for so long. Khotigaon is a sacred worship center for Velips, where they honor their deities. To them, it is an irreplaceable space.
In this video, Devidas reports on the Velip people’s situation in Khotigaon.