Indigenous peoples 'abused' under Nepal's conservation policies: rights groups
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Kathmandu (AFP) –
Nepal's indigenous peoples have been subjected to human rights violations including torture and unlawful killings under the country's conservation policies, Amnesty International and a local activist group said Monday.
Nearly a quarter of the Himalayan nation's land has been declared protected, while the government's conservation efforts -- particularly for tigers and rhinos -- are hailed as a success internationally.
But the policies have seen indigenous peoples "forcibly evicted" from their ancestral lands, said the report, released by Amnesty and the Community Self-Reliance Centre on the International Day of Indigenous Peoples.
"That success has come at a high price for the country's indigenous peoples, who had lived in and depended on these protected areas for generations," Amnesty's Deputy South Asia Director Dinushika Dissanayake said in a statement.
Dissanayake said that since the 1970s, Nepal's governments have used an approach to conservation that "severely limited (indigenous peoples') ability to access traditional foods, medicinal plants and other resources".
"Heavy-handed enforcement of these policies has subsequently resulted in numerous cases of torture or other ill-treatment and unlawful killings."
A spokesman for Nepal's Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation said the agency had yet to read the report, but added that the government sought to "minimise" conflict between the laws and indigenous rights.
The report -- which includes interviews with community members, activists and officials -- cited the case of Raj Kumar Chepang, who died after allegedly being beaten by army officers in Chitwan National Park in July last year.
The 26-year-old, a member of the indigenous Chepang group who lived in Chitwan's forests for generations, was collecting snails with six others when they were allegedly confronted and beaten, the report said.
"While returning home, Raj Kumar was not able to walk properly," one of the six people, Santosh Chepang, told the report's authors.
"His condition grew worse, and that led to his death."
The rights groups said laws should be amended to restrict detentions and the use of force by the army in protected areas.
"Nepal's authorities must recognise indigenous peoples' rights to their ancestral lands and allow them to return," added CSRC executive director Jagat Basnet.
Indigenous communities should be included in conservation initiatives, with alternative housing and land provided to those who lose their homes due to the establishment of national parks, the report added.
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