Did SFI vandalise Rahul's office unaware of his efforts in ESZ issue?

A screengrab of SFI attack on Rahul Gandhi's (right) office at Kalpetta in Wayanad on Friday.

It appears that the Students' Federation of India (SFI) activists, who vandalised Rahul Gandhi's office at Kalpetta on Friday alleging his inaction on a recent Supreme Court directive mandating buffer zones around forests, were oblivious to the fact that the Congress MP had already raised the matter with the authorities concerned.

When the student's wing of the CPM, the lead constituent of Kerala's LDF government, was on a rampage, Gandhi made his stand clear with a Facebook post.

"My letter to the Prime Minister, drawing his attention to the plight of the local communities of Wayanad whose livelihoods will be adversely affected by the recent Supreme Court order on the maintenance of Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZ) around national parks and wildlife sanctuaries," Rahul wrote and attached a copy of the letter dated June 23.

He noted he had raised the issue to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan also in a letter dated June 9 and sought his intervention.

On the same day Rahul wrote to Pinarayi, the LDF called for a dawn-to-dusk hartal in Wayanad on the issue on June 12.

The SC directive was on June 3.

"I request the Union government to address these concerns in the larger public interest and reiterate our shared commitment to balancing conservation goals with our people's legitimate developmental needs," he wrote in the post.

Recalling the recent judgment of the Supreme Court in the T N Godavarman Thirumulpad versus Union of India and others case, Gandhi said it mandates the maintenance of an Eco-Sensitive Zone ( ESZ ) of one km around national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, which has led to widespread protests around Wayanad parliamentary constituency.

Local communities, still reeling under the impact of the Covid pandemic, have expressed grave concerns regarding the implications of this judgment on their lives and livelihoods, the Wayanad lawmaker pointed out.

"The Guidelines for Declaration of Eco-Sensitive Zones around National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries dated February 9, 2011, as well as the above-mentioned judgement, prohibit certain activities in the ESZ. The ESZ Guidelines also regulate several activities, including, the change of agriculture systems, protection of hill slopes, and erection of electrical cables," he said.

The judgement, he noted, states that no permanent structure shall be permitted within the ESZ.

"As one of the most densely populated regions in the Western Ghats, such restrictions hamper the ability of local communities to improve their standard of living.

"The judgement provides for the dilution of the minimum width of the ESZ in 'overwhelming' public interest and allows the State government to approach the Central Empowered Committee and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change regarding the same, and states that the recommendations of the CEC and MoEF & CC would be considered by the Supreme Court," Gandhi said in his letter seeking PM's intervention.

The Left Democratic Front (LDF) Wayanad district committee has called for a dawn-to-dusk hartal on June 12 to protest against the apex court order.

The UDF's dawn-to-dusk hartal in Wayanad, Idukki and the hilly areas of Malappuram district was on June 16.

After the SFI activists went berserk and vandalised the Congress MP's office, Youth Congress activists took out protests resulting in sporadic violence across many districts.

After Kerala Chief Minister and the CPM condemned the attack on Friday, the SFI state committee said the attack was unacceptable and action would be taken against those found guilty.

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