Department of Forest, Tripura, India
This paper presents a historical and an analytical account of the struggle for dominance and changing dynamics of access control in various phases of forest use. The history of forestry in Tripura has been marked by a struggle for dominance. A diagonally opposed production-consumption need, of the forest based people and the state, constitutes this struggle. To facilitate the analysis, the historical spread of the struggle has been divided into four periods, namely pre-commercial period before 1887, initial period of commercialisation 1887-1950, scientific forestry-period of commercialisation 1950-1990 and joint forest management period after 1990.
The first phase is characterised as a period when forests and forestland were abundant to meet the needs of the primitive society. The access to forests and forestland was open to anyone who wanted to use it. In the second phase the State started its efforts to dominate the forests. The tribal people and peasants were marginalised and their traditional uses of forest and forest resources became criminal act and illegal. In the third phase while the State continued to increase its domain, the resistance of the tribal people and peasants also intensified. The State used various mechanism including legislation and police force to retain its hold on the forests. The tribal people and peasants responded with their own overt and covert resistance in coalition with politicians and other wings of the functionally divided state.
The apparent effects of degradation brought the realisation among the warring actors to resolve the struggle. There was a policy shift based on participatory system of management, founded not on mutual antagonism but on a genuine partnership between the state and its citizens which immensely improved the situation. It is concluded from this case study that there is a necessity of evolving new institutions tailored to meet the requirements of different situations which will ensure local people's participation as well as the use of experience and support for the forest department so that both local people and the State can work together rather than at cross purposes.
Keywords: Conflict, forest management, resource access