Indian tribals enter their land

by Ekta Parishad, Land Watch Asia member, India

Madhya Pradesh, India — After eight years of struggle, 41 out of 94 small land owners from Lahroni village of Karahal Block, Sheopur District managed to get their land demarcated this February 2011. Demarcation is going on for the other lands.

The case goes back to 2003, when 94 families (74 tribals and 20 dalits beneficiaries) of Lahroni village were given pattas( land entitlements) by the Madhya Pradesh government. These families were given only the entitlement papers but not the physical possession of the land. It was also not yet demarcated.

The total area of land is 130 hectares. There were also six beneficiaries of Bhoodan Land (donated land collected by Eminent leader Vinoba Bhave), who have entitlement papers since 1990, but not land possession. The people had land documents in their hands but did not know where their lands were. After lobbying the local Patwari (revenue employee) showed them the land but it was still not demarcated. They found that their land was already occupied by non-tribal peoples from outside Madhya Pradesh.

It should be known that Karahal is a block belonging to the 5th schedule area, where tribal land cannot be transferred to non-tribals according to law. There are several non-tribals outside Madhya Pradesh that had developed farms of 100 to 200 hectares illegally with the help of corrupt government officials.

Following is the story to ensure the physical possession over their allotted land:

1.      Beneficiaries approached different government departments on their own initiative until 2005, requesting demarcation of their lands with no response.

2.      In 2005, the people of Lahroni came in contact with Ekta Parishad. Shri. Chironji Lal Adivasi, an activist of Ekta Paris contacted the village as part of his mobilization efforts for Janadesh 2007. The people explained their problem to Chironji Lal and he assured them of Ekta Parishad’s support.

3.      Seven women and eight men from the community joined the Janadesh 2007 foot-march expecting their grievance to be resolved. 25,000 satyagrahis walked from Gwalior to New Delhi, a distance of approximately 350 kilometers, over a one month since October 2, 2007. The application for demarcation of land assigned to the 94 families of Lahroni village was submitted to the Central Government along with other applications as part of Janadesh 2007. But this did not lead to any progress towards the resolution of their problems.

4.      In 2009, the community met Shri. Ran Singh Parmar, the National Convenor of Ekta Parishad with their unresolved grievance. He advised them to form a community based organization (CBO) and start organized struggle to access the land rights. Accordingly they formed a CBO and submitted a common application on behalf of the entire group to the Tehsildhar, the SDM and the District Collector of Sheopur. The local administration did not take any action.

5.      This issue was raised again during the ‘Bhumi Sudar Sankalp Yatra’ – a 10-day jeep yatra that passed through the entire Saheria belt starting from Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh to Baran district in Rajasthan. The Yatra passed through several Saheria adivasi community areas in Madhya Pradesh. An application was once again submitted to the local administration during the public meeting organized as part of the jeep-yatra. The local administration continued its inaction on this issue.

6.      During a meeting of village level mukhiyas of Sheopur district at Bardha Ashram from 21st to 23rd of January, the issue of Lahroni village was discussed. Reinvigorated by Rajaji’s speech during the jeep-yatra, the council of mukhiyas decided to give an ultimatum to the district administration.

7.      A 4-member team comprising the National convener of Ekta Parishad, Mr. Anil Kumar Gupta (National advocacy office), Mr. Raju Kumar (Free lance journalist) and Regioanl coordinator Mr. Dongar Sharma visited the village and decided to take immediate advocacy efforts.

8.      The district council of Ekta Parishad announced on January 25, 2011 that if the problem was not resolved then they will start an indefinite protest from February 14, 2011.

9.      The Zilla Panchayat (district local government) president Smt. Guddi Bai had also written a letter in support of the villagers to the District Collector of Sheopur, and the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh.

10.  Shri Ran Singh Parmar, Ekta Parishad National Convener,  had also sent a letter in support of people’s resolution to the Principal Secretary to Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, local MLA, and BJP’s National Secretary and the MP of Sheopur and Morena Shri. Narender Singh Tomar.

11.  Ekta Parishad activists in Sheopur started intense preparation for the dharna by carrying out meetings in different villages of Sheopur district.

12.  After receiving the people’s ultimatum, the district administration acted 3 days later and sent a team of Revenue Officers to Lahroni to carry out the demarcation on January 31, 2011.

13.  Shri. Dongar Sharma, the regional coordinator of Ekta Parishad for the Chambal region reached Lahroni upon learning about the latest development and spoke to the team of Revenue Officers on behalf of the villagers to ensure that the demarcation was carried out properly and people had a clear understanding of where their lands are located.

14.  As of February 4, 2011, 46 hectares of land belonging to 41 families has been demarcated.

Shri Ram Dutt Singh Tomar is overlooking the technical aspects of demarcation and overall coordination of advocacy with the local administration. Shri. Kuldeep Tiwari and Shri. Subhash Goswami supported the media documentation of the process. The entire team of Ekta Parishad activists, mukhiyas from neighbouring villages and members of the district level council are there at the site along with the 94 families to ensure smooth and proper demarcation process.

The administration has declared that the existing crop and the tube wells that have been dug on the lands will also come under the ownership of the Lahroni people. When the people of Lahroni had first come in contact with Ekta Parishad, their lands were occupied by powerful people from Punjab and Haryana. The revenue officials had not taken any action against the illegal occupiers for the last 6 years. These illegal occupiers are now resisting the legal hand-over of land to the people. Tribal land holdings are highly challenged in the present corrupt system of the government.

The villagers have decided to carry-out group farming for the next two years so that they can counter any resistance and harassment from the illegal occupiers. The Lahroni people now are focused on taking steps to improve their living conditions based on unity and non-violence. #

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About ANGOC

A regional NGO association with members and partners from 14 Asian countries working on access to land, agrarian reforms & rural develop

Posted on February 19, 2011, in Access to Land Issues, Indigenous Peoples, Land Rights and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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