Gujrat: While it has taken the self-immolation of Bhanubhai Vankar for the Gujarat government’s to decide to provide physical possession of land within six months to all those Dalit families who have received but only on paper, Gujarat’s largest Dalit rights organization Navsarjan Trust has declared it would help the process by compiling list of all such cases to ensure the “expeditious allocation” across Gujarat.
Around 150 Dalit grassroots workers from several of Gujarat’s districts, gathered near Ahmedabad, agreed that they would prepare a complete list of the cases where allocations did take place during the land reforms days, yet the dominant sections never allowed Dalits to take their physical possession.
The list would also include the names of those Dalits who have not received title of the land they have been tilling for tens of years, though they were handed over land under the “land to the tiller” policy of the 1960s.
Activists at the meeting agreed that Dalits should not demand land as a community. Several other backward caste communities, such as Kolis and Thakores, too face similar problems. They should also be involved in preparation of the list.
Also, Right to Information (RTI) pleas should be filed at various levels to find out whether the state government has actually begun the process of land allocation. The RTI applications, it was suggested, should be filed within one month of the announcement that Dalits should be made legal owners of the land they actually should be cultivating.
Addressing the meeting off Ahmedabad, Dalit rights leader Martin Macwan said, during the last Vibrant Gujarat summit in January 2017, top Indian and world businessmen were assured that the land to be allocated to them for setting up industries would be cleared within 45 days, no one has heard of such an assurance for Dalits.
The result is that, while the bottom 50% of farmers is in possession of 3% of agricultural lands, the top 10% about 54% of the land, Macwan said. Added two activists from Mehsana district, Bharatbhai and Shantaben, irrigable land next to the Narmada canal is all in possession of the dominant sections, while the deprived sections have only barren or rainfed land.
Kiritbhai from Mandal taluka of Ahmedabad district said, there were Dalit farmers who were tilling land for eight decades, but they haven’t yet received the title, and are always under threat of being evicted. Arvindbhai from Ahmedabad district said, in 40% of cases, Dalits do not know where their land is, though they are legal owners on paper.
The situation was found to be similar almost everywhere, whether it was Surendranagar, Rajkot, Junagadh, Patan, Banaskantha, Sabarkantha or Panchmahals district. In Vadodara, Anand or Kheda districts, the view was strong among the participants that most of the Dalits were agricultural workers and they did not possess “any land.”
Activists from Patan and Banaskantha wondered, why was land immediately allocated for go-shalas or cow sheds, but not to Dalits. Those wanting to set up ashrams, too, were handed over land liberally. But the deprived sections had no such right. And if the Dalits demand land, they are forced to migrate out and live are displaced.
Addressing the meeting, former BJP MLA Siddharth Parmar, a Dalit, who joined the Congress ahead of the December 2017 Gujarat assembly elections, suggested that the Dalits should not demand the land that has been encroached upon, as it would bring them in direct conflict with other farmers. They should, instead, demand land elsewhere from the government.