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Land-related Violence

Land is the source of wealth and power in an agricultural society and as in the rest of India, ownership of land is highly skewed across social groups in Bundelkhand.

As discussed in Land Holdings in Bundelkhand, medium and large holdings account for 30% to 45% of area of all holdings across Bundelkhand districts. Village lords known as 'dadus' (see under 'Rule' of 'Dadus' in Feudal Culture in Bundelkhand) however are greedy for more. They are also keen on  keeping SC and ST groups 'in their place', by denying them land related benefits.

Dadus seek to grab common property resources, which are most beneficial to SCs and STs, and land owned by the most vulnerable members of these groups, like women-headed or extremely poor households. They also resist SC/ST occupation of plots distributed by the government under  land redistribution systems.

The methods used are varied, including forcible eviction and occupation, forgery in collusion with local land officials, contempt of court orders, and foisting of false criminal cases on people who dare to protest.

All these methods were evident in a case noted by BK Joshi, who studied the ABSSS's work among Patha Kols in 1999 [Joshi, p 325].

Bhagirath Kol of Chureh Kesharuwa village, Karwi tehsil, had 46 bighas of land in his name. In the year 1969, Gungai Seth alias Hiralal of Manikpur connived with local lekhpal and quanungo [ revenue department officials ] and gained possession of this land. Bhagirath Kol filed a case to regain possession of this land, which went up to the Allahabad High Court. On May 21, 1970, the court decided in favour of the widow of Bhagirath Kol (the latter having died in the meantime) and ordered that possession of the land be given to her. In total disrespect of the court's order and with the support of the local administration, Seth Hiralal alias Gungai continued to hold possession of the land, while the widow of Bhagirath Kol and her relatives continued to be oppressed by them. When they tried to harvest the crop on their land, they were accused of dacoity, arrested and jailed. On December 22, 1989, Shri Gopalbhai, the director of ABSSS, was also accused of the same dacoity. He was charged…with abetting and instigating the forcible harvesting of the jowar crop. He was ultimately acquitted of the charge in February 1998.

Dadus have been particularly successful in ensuring that plots given to the poor under land redistribution programmes remain out of their reach. 

In a typical incident, which was reported in 2004, ABSSS NGO partner Vidhyadham Samiti found in Bhanvarpur village, on the border of MP, in Naraini block of Banda district, several landless families who had been unable to take possession of surplus land plots allotted to them 25 years earlier. The redistributed land was under the control of a dadu, who had prevented demarcation of plots. The landless people had made several trips to the tehsil office, to no avail. With no other source of livelihood, the people migrated every year to Delhi and Gujarat to seek work, or worked for the very dadu who occupied their land.

Under the initiative of the Vidyadham Samiti, the people got organised, and the district administration was pressurised to demarcate plots and give possession. The dadu used the law to get back. He alleged that a 'chabutara' built by the people on public land in the village was illegal, and implicated 21 persons; four of them were even arrested. The dadu used other methods of harassment as well. Aaj (Kanpur edition, May 19, 2005) reported that when two persons, Ramdev and Rajkumar, accidentally relieved themselves in the dadu's field, he had them collect their excreta and then threw them out.

Reference:

  • Joshi BK, `Land Distribution for Kol Tribals in Uttar Pradesh', in Tandon Rajesh, Mohanty Ranjita (eds), Does Civil Society Matter?, Sage, New Delhi: 2003

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