Thursday, June 27, 2002

Caste politics over land rife in MP

Sandeep Bhushan

Thursday, June 27, 2002 (Bhopal):

In Madhya Pradesh, a four-year-old state government policy of allocating village common land to dalits and adivasis is floundering mainly because of upper caste pressure and a state government that is yet to decide upon its class loyalties.

Three months ago, Devraj, a landless Dalit was given three acres of land in Satpipaliya village in western Madhya Pradesh. But upper caste villagers soon fenced off the land and that given to 33 other Dalit families saying it was meant for a cow shelter.

"There was neither a cow shelter nor a temple here. For the past seven years these people have been saying that a temple existed here. When the administration gave us the rights to this land then these people said that a cow shelter had existed here," said Devraj.

"This is deliberate seizure of the cow shelter. There will definitely be a murder. Now the whole village samiti has taken over this land," said Dinesh Verma, an Upper Caste villager.

In March 1998, the state government decided to distribute nearly three lakh hectares of charnoi or common village land across the state to Dalits. Every family was to receive at least 1.5 acres of land but more could be given if there was more land available and the process was to be completed by May this year. But so far only 2,10639 hectares of land has been distributed.

Despite the Chief Minister's repeated warnings that elements impeding his land re-allocation programme will be dealt with severely, Dalits have yet to get actual physical possession of land.

To add pressure on Dalits who have been allotted land, in many villages upper caste villagers have snapped off all communication with them. But in this village the Dalits are determined to fight back.

With tension mounting here, the police have posted additional men to ensure violence does not break out.

Source: NDTV, June 27, 2002


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