Monday, June 23, 2003

Bihar minister accused of land grabbing

Amod Kumar

Monday, June 23, 2003 (Sitamarhi, Bihar):

Three cases under the Dalit Atrocities Act have been filed against Bihar's Information Minister Sitaram Yadav, charged with forcibly occupying Dalit land and building his own house.

He is also accused of looting standing crops of Dalits.

The cases were registered following orders from a local Sitamarhi court.

Surplus land was given to Dalits way back in 1972 in Nanpur Nayatol in Bihar's Sitamarhi district, but within a year, local goons grabbed the land.

Sitaram Yadav's house has been allegedly built on land grabbed from a Dalit, Ramnandan and his wife Sibrati, who still live in a makeshift hut.

A year ago, after several protests, Dalits did get back some of their land and began cultivation. But this March, their crops were looted just before it was harvested.

Ram Lalit Paswan, a Dalit victim, alleged, "The minister ordered that our crops be looted."

Mahendra Paswan, another Dalit victim, added, "We went on a hunger strike on March 31. He (Yadav) called a meeting but then ordered the looting of our wheat. My wheat was only half-ready, yet it was looted."

Dalits this time went to court, which ordered an inquiry, following which three cases have been registered against Sitaram Yadav.

The minister himself maintains that he is innocent. "Several cases have been filed against me in the past to defame me. They are filing false cases against me," he insisted.

But the court's direction to file FIRs against the minister has had some results at least. A circle inspector has been sent to ensure the Dalits get back their land.

Srikant Singh, Circle Officer, Nanpur Block, said, "We have come here to get the land repossessed by Dalits - to verify, measure and hand them back to Dalits."

Police will soon question the minister.

Source: NDTV, June 23, 2003


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