Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Uttaranchal ignores SC order to reinstate land to dalits

More than a decade after a landlord illegally took land from dalit villages, in connivance with the local authorities, the Uttaranchal government still has to redress the wrong

A Supreme Court of India order directing the Uttaranchal state government to return land to impoverished dalits in a village in Kashipur block has been ignored for eight months by the Uttaranchal state government, says the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) that is seeking an explanation from the state government.

In February 2004, the country’s highest court found that a local landlord had illegally occupied over 1,000 acres of land in Kashipur sub-district. To date, the state government has done nothing to right the wrong.

In 1993, the landlord, with help from the local authorities, violently evicted around 150 families while contesting the land in the Allahabad High Court. Following the court’s ruling in favour of the villagers, the case was taken to the Supreme Court.

“After a decade of struggle, it would have been hoped that your administration would act to protect the rights of the affected persons, in compliance with the court’s order, at the nearest possible date,” says Basil Fernando, executive director of the AHRC in a recent letter to the chief minister of Uttaranchal, N D Tiwari.

“However, we are informed that since the date of the judgement, no action has been taken to that end. In fact, we are led to understand that illegal sale and occupation of the land by the company involved, in connivance with local authorities, has continued unabated,” the letter continues.

The affected community consists of dalits who are struggling to survive since being forced off their lands, the AHRC notes. “The situation is difficult for us as there is no work,” one villager says. “It is over 10 years now that we are out of our places (lands) and nothing has been done,” he adds. “Poor people cannot wait. They have to arrange for their next day’s meal.”

“There can be no conceivable reason as to why it should have taken your state government so long to implement the clear order of the Supreme Court,” other than deliberate obstruction that may amount to contempt of court, Fernando wrote in his letter to the chief minister.

The AHRC also warns that failure to provide relief to the affected community quickly and effectively could result in violence.

Source: www.ahrchk.net, October 27, 2004

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