The Padyatra i.e. Footmarch organized by Uttar-Pradesh Land Alliance under the leadership of Mr Vidya Bhushan Rawat, human rights activist began from Golbohji forest village in Palia district of Uttar-Pradesh on December 13th, 2008. After traveling 20-25 kilometer a day, the Padyatra finally culminated at Harinagar village in Kundeswari ( kashipur), Shaheed Udham Singh Nagar today on December 28th, 2008. During these 16 days, the marchers did social audits of various villages, addressed village community meetings and talked to students in different colleges and schools. They talked about human rights, humanism and challenge of climate change and threat to our environment. Some of the activists well trained in miracle exposure programmes also displayed their skills in these educational institutions and village Panchayats. During these 16 days, the Padyatris stayed at village Panchayat Bhavans, slept in the tribal areas and visited large part of those villages which are still facing discrimination and exclusion in their daily lives either from social system or from the government departments.
The main reason of this Padyatra was to highlight the importance of land and livelihood issues of the Dalit-tribal communities in tribal region of Uttarakhand and Uttar-Pradesh. Communities such as Tharus, Boxas (a Primitive Tribal Group), Tongiyas is a matter of great concern as they remain isolated and excluded in the general set up of both the states. The condition of these communities is particularly alarming in Uttarakhand because of lack of understanding of Dalit-tribal culture and popular mass support. In the Tarai region the sale-purchase of tribal land is prohibited yet most the tribal land today has been transferred to dominant communities here. The tense peace exist here as these communities are so well oppressed that they find it difficult to explain their conditions to outsider as the goons of the powerful communities and land mafias always spy upon them. Both the Tharus and Boxas are victim of the forest department also and border police also.
In its last leg, the Padyatra reached Harinagar ( Kundeshwari) today. After 16 days and crossing over 350 kilometer of Uttarakhand and Uttar-Pradesh state, the reason of culminating the Padyatra in Harinagar, Kundeswari was to support the demand of over 150 landless Dalit families who have been fighting for their land rights for the past 20 odd years when they were brutally thrown away from the land they had been tilling for many years and which was declared ceiling surplus by the Commissioner of Kumaon, Nainital. Despite favorable verdict from the highest courts of the land, the government of the state did not have the courage to implement the ceiling act there and provide land to these peace loving people who had shown their faith in the constitution of India and did not resort to any unlawful activities. Social Development Foundation has gone to Supreme Court against the empathy of the Uttarakhand government against these people but shockingly the government of the state in a brazenly shamless way suggested that the Dalits do not hail from the district. In the same affidavit the government justify giving land to those Sikhs who were declared encroachers by the Supreme Court and who actually were responsible for excluding and discriminating against the Dalits. We ask the question to the state government as how come these people got land under ceiling act and what was the criteria used for them ?
Today, at the culmination of the Padyatra, this convention passed following resolutions:
- The government of Uttarakhand must implement the land ceiling act in the Tarai region of the state and allow Chakbandi process immediately so that all those people who lost their land due to fraudulent mean get it. To resolve the cases of land frauds, the state government must form special land courts and fixed up a proper time frame for such resolution so that land mafia do not get strengthened by the tidy process of the law.
- The government must show its true character of people friendly government and implement the Supreme Court verdict in the Escort Farms ceiling case. It must provide land to the landless Dalits who were part of the petition in both the Supreme Court as well as in the High Courts. The ceiling land can not be granted to those who are not eligible for it. The government can not abdicate its responsibility of serving the underprivileged sections of society.
- Stop privatization and commercialization of natural resources. Our water and natural resources are not meant to mint profit for a few but the property of the great people of the state who have been living here for years in all the adverse circumstances.
- Implement special schemes to bring Tharus and Boxas into mainstream of the nation and provide link roads, health and educational services in these villages.
- Implement National Employment Guarantee Scheme properly in the tribal dominated areas and must allow civil society organizations to do social audit of these schemes.
- This convention also condemns the role of administration and police in the entire episode particularly the intelligence agencies. It seems that the state government and its administration are unaware of importance of civil society organizations and their role in the nation building. This convention assure the government that the civil society organizations will always work in the public interest and are ready to cooperate with the government but we do hope that the government will take these fair and healthy criticism in the best interest of the people and democracy.
- This convention also asks the Uttarakhand government to implement the Special Forest Act 2006 and distribute 2.5 acres of land to every landless forest dweller as defined by the law.
- We also condemn the notices send to Tongiya community in Champawat district by the canal as well as forest department asking them to leave their land and pay heavy compensation. It is the travesty of the truth that people tilling their land for over 30-40 years have not been given their land entitlements and are being threatened to leave their land. This convention seek special protection for tribal communities as Boxas, Van Gujjars, Tharus and Dalit communities such as Chamars, Valmikis, Raysikhs and many other dalit communities living in the state. The government should provide them land entitlement as well as get them the possession of their land.
- The land laws and their condition in the Tarai region is a matter of grave concern for all of us and if they are not resolved in time then the situation might turn out of control and will become explosive.
- This convention also resolve that it would link these local movements to broader national movements for the land rights and ensure the fair participation of these people into the national mainstream so that a broader national understanding is developed on the issue of the condition of Dalits and Tribals in the Tarai region of Uttarakhand as well as Uttar-Pradesh.
We hope that the aims for which the Uttarakhand state came into being would be fulfilled and it becomes a peaceful state. We hope that such a state where people live in complete harmony and peaceful coexistence, become a model state so that such a module is replicated elsewhere. We hope that the Dalits, Tribals and minorities live in the state in not a compelling peace but in perfect harmony with their head high and full participation in the socio-cultural life of the state.
We, the activists of different civil society organizations gathered here hope that the government of Uttarakhand state will understand the importance of civil society movements, world over and will not treat them as ‘threat’. We take full responsibility to our statement and our work. A large number of our friends gathered here have long years of service record in social lives of different states and it would be a great insult to them to their services if the police and intelligence authorities question them every now and then seeking their details. We understand our responsibilities and agree to popular version of threat to our nation and difficulties of administration and police force. Yet, we all agree that we can not resolve our issues by covering them or shying away from the debates. In democracy the best way to resolve our issues are by acknowledging work of those too who remain dissenters and seek a dialogue with them. Introspection and appreciation of healthy criticism are two important factors which will make our democracy stronger and our country a great nation and society, a replicable civilization.
For National Land Alliance
Vidya Bhushan Rawat,
D.Leena, member, Delhi
For Uttarakhand Land Alliance,
Lallu Man Singh,
President, Boxa Jan Kalyan Samiti,
For Ambedkargaon Dalit Sangharsh Samiti,
For Uttar-Pradesh Land Alliance,
Sudama Prasad Tyagi, Deoria
Ramji Singh, Chitrakoot
Sangeeta Kushwaha, Kushingar
Mushtaq Ahemd, Palia
Shamim Jahan, Palia
Hamid Khan, Ghazipur
Ishitiaq Ali, Maharajganj
Suman Singh, Ghatampur,
Munni Begum, Pratapgarh
Suresh Yadav, Mau
Tej Singh Bhandari, Banbasa
Sagir Ahmed, Palia